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7 Steps to Face Down Your Challenges
I call Missy my miracle dog.
The call came out of nowhere. At 9am on October 10th, my Missy, a blonde rescue cocker spaniel, lost the use of her back legs. Overnight he went from Michael Jordan athleticism to paraplegic. We had 24 hours to decide if surgery was a viable option.
Missy is the kind of soul who takes three steps at a time. He ran where others walked. Leap where others have jumped. He stayed for a car ride where he sat shotgun on the front console. Her will and determination could drive a sleeping adult down in the middle of the night when she decided a treat was necessary.
Now we had 24 hours to match a medical miracle with our girl Missy. We hoped an MRI would show a slipped disc, easier to fix with a better chance of walking again. The results showed damage for some time, it was just silently compensating.
A team of doctors said the surgery may or may not restore her ability to walk. She is a fighter and we had to give her a chance to fight. On October 11, she was prepped for surgery. He came through the surgery well, but there was still no promise of normalcy. Only the promise that there will be a new reality of normalcy.
From Missy and this recovery period we have learned so much about dealing with our challenges. Maybe you can also learn how you deal with your challenges:
Four months later we all found out. We learned to be grateful for a canine neurosurgeon, physical therapist, oncologist, laser acupuncture, and water treadmill. What I am most thankful for is this dog with a heart and will and attitude of steel.
1. Address issues quickly
We had to quickly decide if surgery would be a viable option. We gathered expert opinion as soon as possible and moved on. In some ways we were lucky that medical reality dictated a quick decision. The first lesson is that no matter the challenge or situation, moving forward is always positive.
2. Assume the best
If I could speak for Missy, I think she always fostered the best. The day after the operation he tried to walk. Even when he couldn’t walk without help, he continued to assume he could. Surgery was followed by physical therapy, including laser acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Every extra two minutes she spends in the water corridor I hug her like the first moon landing. When people roll their eyes at this fairy tale, I roll my eyes at their lack of faith. From the beginning I assumed that if I gave her every advantage, she would become the best.
3. Listen to your inner voice
My voice and her inner voice didn’t always speak in unison. The voice said, you can’t use your back legs, wait until I get a towel to put under your belly. Her voice said, I will crawl where I need to go. My voice said, you must be confined until you can use your legs again. Her voice said, I can drag my hind legs to get where I want. Finally, I listened to OUR inner voice: a combination of my wariness and her optimism.
4. Live your life according to your standards. . . mostly
We made three ramps for her to use because she wasn’t allowed to use stairs early in her recovery. As she has gotten better at “jumping” she chooses the steps above the ramp. She insists she can climb a ladder by herself, and if left unattended she would jump into the car. My job in life is to constantly change her expectations.
5. Adjust hesitantly
As she progressed, she was allowed to negotiate steps on her own, on a leash, taking them one at a time. A big upgrade from having to walk up and down the stairs everyday. After a few weeks, it seems he agreed to the terms. Even in her world, not all mountains are worth dying for.
6. Keep fighting
My girl is alive. From her first day after the operation she has fought for every success. Our neurosurgeon initially told us that he may never walk again. she may not be in control of her bodily functions. She fought to not be restrained, she fought to walk, she fought to take steps on her own and she fights with me every day to have as normal a life as possible.
7.Accept the realities
This is a challenge for both of us. We see different realities. She sees where she’s been most of her life and asks, why not? I think about where he was on October 10th and I never think again. So my reality gives her a little more freedom each day, and reality gives her less freedom than before 10/10, and more freedom that I dreamed she would have.
After her surgery, I was amazed at the people’s surprise that I would give a 12 year old dog, this surgery, this treatment, the best mind and hands of medicine to offer. I knew I had to give her every chance I could identify and afford. And it gave me back my old Missy, almost, and a renewed belief that all things are possible.
Special thanks to Moshe, Metropolitan Vet Hospital, Dr. Axlund and Dancing Paws Animal Wellness.
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