D. E. Larsen, DVM
“I ain’t doing so good this morning, Guys,” Floyd said as he positioned himself at the table in Mollie’s Bakery. “Tiger is over at the Vet Clinic.”
Tiger is Floyd’s sole companion since Ella died from bladder cancer a few years ago. Floyd is in his early 80s, and his nickname of Red doesn’t fit well with thinning hair that is more grey than red nowadays.
“What’s up with Tiger?” Ed asked. Everyone at the table knew Tiger was a constant companion for Floyd.
“Doc says he has a herniated disk,” Floyd says. “He can’t use his hind legs right now. Doc says that if we give him a few days, he might get better.”
“Floyd, don’t let them send you to some specialist,” Bob said. “They will charge you thousands of dollars, and he will still never walk.”
“Yes, that is what happened to my sister’s dog,” George said. “She lives in Portland. Took her little wiener dog to see a specialist, and he told her he could fix the little dog. Cost $6000, and the damn dog never walked again. Then they fixed her up with one of those carts. Worst thing ever, my sister spent most of her time picking up poop behind the dog. Finally, she had her put to sleep. She would have saved herself a lot of money and grief if she had done that at the start.”
“I think George is right,” Ed said. “Tiger is no spring chicken, you know. They will slice him up, put him through misery, spend a lot of your money, and he will never be the old Tiger. Hard as it may be, I think you should put him sleep now.”
“Well, Doc isn’t sending me to a specialist,” Floyd said. “I am not one of those public employee guys with a big pension. My Social Security will only pay for the basics.”
“The dollar amount don’t matter,” Bob said. “If he takes all you have, you are still broke. Then you end up with a dog who can’t walk and no money. You will be far better off to put him to sleep and get a cat. Cats don’t tie you down. You can throw them outside and leave them for a week or two.”
“Ah, you guys don’t understand,” Floyd said. “Tiger is all I have, except for you bunch of jokers. He sleeps on my bed, and he talks to me while I eat breakfast. I mean, sometimes I think he is a better friend than Ella was. He sure doesn’t complain about anything.”
“Sleeping on the bed is probably his problem,” George said. “That is what they told my sister. Little dog jumps off a high bed and bam, there goes his back.”
“You got to think about what you are going be putting him through,” Ed said. “Everything is an adjustment at our age, but we adjust. Make the decision, and you will feel better for it next week.”
“I think that you should listen to Ed,” George said.
“I have listened to you guys long enough,” Floyd said. “I going to go over and check on Tiger and talk with Doc for a change of pace.”
I watched as Floyd came through the door with a bit of a frown on his face.
“Did you come to see Tiger this morning?” I asked. “He is doing better this morning.”
“I need to ask a few questions, Doc,” Floyd says, almost in tears now. “They were giving me a real hard time this morning over at Mollie’s. Most of the guys at coffee think I should have put Tiger to sleep.” Floyd explains. “Darn, I hate to lose him.”
Floyd had brought Tiger in yesterday. Tiger, an older Dachshund, had hind leg paralysis present when Floyd woke up in the morning. The good things were the time since injury was short, and Tiger still had deep pain in his hind legs. The presence of deep pain is a favorable sign, indicating an injured but intact spinal cord.
“Tiger has made significant improvement overnight, Floyd,” I said. “I think any discussion of euthanasia would be way premature.”
“Doc, I can’t afford a lot of treatment, and I can’t afford surgery,” Floyd said.
“Tiger is not a candidate for surgery at this point,” I said. “His back looks like a minefield on x-ray. But we don’t have to talk about surgery at this point. We do have to talk about some lifestyle changes.”
“The guys said that sleeping on the bed is what did this to him,” Floyd said.
“Let me get the x-rays and show you a couple of things,” I said.
With the x-rays on the viewer, I could show Floyd the multiple calcified disk spaces between his vertebra. There was one narrowed space in the middle of his back.
“This space is the culprit this time,” I said, pointing to the narrowed space. “These other spots are sort like a gun held to his head. There is a surgery to reduce the risk, but changing the way Tiger lives his life will be helpful. That means a bed on the floor. No up and down off the furniture. No standing on his hind legs for treats.”
“So is all of that what caused this?” Floyd asked.
“Not really, but now that it is here, we need to reduce the risk,” I said. “All of this sort of reflects on his mother. It is the way Dachshunds are put together, that coupled with their attitude. You know, they are the toughest dog on the block.”
“You don’t think I should put him to sleep, Doctor, do you?” Floyd asks, seeking reassurance.
“No, definitely not at this time. Tiger is on his feet today,” I say. “We need to keep him on some anti-inflammatory medication for a few more days and keep him on cage rest while he is on that medication. That is something you can do at home if you want. The expense is not much. We can loan you a large kennel. You just have to use it. He needs to be in the kennel all the time. You can carry him outside on a leash so he can potty a couple of times a day. Then when he passes his recheck next week, make him a bed on the floor and keep his four feet on the ground at all times. Make him a ramp, so he doesn’t have to go down stairs and keep him skinny.”
“That all sounds like stuff that I can do,” Floyd says. “So, I guess I can take him home.”
“Listen, Floyd, don’t pay any attention to that bunch over at Mollie’s. None of them are so tough when they are over here with a pet.” I assure him. “The truth is they are not the one who has to go home to an empty house. They don’t have to be eighty years old and get out of bed in the morning and have nothing to do. It’s easy for them to talk tough over coffee and embarrass a guy.”
“I know, Doc,” Floyd said. “But, I have to talk with somebody.”
“Tiger is no spring chicken,” I said. “There will come a day when we will have to say goodby. But hopefully, that day is a few years from now.”
“I hope you’re correct,” Floyd says.
“Life doesn’t come with many guarantees, Floyd,” I said. “But there is an excellent chance Tiger will return completely to normal in a couple of weeks. We can always put him to sleep tomorrow, whenever tomorrow comes. Once we do it, there is no going back.”
Tiger went on to live out his life with no additional back problems. He didn’t outlive Floyd, and saying goodbye was difficult. But that is the nature of most of our pets.