I thought I was keeping it pretty simple at the beginning of this year by setting the goal of having two ambulatory dogs.
I should have set the bar lower, because all I really needed was to have two dogs. Doesn’t matter how well they walk!
Turns out, neither of them are walking well right now.
But who cares, because they’re both here!! And I feel so lucky for that to be the case.
Every day with Mia is a gift. I’ve thought that since the moment we met her, seven and a half years ago, when she was seven(ish) years old. Which makes her 14(ish) years old now! She’s been on a slow decline for the past year or so, which I noted with my “training goal” for the year. She started having trouble keeping up with Leo on walks, making it hard for me to walk them together. One night, when Rob and I were walking them together, she sort of sagged into her back legs, as though she couldn’t walk on them. After a brief rest, she recovered, but that signaled the beginning of the end of her unassisted leash-walking career.
We appropriated the Help ‘Em Up harness that I bought for Leo’s TPLO recovery, and it was extremely beneficial for getting her up into the car, and to and from her acupuncture appointments. She gradually went from looking a little wobbly with her back legs to not using them at all.
Her front legs still worked, though, so she’d use those to scoot herself across the house. As recently as a few weeks ago, I’d come home from work to find her not on the couch where I left her, but under Rob’s desk all the way across the house.
We’d also find her stuck under chairs sometimes too, which was a little traumatizing. Up until a few months ago, she was still able to use her front legs to haul herself up onto the couch.
All this time, she has remained very much Mia. Completely devoted to Rob so that if he got up and left the room, she would either crawl her way across the house to be near him, or squeak, whistle, and squawk until one of us helped her.
Her regular vet visits and blood and urine tests have shown that everything still works. Except for her walking parts. We believe the muscle weakness is a normal result of aging. Something in the spine and lower back, and not, as everyone who sees a limping German shepherd assumes, hip dysplasia.
I dragged my feet about getting her a wheelchair, because I wrongly assumed it would cost hundreds of dollars, and it wouldn’t solve our biggest challenge, which is getting her in and out of the house to do her business.
First, we got her a wagon, which was great fun, and adorable, although she did bark incessantly while Rob toted her along. This has always been a standard Mia trait: an announcement that “I’m here!”
Once I finally looked into the matter, I learned that Best Friend Mobility sells used wheelchairs for half price. We got this one for $125! Why did I wait so long?
We’d been helping her get around for a while by lifting her up by her back legs like she’s a wheelbarrow, so she adjusted to the wheels very quickly. She powers ahead, her little back legs twitching, as though moving that fast is triggering muscle memory.
I think you can see a lot of her personality in that last video. So while it’s hard to see her slowing down, it fills me with a lot of joy to have her with us for another Christmas.
Next week, in Part 2, I’ll update you about Leo!