Kimmy Sophia Brown

Lazarus Dog

May 21, 2007
In the fall of 2006, our dog was injured. We don’t know how, we didn’t see it happen. I noticed he was acting in a peculiar way one morning, panting frantically, turning in circles, looking at me piteously. I called a neighbor who drove me to the vet. At first the country vet thought it was botulism. Poisoning. But then, his hindquarters collapsed in front of us. Then the vet thought it was a stroke or a spinal injury. We had no idea what had happened.

We took Hobbes home in a state of total collapse. He couldn’t walk, couldn’t move. He was completely unable to use his back legs. We took him to a dog neurologist the next day who was confident to help him, but the MRI and surgery would have cost $5,000. She agreed with the diagnosis of our veterinarian. Because of finances, we opted for the secondary care plan she suggested which was six weeks of crate rest, expressing urine with a catheter and cleaning up involuntary dog poop; and the most important part, waiting to see if he would get better.

After the first week, my daughter and I were a wreck from caring for him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Grace slept next to him all night. We didn’t leave his side. We extracted urine with a catheter three times a day, and fed him delicious food like raw meat or dog food with beef broth. After about a week we got up one morning and there was blood in his urine. We freaked out thinking we had perforated his bladder with the catheter. We called the vet to make an appointment to euthanize him. My son dug a hole to bury him. We told our friends. We cried for hours and said our good-byes.

When we got to the vet, he said that he thought we were being hasty. He had seen dogs recover from this kind of thing. We were so confused. We had spent hours crying with our decision and had said our good-byes. We were steeling ourselves for the inevitable, but now there was hope. The vet encouraged us to use the technique that former President Nixon termed “benign neglect” as a care philosophy. Leave him alone. Ignore him even. Let him get well on his own. This is a tall order for people who consider dogs to be part of the family. But it seemed like a good idea. We were getting totally exhausted monitoring his every breath. (which reeked by the way).

So we decided to leave him more on his own and let nature take its course. He slowly strengthened. After four weeks we saw an extraordinary transformation. He was able to stand up and even take a few steps. His overall demeanor became as completely enthusiastic and joyous as his old self. He stood in the crate jumping continuously on his hindquarters - little one inch bounces that continued tirelessly; boingy boingy boingy boingy.

We continued to use the catheter twice a day and cleaned up his involuntary poop for months, and Hobbes became himself again; the sweet, affectionate little dog that we adopted two and a half years ago.

We don’t know where this is all headed - how much more time we have with him and if he’ll ever completely gain back his bathroom functionality. But in the meantime we’ve learned to have faith that nature will do what it will, if you let it. It has been almost five months since Hobbes’ injury. He can walk and run now. But his recovery wasn’t easy. At one point, if he knew he was going outside to go to the bathroom, he would squirt urine in the house before getting to the door. Sometimes he would poop before getting outside. These mistake were tiresome to clean, but he’s now recovered about 80% of his functionality.

We feel so grateful to our vet for encouraging us to be patient and  would like to encourage others who may have dogs with seemingly incurable injuries.

We learned that with faith and time, injuries can heal in surprising ways. He still can’t navigate up and down stairs - we carry him - but the main thing is we haven’t been deprived of his sweet company. He remains a treasured member of our family.

Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.