Wednesday, March 19, 2014

For Love of George





Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since
(I've) been here . . .

~ George Harrison


Not that George . . . this George!

Our sweet old boy had his thirteenth birthday just before Christmas.  He's the primary reason I've been absent from the blog so long. 

 Back in early 2012, we received the presumptive diagnosis of Degenerative Myelopathy - the explanation for mysterious, progressive neurological symptoms we'd been seeing in our sweet boy since late summer of 2011.  DM is a disease of the canine spinal column, believed to be autoimmune, where the body attacks the myelin sheath that protects and insulates nerves in the spine.  It's believed to have more than one form - a form that resembles Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in humans, and another that's more similar to ALS.

As the disease progresses, it eventually causes the dog to lose the use of its back legs, and later as it progresses up the spine, the front legs as well.  Left to its natural course it eventually affects the organs of the respiratory system.  Few dogs make it that far, and most either die of other causes or are euthanized due to complications of the disease, or often, due to another illness.


The average lifespan post-diagnosis is only a few months.  Many dog guardians have their dogs euthanized almost immediately after diagnosis, and others, once the dog loses use of their back legs.  

Some, like our sweet old boy, have guardians who opt to do what it takes to keep them happy, healthy, and enjoying life for as long as possible.  It's a lot of work, but for many of us who opt to wait until our dogs are ready to leave us, it's very rewarding, and very worth the effort for these loyal, loving canine members of our families.


We have some special equipment for George.  This was his first doggie wheelchair/a/k/a cart.  Over time, as his front legs compensated for the paralysis in his back legs, this cart got to be difficult to use.  An Angel donated a different cart to us.  It's counterbalanced with a variable axle, and transfers more of his weight to the wheels, taking a lot of extra weight off his shoulders, and giving his freedom for walks and backyard romps back to him once again.


There's also this harness (below).  You can't see the top since  he's busy rolling around in last fall's leaves, but it has handles in the front and back, making it easier for us to lift him and help him get around.  Our sweet old boy is still happy, enjoying life, and doing all the things able-bodied dogs can do.  He just needs a little help.


There's no sugar-coating it though, eventually we'll lose him, either to DM or a complication, unless something else gets him first.  A dog's life is just much too short.  In the meantime though, as long as he's still happy and otherwise healthy, and as long as I can take care of him, we're taking life one day at a time, putting in the effort needed to make sure he gets plenty of exercise and play, good food, lots of supplements targeted for the disease, and a medication that helps slow down the progression in most dogs lucky enough to try it.


We feel fortunate to have had our sweet boy so long.  He's a big dog - a Lab/German Shepherd Dog mix, and he's already outlived the expected lifespan of both breeds.  It's never long enough when you love a dog, but we are blessed still having him with us.  Every day is a gift.


Keeping a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy healthy and happy is a lot of work.  It's physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging, and it takes a lot of time and focus.  


His smile, his happiness, and the love . . . they make the sacrifices worthwhile.  Some pictures are worth a thousand words.


So I'll try to make it back here to the blog when I can.  In the meantime, if anyone's looking for me, I've just been a bit busy and preoccupied.  It's all for the love of my sweet George.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It's all right, it's all right.

12 comments:

  1. Blessings to all three of you, darling daughter. You are one beautiful, special lady.

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    1. Thank you Marvelous Mom. I've been blessed to have one beautiful, special mom in my life. I got it from you. xxx

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  2. It's good to read this update - and to see the smile of George. Love of you for him and him for you shines through this post.

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    1. Thank you Esther. He's such a sweetheart. I hadn't even planned on having a dog, but my daughter talked me into taking him after she rescued him, his eleven litter mates, and their mother. I was reluctant at the time. My three girls were just about launched and I was ready for some independence. But I'm glad I let her talk me into taking him. He's been such a blessing and I love him so much.

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  3. When I saw this I thought something had happened to George...so glad he's still around! I see you on FB so I will keep up w/you that way. It is nice to visit your blog once in a while though so glad to hear you haven't given it up ;)

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    1. I'm glad too Jan! I don't know how long he'll be here, but like I said, every day is a blessing. After the long, hard, cold, snowy winter maybe I'll find more blogging motivation and inspiration. I'm not sure where I'll find the time, but I did manage to find the time for this one, so who knows!

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  4. I have two special little boys and I treasure every day we have with them. I agree, a dog's life is much too short.

    Eileen

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    1. Amazing how a dog can just steal our hearts away Eileen. They are very special creatures.

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  5. Well that's a super worthy reason not to be blogging! We recently adopted the ten year old Staffie of my son. He was being taken to the pound and I couldn't stand to see that. Now we have him and our 13 year old Corgi/Husky mix, Chelsea, so, yeah, older dogs are a challenge. You're a sweetheart, George is lucky to have you.

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    1. I think so Victoria! I'll never get this time back. Our sweet old boy continues to reinforce so many of the life lessons I've experienced. We're living one day at a time, enjoying however much time is left to us.

      Your son's Staffie is lucky indeed to have you in the family, looking out for him. Bless you for saving him from the pound. Wow - Corgi/Husky . . . now that's an interesting mix!

      You're a sweetheart too. All your critters are lucky to have you loving them and taking care of them. xxx

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  6. What a sweet post, Linda! I agree it's hard to give up on a cherished friend; George is so lucky to have such a devoted mama. Wishing him many more happy days in the sun.

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    1. Thank you Rose! He has been my loyal, devoted friend and has taken care of me and protected me all his life - it's my turn now. I just hope this old body holds out, but so far so good other than a strained back around Thanksgiving. (I'm being more careful now!)

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