Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gilbert on the mend

Last month Gilbert hurt himself.  I’d jumped out of the truck taking the 20 gauge shot gun leaving him in the truck with Laura.  I shot the grouse only to hear a yelp behind me.  Gilbert seeing the grouse rotating on the road headless knew it was his job to capture the bird. The trouble was I’d obviously forgotten to leave the door open for him to join me.  So despite Laura’s attempt to grab him he jumped through the 3 inch window opening to land terribly wrong on the ground.  Looking back I saw my little cockapoo limping to his duty.  Somehow he pounced on the still flopping grouse and held it down till got to it.
I was concerned because he was tender for a week protective of his back and flank. We took him to the vet partly because he was due for a vaccination and needed some tick medication. He was well again by then  and the vet found nothing untoward so we all thought he’d just ‘pulled a muscle’ or ’strained a ligament’.  There are any number of soft tissue injuries that can explain things.  The trouble with investigations is that if you do enough of them  you begin ’treating the lab’.  Whatever, Gilbert seemed to have healed.   For a week he ran pell mell about my brother’s 5 acre property with his cousin cockapoo Eva.  So we thought he was well.
Then a couple of weeks later his best friend forever Tom and the love of his life Laura and the old guy me took him on a hunting adventure to the north.  He loves these long rides with the stops to sniff and pee out in the sage countryside. So many new scents.  Then there’s the Macdonald’s stops for hamburger.  He loves these and is actually triggered by seeing the Golden Arches.  Who would have thought a dog would start whimpering and jumping up and down just seeing Macdonald’s Golden Arches. But he loves their hamburgers and he is one of the team on our hunting missions. It’s not that we would ever spoil him.
At the motel,before dawn Tom and I were packing the truck with guns and ammo for the hunt. Tom threw a yellow tennis ball for Gilbert and he screeched on the run.  It was dark. But he seemed fine.  No limping.  No change.  He didn’t seem abnormal.  We didn’t even know anything was hurt.  Maybe he’d stepped on something. I checked him out but the hunt and pre dawn and time were all in progress.
Tom and I separated, he continuing in F350 truck while I went off on a back road in the Yamaha 450 quad with Gilbert sitting behind me..  I parked the quad and shot a two point back in the woods.  I noted Gilbert yelped when he jumped off the quad. It thought it was excitement. I certainly was excited.  I ‘d gutted the deer with Gilbert assisting me by running around in circles before he settled down to watching the woods.
Some other guys had got a moose the morning before and had said how much the quad would have helped them if we’d arrived earlier.  Then that morning before I shot my deer I’d helped another guy get his deer out of the woods to the road with my quad.  I was glad to help.  Easy two guys lifting.
Now getting this deer on the quad myself took some doing. I tried lifting it but my back isn’t what it used to be. I remembered carrying a deer over my shoulders for miles one year, up and down hills and up to my neck through bog. While these memories seem like yesterday, the truth be known that was 25 years ago. I was 40 lbs lighter and climbed mountains and stuff like that for fun.
Now I couldn’t lift this deer onto the back or front of the quad.  Thank God for winches.  I ran the winch under the quad and up and over to where I could latch it to the back of the deer’s  rear knee. With the winch I hoisted that up so the back end was level with the top of the quad.  Then with a mighty back jarring lift I got the front end up and lashed the whole deer down.  Without the quad and winch I’d knew then I’d never have got that deer out of the deep woods.  It’s terrible but I’m getting old. Who would have figured a nice guy like me would be punished with age.  Being a desk jockey I’m getting more and more out of shape too. I blame that partialy on hagen daz ice cream.    My back however wasn’t happy with the unusual effort and the cold.  Besides I’d cut my finger first thing in the morning on my own knife.  So not only was I old and out of shape, I was also stupid.
And that’s when I noticed Gilbert wanted help getting back on the quad.  I can’t say I thought anything of it except that maybe with the cold he had some arthritis that was slowing him down since I was having that problem myself.
After that Gilbert couldn’t jump up onto the quad or into the truck.  We left the deer hanging hoisted up in the woods on a high tree.  We’d planned to hunt more but Gilbert began to stumble then and  not to be able to lift his back end.  We headed back to town.
Back at the motel we noticed he was tender too and didn’t want us to touch him.  Laura was frantic.  I phoned the vet but there was nothing we could do but wait till morning to get him in.  I worried.  That didn’t help.  I prayed and that felt better.  I really hoped a night of rest and warm would help the little guy but in the morning he was no different.  Unable to lift his back end he couldn't even pee.  It seemed he was  paralysed but I couldn’t tell if that was just the pain or if something was seriously wrong with his spinal nerves. .
