We had a bad scare a while back. Katja came home and started to feed the dogs. Mikey was sitting in his usual spot in the living room chair, and he didn’t get up when she called him to come and eat. She went in to get him, but he still wouldn’t move. After some prodding, he did make it slowly to the kitchen, but he just lay down on the floor and didn’t respond to his food bowl. Katja called me down, saying he had never acted like this before. I tried lifting Mike up, with my hands curled around his stomach, and he shrieked in obvious pain. Then he lay back down. It was about 6:30 p.m. Katja called the animal hospital, which closes around that time. They said to bring him right over. I fed Mike some food by hand, and he did eat a bit. Then I lifted him up again, which resulted in some pain though not as extreme as the first time.
Tennessee Avenue Animal Hospital is 10 minutes away. I helped Mikey into the building while Katja parked the car. They showed us to an examining room, where Mike plopped down on the floor. A staff member came in and got some information, followed by Dr. Schmogrow several minutes later. They put a muzzle on Mike’s nose, and we told her what had happened. Katja asked if one of the staples from Mike’s recent cyst surgery might be hurting. Dr. Schmogrow shook her head and said it was more likely something neurological. She tried moving Mike’s head and neck back and forth, and he had no difficulty. When she tried to move his rear end, though, he screamed again. Dr. Schmogrow said they would need to put him out in the morning and X-ray him. I asked if she had any hunches. She said it might be a displaced hip or a disk problem. Privately fearing the worst, I asked if there were any treatment possible. Dr. Schmogrow said yes, sometimes through medication, sometimes by surgery. We breathed a sigh of relief. Two staff members came in with a small stretcher, and, after some maneuvering, they were able to get Mike up onto it. We gave Mike a last pet and said goodbye.
The evening was full of gloom and doom. When Mike and Duffy had gone to obedience school as one-year-olds, the teacher warned us that one of the dogs would likely have serious hip problems and that we shouldn’t become too attached to it. She based her judgment on their very different walking styles – Duffy plodding forward and Mike wiggling his hips – but she wasn’t familiar enough with sheepdogs to know which dog was normal and which wasn’t. We had the dogs X-rayed, and Duffy’s hips looked relatively good, but Mike had almost no sockets to hold his leg bones in place.
Dr. Schmogrow called the next afternoon. She said that Mike had severe hip dysplasia, substantial arthritis, and luxating knees. We went to pick Mike up at the end of the day, and Dr. Schmogrow shook her head sadly. He is in rough shape. She outlined various treatment options, e.g., surgery, laser therapy, aqua therapy, acupuncture. She also prescribed a strong painkiller, a steroid, and a drug to increase cartilage growth. After discussing the options, we settled on laser therapy. When we met the therapist, Shawn, we learned that she had grown up in Clifton and that her grandfather was Wes Allinsmith, the Psychology department head who had hired me at UC. Over the past two months Mike has completed a series of eight treatment sessions with Shawn, combined with homework exercises to work out his muscles and strengthen his legs. He’ll go back for an evaluation in mid-July. Shawn was very good with Mike, and he clearly looked forward to his visits with her, finding his own way back to her treatment room. Mike has clearly improved, though it’s hard to tell what’s due to what. We discontinued the steroid and the painkiller weeks ago. Much to the doctor’s surprise, we continue to go on three or four mile walks a couple of times a week, and Mike keeps up with the pack. So far, so good. We’ve got our fingers crossed.