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Archive for November, 2007

Our happy boy

This evening we gave Charlie a pedicure so he wouldn’t slip on our smooth floors. He was very well behaved having his nails and the fur between his foot pads trimmed. Here he is on the left – smiling! He enjoyed hanging out with Geordie, India and Chocolate watching Colin cook. Then he went to bed at 9:00pm and is now totally zonked out.

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Thank you

Our heartfelt thanks go to Lisa, Judith, Bruce, Mary Lou, Barbara, Marilyn, Phyllis, Barb and Les who sent donations through Cathy T. to help with Charlie’s surgery and medical care.  Thank you so much, Carolyn, for your help with Charlie’s medical care.   

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Balancing

Charlie’s regular vet had wanted us to lower Charlie’s Amantadine dosage because of his diarrhea/colitis, so we did lower it for two days. But we quickly realized that he really needs the full dose, so now he’s back on his 40mg dose. The combination of Flagyl and Benebac is working now, and he’s getting back to normal. I’m phasing his regular food in little by little with the chicken and white rice.

Charlie’s doing well, and doesn’t need 24/7 care any longer. He’s active in the morning and evening like his fellow dogs, and he prefers to nap the day away with them. This weekend we went shopping and running errands; it felt good to have some freedom!

This week we’re going to trim Charlie’s nails and the hair between his footpads, then give him more freedom in the house if he doesn’t trip and fall on the smooth floors. I may try using some of Geordie’s paw wax on him to give him a better grip. (I used to put paw wax on Geordie’s feet so he wouldn’t slip on the agility contact equipment.) If Charlie falls, I’m going to keep him in his x-pen and crate for his own safety until he has some physical therapy to make him stronger. He gets plenty of exercise walking outside where the grass is soft. We’ve noticed that his pain episodes seem to be related to falling, so we need to avoid that.

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One month

It’s hard to believe we’ve only had Charlie for one month, but yesterday was our one month mark!

Yesterday I took Charlie to the vet because he developed colitis or something very similar. He has an overgrowth of Clostridium in his intestines, so we were given a bottle of liquid Flagyl and some Benebac to give him twice a day, along with several small meals of white rice and chicken. His vet thinks the Amantadine may be causing an upset in his system, so we’re supposed to try 20mg rather than the 40mg dose. If he starts to show any pain, we’re supposed to move him back to his full dose.

His Prednisone is being cut back to every other day for the next 2 weeks, and we’re hoping he does well with that.

We’ve had lots of rain lately, and the dogs were getting too muddy in the backyard, so yesterday was bath day for all four. Charlie loves water and was very relaxed during his bath. My plan to keep the dogs (and house) clean is to walk them in the neighborhood until the backyard dries out or freezes. So yesterday Charlie had his first walk. I let him go at his own speed, and he spends most of the time sniffing the ground. We walked two houses away, then I wanted us to turn around to return home. Charlie likes walking as long as he’s in control; it’s easy to get him out but difficult to bring him back. I actually had to carry him back to our house. I’m going to take boiled chicken bits with me to see if I can start training him to be a better walking companion today.

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Thanksgiving

Wow, where do I start? I’m sitting here at my desk in the early morning looking into my kitchen where four little cavaliers are curled up in their beds with warm, full bellies having just eaten breakfast. Charlie looks just as comfortable as India, Geordie and Chocolate. He doesn’t know it yet, but one of these days he’ll be running with them!

Adopting Charlie has been a leap of faith for us. To be honest, when I chose the theme for this weblog, I chose the lovely, misty picture of the bridge because I thought perhaps Charlie might not make it much longer. He has been a survivor for all of his short life, but I cannot allow a dog to suffer with no end in sight. I believe he was suffering every minute of every day before he had his decompression surgery. Many people were worried that time was running out for Charlie because the longer a dog has severe SM symptoms, the lower the success rate is for surgery. It was a huge leap of faith to bring Charlie here to Ohio in hopes that Dr. Axlund could help him, and we’re thankful that Dr. A. was able to improve Charlie’s life.

Caring for a dog with severe Syringomyelia symptoms is not easy, but fortunately we have never once felt that we were alone in this. There are many truly kind and caring people who have supported us every step of the way and wished Charlie well, and that’s why I’m writing this Thanksgiving post to all of you. Every decision we had to make for Charlie was easier because of the encouraging words you posted here and on the CavalierTalk forum. When we waited through his surgery, you sat with us and held our hands. When we were worried sick, you comforted us – even in the middle of the night. Every good thing that happened to Charlie was cheered on by you. I sincerely believe that all the good things that have happened to Charlie could not have happened without each of you who cared. Charlie truly belongs to all of us!

