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Apologies

Dear Reader,

Please accept my apologies for not continuing Charlie’s story.  It has a sad ending.  To tell the rest of his story I have to share my personal anguish.

Despite our efforts to help him feel better, Charlie’s condition began to deteriorate following my last post.  Together with our vet, we tried to help him by increasing his pain medicines and additional acupuncture sessions, thinking we could buy additional time for post surgery healing.

I felt I was too emotional to document this period of time when Charlie’s care became more and more hospice-like.  Our vet told us she didn’t think we should pursue a PSOM diagnosis, because being under general anesthesia for the CT-scan and being moved under anesthesia might make matters worse for him.  Physical therapy was out of the question.  We were keeping him comfortable, and he mostly rested and slept.

On Friday, January 25th, 2008, we made the heart breaking decision to give Charlie his wings.  I held him in my arms, cuddled in the tartan fleece blanket that Nicki sent him and the quilted lap pad from Deb.  When he fell asleep, I felt his body relax; he felt like a sleeping baby cradled in my arms.  We were allowed as much time as we needed to say goodbye alone.  

I could not bear to return to Charlie’s blog.  I posted about him on CavalierTalk, and many friends responded with kindness. 

It took many months for me to come to terms with what had happened to Charlie.  I was thinking he had felt too much pain in his life, and that we had helped to prolong it.   No matter how hard I tried, I could not let go of these thoughts.

I questioned every decision anyone had ever made for Charlie.  Why did his first owner give him up?  Why wasn’t he euthanized?  Why did that first vet turn him over to rescue?  Why didn’t the rescue give him the decompression surgery he needed?  Why did we take so long to step up and adopt him?  Why did we put him through this?  Why didn’t the surgery work?  Bad decisions were made for him, and terrible timing… I didn’t realize that losing Charlie would become a lesson on forgiveness.

Holding pattern

We’ve been in a kind of holding pattern this week, waiting for Charlie’s next acupuncture appointment (our vet is away until Monday), and waiting to get our appointment dates for the PSOM study at Ohio State University. I’m more concerned about Charlie’s day to day comfort than about rehab right now. We’ve been giving him one dose of Tramadol nearly every day this week, which saddens me after how well he responded to his acupuncture treatment last weekend. Charlie is scheduled for acupuncture Tuesday evening.

As far as the PSOM study goes, I’m hoping that we will get an appointment for Charlie this month, but we may have to wait until January. If he is diagnosed with PSOM, perhaps that could be an answer to what is causing his head pain. Dr. C. is going to talk to the OSU neurologist about Charlie, as I told her he will need to be sedated to have his ears scoped.

Here at home, Charlie still prefers to sleep the day away, but he’s fairly active in the evenings, exploring around the house, playing with our dog toy collection, and chewing on bully sticks and dental rawhides. Our other three cavaliers have accepted him as one of their own and genuinely like to hang out with him. When I brought Charlie to Ohio I was worried that he wouldn’t like our winters very much, but he loves the snow. He has very good traction in the snow – I don’t have to carry him off the deck any more if there’s snow on the ground.

Charlie’s 2nd birthday

Charlie turns two years old on Dec. 11, 2007. Happy birthday little boy!

Thanks!

To Denni, Barbara and Cathy T.: thank you so much. Your donations will help pay for Charlie’s medical care and rehab visits. Charlie thanks you too!

Charlie, napping at home after his acupuncture treatment:

Yesterday we took Charlie to see his vet. The vet practice at Northview is a large one; our chosen vet is a young doctor whose area of interest is neurology. She has training in acupuncture and Chinese herbs as well. She has been seeing our other three cavaliers as their regular vet since she joined the practice a few years ago.

She examined Charlie thoroughly, including a neurological exam, and she looked at his gait and hocks. He had a pain episode during his appointment, so now she understands what we’ve been trying to describe. She gave us a prescription of Tramadol for Charlie on his bad days.

