Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Possum the Dog

The first week of the spring semester is usually hectic on a community college campus, so I am naturally caught up in that, as a new crew of students fills the seats and many pairs of inquisitive eyes turn my way, (hopefully) eager for instruction.  It's a great time, full of positive energy and activity, which is wonderful, as I need all the positive energy I can get to direct to my poor little Possum poochie, who has a ruptured disk in his neck.

Normally, Possum, who is a savvy senior at 13 years old, looks like he does in this picture, as he was ready for trick or treating this Halloween.  He's a friendly, happy, active, tail wagging, prancing paws kind of a dog.

Then, I noticed in the past couple months that he wasn't putting his head down to eat his food as quickly as before, and I thought that maybe his vision was not as sharp as it used to be.  I would guide him to the food and coax him gently to eat.  It turns out that this is actually a symptom of a problem with a disk in the neck, and it was painful for him to bend to eat out of his food bowl.  I have since elevated his food and water bowls by placing them on an old monitor riser, and now he doesn't have to bend at all.

Next, he seemed to be moving slower, less quick to chase visiting birds in the back yard (even though he still barked at them just as much--maybe a little more to make up for his reduced activity), and he took my old comforter out of the laundry pile and turned it into a nest.  How many nests does a dog need?  He seriously has a luxury doggy spa environment already, with many comfy beds to rest in and plenty of toys and things actually designed for chewing.  He wanted my blanket that smells like me.

Finally, one evening, when I came home from picking up the boys at school, I heard Possum yelp, which is rare for him to do, so I thought he must be hurt.  He was in the garage, and my other dog, King, was standing next to his little buddy, and he looked at me as if to say, "I don't know what's wrong with him.  I didn't do it!"  Possum seemed to be spasming and lifting his left front paw and yelping, trembling, and panting.  I couldn't find anything wrong with his paw, and every time I tried to touch him, he yelped loudly.  

So that meant a late-night trip to the emergency vet.  I'm so lucky to have a great emergency vet ten minutes away.  I really, really, really am so very grateful for them.  They've helped me before, and they were just as wonderful and compassionate this time as they have been in the past.  Unfortunately, they did give me the bad news that Possum most likely has a ruptured disk in his neck.  

This means that he's nestled in my old blanket most of the time (he gives all of his beds a lay from time to time), surrounded by toys and chew things, swaddled in his Christmas sweater, full of anti-inflammatory meds, pain pills, Pepcid, and his favorite flavors of dog food.  He gets lots of extra love, but I can't really pet him well.  I touch him gingerly and if he yelps, I pull away.  I really just want to hug him, but it hurts.

He has six weeks of this treatment, and then, if he's not paralyzed (or worse), we'll see how mobile he will be from now on.  I'm glad that he's still alive, but I miss our walks.  He can't even wear a leash anymore.  He could wear a harness, but when he pulls on it, that would hurt, too.  I just hope that our last walk around the neighborhood wasn't...our last walk.  On a positive note, he is still just as friendly and happy as always, with the occasional yelp in between a lot of extra sleep.  I just have to make sure he doesn't jump, dig, or do any other acrobatic doggy activities.  

So I'm off to teach more classes today, and Possum will sleep until I get home, when I can give him another pain pill and try to pet him.  I've done the best I can do, and the rest is up to him.  Now I need to go teach students about the wonderful world of writing.  

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