White Dog shook her head. "If anybody deserves a break and a little luck, it is my brother, Taiko." I wrapped my arms around her and nodded my agreement into her furs. Most of the White Dog Army comes to us with stories of sadness and abuse that make me shake my head and wonder about humanity. But Taiko has been the most physically damaged. He carries a bullet lodged in his vertebrae; both of his elbows are nearly disintegrated; he bears the scars of being chained outdoors, infested with fleas/ticks and malnourished. The WDA has done phenomenal things in helping Tai overcome his fears and develop trust...to become a family member...but the physical damage is something we must help him find a way to live with.
Last week when Storm saw Dr. Julia we mentioned our Tender Hearted Boy was walking like a human on crutches...planting his front feet ahead and then rabbit hopping his rear to meet up. We decided to try a new NSAID. It was a disaster! His walking got worse (he looked like a horseshoe in sideview, front and back feet meeting under him). He stopped sleeping at night and refused to eat.
We called Dr. Julia and reversed the decision. Putting him back on carprofen. And setting an appointment for him to come in for review.
One of the best things we ever learned was to use the cell phone to film situations involving unusual behavior with the White Dogs. It is critical for the vet to be able to see in a regular environment what is going on. This is particularly true for Taiko who has such an intense fear of the vet that he must be sedated before going and immediately muzzled once there...not truly conducive to assessing or diagnosing problems.
I wrapped Taiko firmly in my arms as we wheeled into the office. I had promised him that Steve and I would keep him safe; his look told me what an incredible gift of trust he was giving to just go inside.
I held him as Dr. Julia came in and took a long look at him from across the room. I could see her mental checklist: eyes: clear, fear level: high but contained. body posture: pained. We talked about what had been happening with Taiko and Steve showed her the video we had taken.
"No wonder the NSAIDS aren't working," she said almost immediately. "This is neurological not arthritis or muscle. NSAIDS don't work on nerve issues." Suddenly I was tight inside. :"What are we talking about, then?" I asked.
"Not a brain tumor or lesion; this seems more like spinal cord issue. Like something is getting pinched." She looked at Steve's movie again. "Let me go call up his past xrays." She left the room and Steve took the opportunity to lead our boy outside for a breath of fresh air and a potty break.
Dr. Julia came back in time to see Steve walking Taiko into the exam room. "At some point soon I want to take a skull to tail set of xrays, but it looks like there is an area that showed a predisposition for problems. And it matches the hump he has when he walks...see how he holds his head?"
"He always has had sort of tight muscle there on his neck," I answered. "I think the muscle is tight because the cord is constricted there and it is causing problems with his back further down the line." "How did that happen?" Steve asked. "Could be from past abuse, he could have fallen in the yard recently and aggravated it, it could be congenital, we can't really say."
We agreed that we would put off the xray series...Taiko was clearly getting to the end of his calmness. And we could presedate him for that since we now knew what the problem most likely was.
To reduce the inflammation around the spinal cord Taiko is now on a steroid. "That will probably take care of his eating reluctance as well," Dr. Julia laughed. She also prescribed a holistic sleep aid, Zylkene.
"Let's try this and look at him again on Monday." she said. "I suspect he will be walking better pretty quickly; the sleeping might take a few days. And don't forget to capture his progress; those movies really help."