Committed to the improvement of the breed by breeding for health, temperament and better structure in dogs that have the ability to herd.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oliver's story


I got a call Monday morning that Oliver went down in the back and couldn't get out of his crate.

I was in Greencastle, Indiana. Over the course of the day it took me 15 hours to get home with a few stops for gas (one I had run out due to my frantic nature of worrying about Oliver), two times I went the wrong way on interstate when getting back on it...and didn't realize it until 10-20 miles down the roads. Ahem.

I picked up the "Big Hairy Beast" also known as Mitcham in Des Moines and I honestly can tell you I cried from Greencastle all the way to the Minnesota border.

So what happened?

Sunday morning O jumped off of the couch at my parents' house. He yelped and held up his front leg like it was hurt and then he acted normal, chasing the ball, going for a walk with the grandparents etc. Again that night when he jumped off of the couch he yelped and held his front foot up, but then quickly forgot about it. They put him in his crate around 9:30 pm. At 5;30 am, my dad went to let him out and O couldn't get out of his crate. he couldn't use his back legs.

I'm not sure what all happened but I do know they called me at 8:30 to tell me they were taking him to the vet. My vet took one look at him and referred him to the U of M. He at that point still had deep pain (which is a good sign for recovery) and had the anal tension. They xrayed him and his bladder was empty and there was no stool in his intestine close up.

My mom got the ok to take the day off of work and took Oliver down to the U of M in St Paul which is 3 hours away. They immediately rushed him off to be viewed and this is the jist of what was said.

* Oliver was extremely healthy in the front end. No fever, good heart rate, blood work looked normal

* Oliver turns out on one leg and the vet said that that seems to have a lot to do with the breed's spine ( i also thought that curved or bent tails had a lot to do with spines)

* They searched for the deep pain and that was gone. It could have happened 5 minutes before she got to the U, or 5 minutes after she left our local vet's office. His chances of walking again WITH deep pain was 90% after surgery. After the deep pain was gone, it was less than 50%.

* Surgery was $4,500.00 minimum. She didn't give any other options.

* I had been sent to the U to do a MRI on him. The surgeon told my mom that the only way they do an MRI is if I would allow them to go right to surgery. they wouldn't do it if I didn't elect to do the surgery. She couldn't diagnose him officially without an MRI. She said that it could have been a stroke, but most likely, due to the brisk pace of things happening, it was a ruptured disc, as this breed is known for a lot of those.

I had told my mother and myself that I couldn't do a cart dog, and that I couldn't afford to do the surgery. I just don't have the funds and don't have a credit card. I sobbed most of the way home because Oliver is just as much my heart dog as is Sadie.

When I got home last night my mom and dad were at my house with the Big O in the kitchen on some towels. He was so excited to see me and Sadie. He tried going to her and just couldn't. My heart melted. We got the bed situated and had Oliver, Sadie and Zoe on the bed. Everyone was reunited and licking faces and such.

I didn't sleep well. Oliver kept trying to situate himself and he was unsuccessful by himself. He still barked at me, although it wasn't as loud or forceful as his previous bark. He still grumbled to me when I quit scratching his belly. He still smiles at me. I still cry when I look at him.

I assumed I would have him put down as his quality of life has severely changed. I also assumed I would cry like I"m doing right now.

But now that I see him, I wonder if by NOT doing the surgery, that I let him down, that I gave up on him. I saved Sadie and did all I could with no guarantee of her success. And yet I didn't save Oliver. They said there was a 24-36 hour time frame to do the surgery before permanent damage would set in. It has now been 24 hours.

do I have other options? chiropractic options? anything?

Am I being selfish?

Am I giving up too soon?


Traci said...

Garrett, I have no words of wisdom to share with you - but I CAN advise you to talk with those who have been through what you're going through. Carolyn and Mandy have gone through it.... I have a friend JoAnne Rogers has gone through TWO dogs going down in the back. if you want JoAnne's contact info, I'm happy to give it to you if you'd like to shoot me an email.
I'm SO very sorry you're in a position like you are... I wish I could offer some assistance, but rather, I'll offer some *hugs* and support in whatever you decide...

RegentCardis said...

You may want to talk to Marla Gardner. She has had experience with this as well.

Dawn said...

Garrett, Im sorry I cant give you any answers. I can tell you that I adore Oliver, and really wish that this had not happened. I know that whatever decision you make it will be the right one. I wish I could help somehow. Hugs

Janine's Mom said...