We headed back.  Tom would get the deer and take it to his country home where he’d butcher it himself.  We’d done a moose together years earlier so he knew all about butchering and preparation.  I felt badly because we were cutting the hunt short with Tom not having shot his deer despite seeing one.  But Gilbert, we all agreed was now the priority. Tom  went off in his vehicle and Laura and I continued to the city.
Oak Animal Hospital has been our veterinary clinic since before Gilbert. They took care of our cats. So Gilbert has gone there since a puppy for all his vaccinations and now they saw him immediately as an emergency visit.  The lovely Indo Canadian veterinarian was wonderful. Thorough and caring she explained what she thought. I ‘d done a cursory exam and thought him neurologically in tack but was so thankful to hear give us the good news out loud.
“I checked his sensation and reflexes and they’re all  in tact.  Theres no damage to his spinal column. His muscles are okay as well. Based on my examination I think he’s damaged a disk in his back."
Her and her assistant had taken Gilbert in the back for the complete examination.  It was better that way.  After driving like a madman for hours from the north I wasn’t in any shape to hold my little guy in pain.  I blamed myself. But then I blame myself for everything.  I’m also incredibly sensitive to others pain though over the years I learned to compartmentalize this professionally.  Not this day, my back was killing me and I’d cut my finger deeply with my knife so that was throbbing too. And here I’d hurt the best little guy or at very least let him get hurt on my watch.
“I’d like to do an X-ray.”
“Of course.” I said.
They told me the price would be $200. Of course. On the way down I’d been running through my head how much I could spend on Gilbert.  Given they have bionic limbs for hundreds of thousands the idea of what can one afford or what is reasonable to spend is ever a matter in all health care.  Insurance companies defer the decision.  I didn’t have insurance but even then bionic limbs aren’t part of the normal package.  I always remember my brother’s dog Tartan. He’d got cancer and they’d amputated his leg.  Tartan hadn’t been happy as a three legged dog and my brother confided in me that he’d not do that again. The dog couldn’t understand that his life was being saved. He just seemed to think he’d done something wrong and this was punishment.  Without communication caring became cruelty.  We loved Tartan’s company for the end of his life but he was suffering and it was tragic.
So I’d concluded that Gilbert could have broken his hip, broken his back, severed his spinal column or simply had trauma to a joint.  I’d hurt my back.  Laura had hurt hers.  The doctors thankfully hadn’t put us down.
The X-ray showed the hips were fine and the most that could be detected was a possible narrowing of a disk space.  So Gilbert joined the family in terms of his back.  Hopefully conservative measures, rest, prednisone, and pain killers would solve the problem but if not back surgery was indicated. I agreed. Surgery is a last resort if the nerves are intact but even then surgery for this sort of injury was likely safe and successful.  Not something we wanted but worth the cost should it be needed.
Laura and I took Gilbert back to her apartment. I was carrying him everywhere because his back end was paralyzed and he couldn’t walk. It was so sad.  The lovely vet had catheterized him so his bladder was emptied. I’d been concerned about that when I examined him at a truck stop.
“Bring him back if he can’t pee and we can catheterize him again.” she said.
We waited.  Prednisone and Tramadol.  Gilbert didn’t like the taste of liquid tramadol at all.  But the prednisone, a tiny blue pill, was easily concealed in cheese or meat.
Hallelujah, within twelve hours Gilbert was standing again.  He couldn’t walk but when I took him outside he was able to pee. Laura and I were jubilant later in the day when he actually squatted and pooped. He was walking unsteadily within 24 hours.  I had to work and Gilbert comes to work with me.  I had him leashed to my chair and drugged so he was able to rest at the office while I worked.  Everyone who learned he was hurt was devastated.  Angel my assistant who has her own dog was so solicitous as was Mary Lou at the other clinic.
Gilbert is a pet therapist so all his patients came to pet him. He has his favourites and it was all we could do to keep him from jumping into their laps.  That’s what he likes to do and they like too so I had to keep telling people and Gilbert that now that he was injured we had to keep him in his little bed in the office.
I talked to the vet on the phone and she was so pleased he was recovering so fast.  When we took him back to the vet it was a man on duty that day. I think he was Persian.  It’s a typical Vancouver multicultural clinic.  Gilbert loved the first vet he’d seen there, a lovely caring big hearted beautiful young Chinese lady.  The older English white man got Gilbert to totally relax on another visit.  Now this fellow was perfect as well.  I saw how thorough his examination was and learned that it was normal for full recovery to take weeks. I know all about backs and disks in humans. But we’re a two wheel drive. I simply don’t know what should be different with the 4 wheel drive.
