The weeks after Maverick’s first steps were absolutely exhausting. As if we weren’t tired enough already! Maverick REALLY wanted to get up and greet people, get up and meet dogs and “help” with their therapy, especially when therapy meant lamb-flavored treats being handed out for jobs well done. He figured he’d done a darn good job just getting up and waddling over to them and that, of course, must mean a treat! Hilariously, he started to become a bit of a pain as he was constantly trying to get to his feet and help with someone’s therapy. It truly was easier when he wasn’t able to move! I didn’t have to worry about him getting in the way, getting bit, or walking on his upside down feet.
Each day his feet got SLIGHTLY better and over the next few weeks we were constantly being congratulated by shocked clients who couldn’t believe he could get up, much less walk! It was a crooked, crazy, drunken puppy kind of walk, but he was mobile! I sometimes had to stop and reflect on our success as I was so obsessed (and stressed) with making sure each footstep was straight and proper. In less than three months we had gotten him to stand. And now, after just over four months he was walking and oh, so hilariously, trying to run.
In our business we face a constant struggle of getting paralyzed dogs to walk again. Some owners and many, many vets give an animal very little time before saying that a “tough decision” has to be made. It’s insanely frustrating because we know that, statistically, 80% of all paralyzed dogs will walk again. I remember years ago my very own vet (who obviously isn’t my vet anymore) told me that he “didn’t believe” in down dogs and thought they all should be euthanized. I was blown away. And kept thinking of the dozens upon dozens of dogs I’ve seen over the years that were insanely happy running around in their wheelchairs.
Aside: after I lost Sophie, the love of my life and my first paralyzed German Shepherd I went to German Shepherd Rescue in Burbank and asked the owner, Grace, if she had any paralyzed GSD’s. In fact she did! She brought out Skye, the goofiest old lady whose owners had dropped her at the rescue after she had become paralyzed. I told her that I’d take her and Grace handed me her leash. I said, “Grace!! You can’t just give me this dog!! You haven’t even read my application! What if I’m planning on selling her for medical research or using her as a bait dog?? You haven’t done a home check!” to which she responded, “In my line of work and having done this for so many years, I know when the right home comes along. I know you will take good care of this old girl”, and of course she was right. I adored that crazy Shepherd. I got her walking as best she could but we always used a wheelchair for walking around the neighborhood. Skye went through the roof when I pulled out her wheels and asked, “Wanna go for a walk?” She was a complete maniac in those wheels. I also found out the hard way that she was dog aggressive (who knew!!!) as one day she saw a dog at the end of the block and took off like a bat out of hell in her wheelchair. Me, who runs six miles a day and happened to even be wearing my running shoes could not catch her!!!! I was mortified when I finally caught up to her and she’d already taken a nice chomp out of a Schnauzer’s head. Bryan and I always felt like she was truly one of the happiest dogs we had ever known. Even at the end of her life when she had ruptured multiple new discs and could barely move, she was thrilled to get in her wheels and take off. She also had this habit of lying in her dog bed, in the driveway, in plain sight. For some reason, though, she thought she was invisible. As we would walk by, for any reason, she would spring up as if to say “SURPRISE!” Gotta love GSDs.