Adopting Charlie has had an impact on our finances. I’m excluding the normal, every day things like food, bedding, potty pads, etc. from this discussion. To date we have spent $3,927.00 on his medical bills and the travel costs to bring him from California to Ohio. Neurology/surgery – $2, 856.32, Prescriptions – $214.98, Vet – $250.74, Air Travel – $605.00. Charlie’s prescriptions will continue to cost approximately $150.00 per month. And he needs physical therapy to strengthen his skinny legs so he’ll stop tripping and falling.

We have gratefully received many generous donations to help offset these costs:

Cathy T. graciously shared Charlie’s story with several groups, including the Cavalier Connection forum, a Mission Viejo gathering, and her CKCS club members; and she sent us $959.22 in donations. Our heartfelt thanks to Cathy T., Anne, Molly, Lynn, Debby, Anita, Mary, Cheryl, Sandy, Connie, Jeanne, Lani, Carol, Natalie, Whitney, Dee, and Anonymous. We appreciate your generosity and kind words.

Molly’s Mutts and Meows generously donated $1,800.00 toward Charlie’s surgery bill, which we gratefully received this week. Thank you Molly and Deb.

We’re thankful for my sister, who watched over and cared for Charlie after his surgery so that we could work at our jobs. Charlie considers her to be his second ‘mom’, and he always rests easy when she is near.

Karlin and Nicki at CavalierTalk, my home away from home, have shared their extensive knowledge about and experience with SM and helped us learn to care for Charlie. Cathy T., Caraline, and all the CavTalk members have given us support and encouragement. Lynn offered to make Charlie a special collar to protect his incision (it’s healed now), Whitney sent us one of Spencer’s special step-in harnesses and lead, Sara offered to buy Charlie a raised dish holder, Kendall shared her experience with Rory’s decompression surgery. Charlie thanks you, too!

One last thing we’re thankful for – this morning I opened the door and let Charlie go outside into the backyard all by himself. As he trotted along towards the back fence, I noticed his tail was waving behind him like a little flag – he now has the ‘cavalier tail wag’ when he walks!

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Good appointment!

Dr. A. is pleased with Charlie’s progress, and we all agree that Charlie is much improved over his preoperative status. His gait is much closer to normal and he can negotiate smooth flooring much better. Dr. A. says Charlie may continue to improve, or this may be as good as it gets – that will remain to be seen. But we all notice how much happier he is, and he’s much more comfortable with his body. He was actually affectionate with Dr. A. and his assistant, giving them kisses.

I’ve recently begun to notice a little bit of ‘flycatcher’ behavior, and I was told to just keep an eye on that; the Gabapentin may keep it in check. Charlie’s pain episodes are down to 0-3 per day from an average of 3-5 before surgery. His current episodes are related to defecating and also occasional tripping/falling (due to his weak front legs). Dr. A. said it’s o.k. for me to gradually change Charlie’s diet to Innova Evo, which I think may help regulate his bowels, and we are planning to strengthen his legs.

Charlie doesn’t have to return for any rechecks as long as he continues to recover well. He can begin to be introduced to normal life (freedom from crate and x-pen) over the next 2 weeks. He’s allowed to be in the backyard off-leash starting now, but our other 3 dogs cannot be loose with him yet. Charlie will continue to take Gabapentin, Amantadine and Prilosec. He is still on Prednisone, which is continuing to be decreased. He will need an MRI in 5-6 months, and we have to go to Pittsburgh PA to get a full length scan.

In two weeks Charlie can be evaluated for physical therapy. He needs to strengthen and build muscles. Dr. A. says Charlie has tetraparesis, a muscle weakness affecting all four of his legs. His hocks are slipping on his hind legs when he walks, and his front legs have nerve damage which appears to be permanent. So we’re hoping that by strengthening his leg muscles we can help Charlie stop tripping on his front legs.

Whew! I think that’s everything. We did talk a little about how quirky Charlie is, and I may decide to have him evaluated by a veterinary behaviorist in the near future. We just want Charlie to be the best he can be, physically, mentally, and behaviorally!

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Neurology appointment

Tomorrow morning Charlie has his 2 week exam with his neurologist. We’re eager to hear what Dr. A. will say about Charlie. I’ll post an update as soon as we return.

I didn’t get a photo of Charlie smiling today. He had a great big bark fest at dinner time, and now he’s sound asleep in his crate.

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