Garrett, why can't you do a cart dog? It isn't like having a dog with DM... a cart dog is stable (once he "recovers" from the injury and/or surgery, and is easy to care for, in many ways, easier than a walking dog. I have Merlin with DM, but I also have Candy who has lived with a cart for more than six years, and is very happy and healthy and a perfectly normal corgi. Email me at if you want more info.

Candy DID have surgery and didn't recover (and he had it in the 12 hr window.) So it isn't a done deal, but without deep pain is actually a blessing if they AREN'T going to recover as you don't have to worry about pain. And some dogs do recover even without surgery and without deep pain initially, but what I'm saying is, not recovering should not be a death sentence. There are cart dogs on farms, too, a healthy dog with a cart can get around just about anywhere.

C-Myste said...

This is a really tough decision.

Juneau had lost deep pain by the time he got to surgery at Davis (roughly 36 hours after going down). He never walked again more than a few lurching steps although after a period he could move his rear legs when supported by the cart. It took a long time before he could urinate on his own, which meant that he needed constant care to express his bladder every few hours. He never did regain bowl control (i.e sh*t just happens).

The biggest thing, and why I won't go through this again, is that it was unfair to the other dogs. The attention that I could give to them suffered due to the amount of time it took me to care for Juneau.

Another thing to consider: Juneau was a happy (and not very bright) dog who did not mind his life in the cart. Not all dogs would be able to handle it as well as he did mentally.

We ended up with a little over 2.5 years with him in the cart, before he had a further injury in the neck area and I put him down. In retrospect the time and money spent was not worth it.

Don't feel guilty. I know it sounds harsh but you have to do what you have to do.

The only thing that keeps me from giving up on the breed is that they don't all go down in the back. I don't know if anything will ever be found as to why some do and some don't so that we can make breeding decisions.

penni said...

Garrett, when Kip went down a couple of months ago, the people with whom he lives elected the surgery and after-therapy. Kip is up, walking, wagging his tail. However, they had the funds for the $3500 surgery and the hydro-therapy. There are also dogs that with crate rest and therapy recover sufficient movement to walk and run again.

I don't know that I could have found a way to afford the surgery if Kip had still been with me. Talk with the U of Minnesota about conservative treatment (the crate rest and therapy). They jump to surgery, but the conservative methods may also be successful.

Finally, post on the Ethics List. Lots of folks on that list have been through this (including JoAnne, mentioned by Traci).

No matter what your decision, I know you will make it with a heart full of love for your boy.

Sharrie said...

I don't have any advice, just tears and pain in my heart for you and Oliver. ....and kisses from Crocket aka LB

Crazy Cardiness said...

Garrett this is so heartbreaking but I'm sure you will make the right decision for yourself and for Oliver! There are good and bad stories for both treatment options. Hug you big Oliver boy, I am sorry!

Holly said...

I went through this with my heart dog, my first GSD show dog. With his sheer size, I could not have him in a cart and I too could not afford the surgery. I did make the decision to let him go... it was a hard decision but I knew he would run free again at the bridge. He had just turned 6 years old 2 weeks before.

No one should ever judge another if they cannot afford thousands of dollars for treatment. What we have to do is give them the best we CAN, within our means.

If you want to talk to someone who has been in your shoes, don't hesitate to call.

Baledwr said...

Conservative treatment tends to work better with dogs that aren't all the way down and/or still have pain reflex.

Our Kimi was one of those - she went down twice and recovered both times with crate rest and prednisone. She did not have an actual ruptured disk with fluid buildup on the spinal cord. Juneau did have a rupture, and by the time he got to Davis they gave him an about 5% chance of recovery (of course they gave that number after seeing the cord) - the cord was actually a deep purple and almost liquified from bruising.

Dixie's doxie special had a herniated disk with surgery after 10 days (they tried conservative crate rest, etc, first) and has recovered super quick but she wasn't all the way down either.

Points above about cart dogs are good - some dogs do really great (juneau), some don't adjust at all. There are some great cart companies who will customize the cart with heavier build and bigger tires (ideal for farm).

Nobody can make these decisions for you, as someone who's been there, including a tear filled drive with my buddy No-no to try to save him, I'll be thinking about you.

Taryn said...

I am so sad for you and Oliver. My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

I'm so sorry you are facing this agonizing decision. Don't fear judgement from others. Try to listen to God and your own heart. What you hear there will be the best course of matter how it seems to others.

Oliver is a great dog...and you are a great dog person. What you decide cannot and will not change that. You are loved by many people who completely understand life's limitations and heartaches.

God bless, and may He grant you peace as you make your choices.

yasashiikuma said...

