Sunday, February 12, 2012

Diary of a Soutern Belle - Weeks 4 & 5

It was Thursday night. The Soph & I were cuddling on the sofa & we both fell asleep. About 1:00am Sophie's panting (not heavy) as she began to re-arrange her large frame, awakened me. She had decided to get off the sofa & I watched her step off, uncertainly pausing on her front legs while her rear was still on the cushions (not a pretty sight I might add).

After a few seconds in this position, she hopped off, walked unsteadily for a few feet & unceremoniously dropped to the floor. She moved onto her side. Frightened by this unusual behavior, I got down on the floor with her, stroked & talked to her while checking for bloat (sometimes successful but not always) & otherwise felt around what I could get to. She wasn't moving b7t she wasn't panting hard either.

I called for Carol and we determined that something was definitely wrong. What it was we couldn’t tell. I considered some kind of convulsion or stroke or heart/blood problem. She was quiet, calm, motionless for the longest time and then, as it turned out, gathered her strength, overcame or emerged from her problem to get to her feet. But couldn't.

That's when we made emergency calls. Sophie weighing 120# or so is not easy to move around as you can imagine. Carol searched for a veterinary ambulance to no avail, then contacted the emergency hospital we use to ask some quick questions of the vet on duty & to alert them that we were coming. Carol went off to move the car to the front of the house (shortest distance).

Sliding a large towel under Sophie was a chore but we managed; she whimpered a little. Then all three of us tried to get her up at which point she let out a scream & standing I could see she was holding her left paw aloft, refusing to put any weight on it.

I searched for a broken bone, something in the pad, all for naught but when I got up under her arm/leg pit, she let out another yelp so I moved the towel back & we started to move her to the car. It was a struggle. Sophie helped as much as possible but her rear was working too well either so it was like carrying dead (gulp) weight. I started to consider some kind of spine injury as we moved her closer & closer to the door, resting at 3 or 4 stages. At the car, don't ask me how but I was able to lift her into the rear of the station wagon & I got in with her.

Sophie is not yet confident enough to lie down while traveling by car so she sat, keeping weight off that one leg, leaning her body against my arm which was squashed between her & the side of the car. But I knew by then her spine, spinal column was ok which was some solace. In that condition we made the 20 minute trip to the emergency hospital.

There two/three emergency vet techs met us with a gurney which we transferred Sophie onto without much of a struggle (I think she knew we were trying to help) and the techs wheeled her into the emergency room where we could not follow. Two went with Sophie. One remained with us, to gather some history.

Eventually the vet, Michele Roch, came out to confer with us. Her cursory analysis was a leg problem in the elbow area. It was hot, swollen & produced an immediate reaction from the Soph when extended but she didn't know the cause. We authorized x-rays, blood tests, and whatever else was necessary to deduce what was going on & we waited, dozing off in the waiting room.

Nose was cold, wet -- not always a good barometer. Infection? A high white cell count might point that way but the result was a low white blood count. Conveniently, this could mean body was fighting infection & running low on ammunition.

Medication to relax Sophie enough for the x-ray didn't kick in so we agreed to anesthesia and signed a form authorizing CPR in an emergency. About an hour later we all looked at the digital x-rays together. Joints were good, sockets & seatings looked clean, no fractures, no bone spurs, chips & the like were in evidence. So Ms. Roche reasoned the damage was in the tissue surrounding the joint.

And what could that mean? Anything from an infection discharge to soft tissue cancer.

Sophie was resting comfortably, a surgeon was coming in & would examine her later in the morning so about 5:30am we decided there was nothing more we could do until the surgical consult & we went home, had an early breakfast & waited.... and waited.... and waited. Carol couldn't go to work.

About 10:00am Fri surgeon Judith Feldstein (a Brit) called to discuss Sophie's case. We reviewed what we had observed from 1:00 AM, what we knew of her background, what experiences we had had with her in the three weeks she had been with us: an active, playful, limber, wiggly, romping, chow hound who ate everything in sight, licked all bowls clean, drank water like a Bouvier, was smart as hell, had a winsome personality and perfect bathroom habits, resulting in good deposits left in various spots on the front lawn.

Ms.Feldstein decided to withdraw some liquid, put it under a microscope & send it out for a culture. Same with the blood work. Her concern was that infectious materials left to fester too long could lead to damaged tissues or even the joint, itself. To prevent that she would have to cut the knee open & flush it out thoroughly. However, as a first step, she wanted to put Sophie under again, drain what she could by needle, put her on massive dosages of intravenous antibiotics & wait one day (Sat) to see if there was marked improvement. I asked for her criteria for marked improvement. "If she puts weight on the leg". Sounded reasonable & made sense to us.

I had elected not to visit Sophie out of fear of making her even more anxious with my coming and going but I conferred with the emergency techs taking care of her 2-3x daily. Sophie was NEVER left alone. I was comforted by that and felt I was doing the right thing.

Since Sophie met the criteria, Ms. Feldstein decided to continue intravenous antibiotics rather than cut her open. Sunday, her day off, she came in to check on her & was pleased with Sophie's progress. However, Sophie was not eating despite the fact that we had dropped off her favorite foods.

Sunday night's conference with the emergency vet resulted in the idea of picking Sophie up on Monday, subject to the surgeon's ok, to get her to eat at home, and to follow up with oral antibiotics, a return visit with the surgeon within a week, and only walking on lead to take care of business and then home again to rest up.

But you can't keep a good girl down.

Sophie wanted to run, jump, wriggle & bump -- all bad things. And I had to stop her which made me feel guilty as hell since one goal in her adoption was to give her total freedom to wander & play, something she lacked in her prior life. 


At home, we were to keep her off the furniture, medicated: 6 pills in the AM + 7 pills in the PM. We were to put hot compresses on her elbow 3-4x daily. Smart girl that she is, she wouldn't take her pills stuffed in a hot dog, in a pill pocket, mixed in with her dinner (she wouldn't eat), in cream cheese or wrapped in baloney. For one session, peanut butter did the trick. Then she saw it coming. You can put a pill into this girl's mouth wrapped in anything and she can shake her head until the pill falls out of one her jowls but the rest stays in. So we watched her shake her head violently with each attempt and stared helplessly as a little white pill dropped to the floor. I finally took to shoving them down her throat (last resort). A bit of treat, a pill, a bit of treat, a pill, a bit of treat, a pill....

Upchuck once, feeling punky each time but eventually good appetite, lots & lots of water and frequent trips to pee. Stella who is also a chow hound, walks out of the kitchen during the pill routine, wanting no part of it. I know how she thinks: "I don't want to be next. Out of sight, out of mind."

Tuesday we go for a checkup with the surgeon. Sophie is now licking her back left thigh. I don't know what that means. I hope nothing. She looks like an oddly shaved poodle, done by a groomer on hallucinogenics (Remember those days, Timothy Leary?). But she's still Sophie.

The saga continues.