“Rest. He should have as much rest as possible for another couple of weeks. Almost kennel him."
It was important I heard this because my tendency was to walk Gilbert and if I’d done this it would have delayed his healing.  I realized too I wasn’t being professional with my own dog.  When the vet said this I realized that when I’d seen initial disk injuries in men back in my early days of family medicine when I’d assisted in orthopaedics and been a rodeo doctor, I’d  put them on strick bed rest. We’d even used traction but we couldn’t very well do traction with Gilbert.  So it was good that I asked the Vet questions and listened carefully.
It had only been a couple days before Gilbert no longer squatted to pee.  Like the proud male dog he was he rained his back leg like a flag beside the tree to pee. . The only trouble was he was still veryl unstable on his feet.  So he’d flag his leg beside a tree then lean on that leg up against the tree while he peed.  I don’t think the other dogs in the distance could see what he was doing. I wasn’t going to blow his secret. He fell over sometimes when he didn’t have a prop but more and more he was getting his own back.
He kind of sashayed at first when he walked.  This was Vancouver so no one really noticed that my dog now looked liked a rather flamboyant drag queen.  He was always very cute.    Then his back end motion took on the appearance of the drunken sailor. Again this being Vancouver no one seemed to notice.
Now he’s walking fine except first thing in the morning when we both hobble outside.  Laura and I both have to watch him like hawks now and hold him back.  Early this week he tried bounding up the couple of stairs at the front only to fall back down.  I wasn’t watching later when he actually made it up the two stairs without any difficulty. He seemed to be planning that because he wasn’t supposed to but I couldn’t very well haul in the leash once he was on his way up. He seemed satisfied with himself.  I’ m still carrying  him so that’s not happened again.
I can’t say lifting him in and our of my car or carrying him up the stairs has been any good for my back but my finger has been healing.  That was a deep cut and kept getting banged carrying Gilbert.  I should have got stitches.  I’m sure the cut went down to the joint.  It’s my index finger so I figure God was telling me that I should stop pointing and look more at my own character flaws.  It will be a reminder too.  With the election I’d indulged in too much ‘righteous anger’ and ‘judgementalism’. It’s not good for me. I don’t know what Gilbert thinks his back injury symbolizes. Maybe he shouldn’t have been humping everyone and everything including my former Thai assistant Aim.  She called Gilbert the humper”.
Taking care of Gilbert has had me focussed again on what really is important in life.  There’s been my work. Laura and I have been caring for Gilbert when we haven’t been working. His back is no longer tender and he sure loves getting massages.
I talked to my friend Stan Jung, the chiropractor here who has his phd in rehabilitation as well. He’s branched out into orthopedic athletic wear and had dropped by to leave me an anti slouching undershirt.
“I wish you did chiropractics for dogs,” I said to  Stan.  Stan and his friend Richard Cho have relieved my suffering on occasion.
“Some do, “ Stan replied, " but they need to have a veterinarian assisting them here.”
Physiotherapists are like that. They work with orthopods  and can have advanced  training in veterbral manipulation.  The chiropractors though usually work independently except Stan who consults with doctors.
“Well, you’ll have to get some dog atheltic wear then,” I told Stan.
He was spear heading the introduction of this new material into Canada. The Navy Seals were wearing it in the US.  He had me wearing an undershirt and it actually reduced my work stress, pulling back my shoulders and ensuring that when I sat at my desk I was more upright.
“it’s designed to stop people slouching and it does,” Stan told me.
All the while Stan had been talking to me he’d been massaging Gilbert’s back.  Gilbert could have had Stan stay the whole day.  
Gilbert’s now  at the end of his tramadol and prednisone. He’d had a week of daily prednisone and this second week has been tapering off.  All the pain appears  gone except when he gets up in the morning.  I think what he needs is a cup of coffee. That certainly gets me going.
Now we just have to keep him from running and jumping. The pizza kid came last night and Gilbert in a flash was all over him, barking and jumping up and down. .  Gilbert loves pizza. Laura was caught trying to get the pizza , keep Gilbert from jumping, and all the while trying to get the money out of her purse to pay the kid.  It was a real  juggle for Laura.
I was on the bed watching tv.  I didn’t jump up and  run to assist. Last week I would have.   I guess I trust Gilbert is out of the woods now.  All he needs  is time.  And pizza.
Laura brought the pizza to the bed and I lifted Gilbert up  between us so we could all get a slice while we watched Nicole Kidman in the Irtsh Australian movie, Strangerland.  Gilbert doesn’t care what the movie is. He just likes meat pizza.  And being with us.  I love watching his little tail wag, especially now.
Gilbert is on the mend.
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