I'll never forget the sound she made. The high-pitched yelp that was unlike anything I'd heard before. Little did I know that it would result in a $10,000 surgery, months of rehabilitation and a journey back to health that would amaze me beyond measure.
It was one year ago today that my Cricket girl, at the time only 5-years old, lost mobility in her back legs. A herniated disc resulting in nerve damage that only a neurosurgeon could detect and only a very invasive surgery could fix. And even then there was no promise she'd ever hike again. Run again. Jump again. Play again.
Saying goodbye to her as I walked out of that veterinary office devastated me. We had never been apart that long unless she was with my parents. She'd be waking up in a cage. In pain and confused. I cry just typing it.
Her surgery wasn't easy. The disc had burst on both sides of the spine which isn't normal. Typically they go in on one side to remove it so having disc on both side caused issues with being able to remove it all. She also had a blood vessel that was in the way of the knife that kept getting lacerated causing excessive bleeding and blood loss. The surgeon had to make the decision to pull her out of anesthesia and close her up before he could remove all of the disc because she had been under far too long.
But she was so strong. They watched her for five days as she progressed and showed signs of feeling in those back legs again.
On day six a vet tech mistook her pain med recommendations and overdosed her. So she had to stay two extra days to make sure she would recover from that.
But after a week I was greeted by my little chiweenie and her teary-eyed surgeon. She was walking with a harness that held up her hips. Something she'd get used to over the next few months as it was the only way she'd learn to walk and go potty again.
And so began our journey. Her meds made her excessively thirsty - and also incontinent. So it was carry her down three flights of stairs and across the street to grass every hour and a half or so...even through the night. Eventually I bought her a wagon and wheeled her to the elevator and she started to perk up during her rides out in the fresh air. So soon it was daily visits in the wagon to the park where she could watch the birds and we could put her on her harness and practice walking. And I'd lay her in the soft grass and watch her old smile come across her face again while I massaged her legs and did her daily exercises.
And day by day...she got better. Soon she was wobbling without the harness. Still slow, but mobile! I remember thinking, "The day her tail goes back up again and curls toward her spine like it used to is the day I know she's okay." But admittedly, part of me was so nervous that day wouldn't come.
You reach this weird point of acceptance. I had come to terms with the idea that she may never hike or adventure with me again. Never play fetch. And my very tired brain struggled with that idea but I knew I had to find a way to keep her happy if those things were no longer an option. So I took the rest of my vacations days and we went on a long-weekend adventure every weekend through the end of the year. Places she could just be calm and safe.
So I booked a cabin on the Mogollon Rim with tall grass and wide open spaces. I booked another in Flagstaff with tall aspens and a wood stove she could lie in front of. Then we tried camping along Oak Creek in Sedona where she swam for the first time. We stayed above a brewery in Bisbee where we could walk the haunted streets by the cool of the night. And then we had our grand finale - a trip to Dog Beach in San Diego where she could run freely with other dogs (while I cringed in fear the whole time).
It wasn't long after that trip in November that I was taking her out for a walk. As we stood in the elevator I looked down at my little girl. And there she stood. Tail curled up toward her back just like it used to.
I dropped to my knees in tears. She had done the unthinkable. From zero mobility to full mobility in four months. And as the months since have passed I've watched her blossom. Watched her run and jump and play and truly appreciate every moment. As I have learned to do as well. Life is so short and so fragile. Don't take a single second for granted and don't ever doubt for one of those seconds what you are truly capable of. My Cricket girl is living proof.