My only personal experience to share is with Rocky. Guelph University was the same -they wouldn't do the MRI without taking her directly to surgery (makes me wonder what if they find nothing on MRI???). I chose to treat conservatively with steroids and crate rest and she is 100% recovered, but then she still was able to stand, and wag her tail.

Whatever you do, you are doing what you truly believe is best for Oliver, we all know that. Don't beat yourself up....

Janine's Mom said...

I want to say that Candy does not take any more attention than my other dogs- it takes me 15 seconds to pop him into his cart, 15 to express him, 5 seconds to take him out of his cart. Merlin, who has DM, takes a LOT more attention, but Candy is independent. And as far as adjusting he is a very smart dog, I'm sure the fact that he is a very willing dog helped him adjust initially, as well as the fact that he wasn't quite four years old when his injury happened.

From what I've seen, young dogs seem to adjust very well. Candy has now lived in his cart two years longer than he walked (six years with cart, four walking.) You'll never meet a happier dog.

Red Dog Mom said...

Garrett: It's never an easy decision. I posted this link to Carolyn's blog recently and I'll post it here too.
Maybe it will help you make your decision.

Claire said...


I am so very so sorry to hear about Oliver. My heart aches for you. My suggestion is that you talk to Kathy Harper-she is on the CWCCA Board, breeds cardis and is a Vet. Peace be with you,


manymuddypaws said...

I am so sorry about Oliver.

No one should judge you, and don't judge yourself either. It is a really difficult thing to go through.

I chose no surgery and did what I could until the pain was too much.

We can only do so much.

ronstew said...

Went the surgery route with Sparkey. Took years to pay off. She never fully recovered - became what is known as a spinal walker. She could walk and even run, but the back legs basically worked on reflex. We had to put in a lot of work at first, but she gradually became independent. Only had to express the bladder, and that only for a few months. But she had chronic UTI infections.

About five years later, DM started setting in. We thought it was a recurrence of the spinal problem initially.

We never regretted the decision, but it sure cost us. Now we insure all of our dogs. That is expensive too, but at least we can budget for it.

I hurt for you, Garrett. This is not easy.

ronstew said...

Further on carts: When Sparkey got the DM, she never was smart enough to figure out the cart we bought for her. She was as dumb as a post, though.

Lybertygirl said...

Oh Garrett, I am so sorry to hear this news. When Rudy went down in his back we thought it was a disc problem only to find out it was lymphoma. We struggled with the decision of whether or not to do Chemo. We opted not to for many reasons and two of thoses reasons were the enormous cost and the time off work to drive 2 1/2 hrs. each way for the treatment. We made him as comfortable as possible and loved him as much as we could while we had him. Steriods helped a lot and he was walking fairly well for most of the time we had left. No one can make this decision for you. You have to weigh Qualtity versus Qauntity and do the best you can. Sending Hugs and support your way.

Charlotte Epley said...

Garrett, I am so very sorry to hear of your dilemma...

I know what I'd do but this is a choice you need to be able to live with.
I would just hope that you make your choice for the dog and NOT yourself.
Love Ya,

Michelle said...

Garrett, I hope you know that my broken heart knows the pain you are suffering - both from losing my heart dog Rosie 2 1/2 years ago and losing my ewe Brava this morning. You feel like you totally fail them! But like people are telling me AND you, there is no wrong choice here. And your pain will probably continue for quite awhile, no matter which choice you make. And for that I am so, so sorry. It's enough to make me think I can't bear to love animals so - almost.

DCDebra said...

Hi, I would recommend you post your situation to Dodgerslist (

Here is a description of Dodgerslist:

The premier forum on care and protection for dogs suffering from intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

Dodgerslist is not meant to be a chat list but to dispense important information to owners of dogs in crisis.

Pictured is Dodger the inspiration for this List. He was euthanized needlessly because his owner and vet were not aware of all the treatment options for disc disease. Our goal is to educate owners that disc disease is not fatal and historically dogs go on to lead full and happy lives after a disc herniation.

Education is power.... get up to speed on IVDD at, the website.

DCDebra said...

You can probably get instant approval for a credit card explicitly designed for such situations: it's called CareCredit. The website is

"A credit card for my pet? Well, yes, for his healthcare needs — and yours too.
You can use the card over and over either for follow-up visits with your veterinarian or to pursue the pet dentistry you've wanted. Whether it's an everyday checkup, or an emergency surgery, we offer you convenient monthly payment options, so you can worry about the important stuff. You know, like playing fetch and learning new tricks.

Apply today and you and your pet will be back on top in no time."