She thinks it would be a good idea if we take Charlie to OSU for the PSOM study, since his one ear is so sensitive. The discomfort could be from Charlie’s SM, but we should explore and eliminate other possibilities as well. So I will be contacting Dr. Cole next week.

As for Charlie’s weak legs, she gave us the go ahead to schedule his first rehab appointment, which will include massage, range of motion, strengthening, and underwater treadmill exercise. In addition to this, we’ve decided on acupuncture treatments for Charlie, both for relieving pain and for stimulating neurological pathways that may be blocked.

Our vet was very kind and patient with us – we had a long discussion about Charlie’s medical issues – then she had an appointment with another patient, and she let us stay for an acupuncture treatment that went past closing time.

I had never seen acupuncture in real life, so it was fascinating to watch and be a part of. We sat on pads on the floor, and Charlie lay with his head and upper body on my lap and his hips / hind legs on the pad. Earlier, I had been holding him cuddled into his blanket while we waited for her to return from another patient, so he was already warm and sleepy. I stroked him and talked to him while she placed 20 very fine little needles; starting with one in the top of his head, several along both sides of his spine, and in his right leg. Some of the needles he felt a tiny bit, but the sensation was so slight that he didn’t bother to raise his head from my lap.

Then he fell asleep while the needles were in place for 20 minutes or so. He was so relaxed afterwards when I carried him out of the office that it felt just like holding a warm, sleeping baby.

Immediately following Charlie’s appointment, we had to pick up Chocolate from a grooming session at her breeder’s, a 30 minute drive. Chockie’s breeder had been wanting to meet Charlie, so we brought him inside, where he was very comfortable and content to have a good sniff around the room.

Charlie had a quiet, restful evening and night, plus he’s napping this morning after breakfast. We’ll be watching him closely to see how he responds to the acupuncture. His next appointment will be Dec. 17 or 18 in the evening.

Rehab

This afternoon I called our vets’ office and spoke to their rehabilitation specialist. She is originally from the hospital where Charlie had his surgery, and has experience working with neurology patients. We have started to set up a plan for little Charlie.

I explained our situation, how unpredictable he is, and she came up with a great idea for how she can work with him in short sessions a few times a day twice a week, and he will be given his 1:00pm Gabapentin pill while he is there. I will drop him off at the facility in the morning, and he’ll rest in a crate in the ICU (where at least one nurse will be keeping an eye on him at all times.) Then he will get a little bit of physical therapy (rehab) 2-3 times per day, depending on how he feels. Either my sister or I will pick him up when he’s finished for the day. We will be shown some exercises we can do with Charlie at home as well.

I will ease him into it slowly, because he tends to growl at people he doesn’t know or trust, which is why he was sent home from the hospital so quickly after his decompression surgery. But Charlie bonds very quickly with his main caregivers, so I expect him to get used to them after he is there a few times.

I have scheduled an appointment with Charlie’s regular vet this coming Saturday morning for an exam, to have his hocks looked at, and to basically get approval to begin rehab. Our little boy is going to begin the next step of his recovery!

Behavior breakthroughs

I’ve mentioned a few times that Charlie is a bit quirky and came to us with a full set of behavior problems. When a dog has been as extremely ill as Charlie, training is at the bottom of the list of priorities. But now that he’s adjusting to life after surgery, we’re starting to focus on his behavior.

Charlie has finally grasped the meaning of the word ‘No’ last night, which is a HUGE step for him! Now if he starts barking during our dinner time, he will stop when he hears the word ‘no’. He usually starts up again several times, but at least he does stop each time he hears the ‘n’ word.

Then, this morning he actually let me know he had to go potty. He stood by the kitchen door, waiting for me to take him outside. This was after he had been loose in the house for 45 minutes.

I’m so pleased that we finally have a foundation to build on. I was worried that the little guy was incapable of any form of self control, but he has had two breakthroughs in the past 24 hours. Way to go, Charlie!

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