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7 Steps to Face Down Your Challenges
I call my wonderful dog Missy.
The call came out of nowhere. At 9am on October 10th, my missus, a rescue blonde cocker spaniel, lost the use of her back legs. Overnight she went from Michael Jordan athletic to paraplegic. We had 24 hours to decide if surgery was a viable option.
Missy is the kind of soul who borders steps three at a time. She ran where others walked. She jumped where others jumped. She lived for a ride in the car where she sat shotgun on the front console. Her will and determination could rouse a sleeping adult to go down in the middle of the night when she deigned a treat needed.
Now we had 24 hours to match a medical miracle with our girl Missy. We were hoping an MRI would show a slipped disc, easier to fix with better odds of her walking again. Results showed damage over a period of time, she just compensated silently.
A team of doctors said surgery may or may not restore her ability to walk. She is a fighter and we had to give her the chance to fight. On October 11, she was ready for surgery. She made it through surgery well, but there was still no promise of normalcy. Just the promise that there will be a new reality of normalcy.
From Missy and this convalescent period we have learned a lot about facing our challenges. Perhaps you can also learn about facing your challenges:
Four months later we all learned. We learned to be grateful for a canine neurosurgeon, a physical therapist, an oncologist, laser acupuncture and the water treadmill. What I am most thankful for is this dog with a heart and will and attitude of steel.
1. Tackle problems quickly
We had to quickly decide if surgery was going to be a viable option. We gathered expert opinion as quickly as possible and moved forward. Somehow we were lucky that medical reality dictated a quick decision. The takeaway lesson is that regardless of the challenge or the situation, moving forward is always positive.
2. Assume the best
If I could speak for Missy, I think she always assumed the best. The day after surgery she tried to walk. Even when she couldn’t walk unaided, she still assumed she could. Surgery was followed by physical therapy including laser acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Every other two minutes she spends on the water treadmill, which I embrace like the first moon landing. When people roll their eyes at this story, I roll my eyes at their lack of faith. From the beginning I assumed that if I gave her every advantage, the best would happen.
3. Listen to your inner voice
My voice and her inner voice did not always speak with one voice. My 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 must go. My voice said, you must be locked up until you regain the use of your legs. Her voice said: I can drag my hind legs to get where I want to go. Finally, I listened to OUR inner voice: a combination of my caution and her optimism.
4. Live your life according to your standards. . . mostly
We made three crawlers for her to use because she wasn’t allowed to use steps early in her convalescence. As she has improved in “jumps” she chooses the steps above the ramp. She insists that she can do stairs on her own, and if left unattended she would jump into the car. My job in life is to constantly change her expectations.
5. Adapt reluctantly
As she progressed, she was allowed to negotiate steps by herself, on a rope, doing them one by one. A big upgrade from having to be carried up and down the steps every day. After a few weeks, she seems to have agreed against the terms. Even in her world, not all mountains are worth dying for.
6. Fight continuously
My girl is a survivor. From her first postoperative day she fought for every success. The neurosurgeon first told us that she might not walk again; she may not have control over her bodily functions. She fought to not be locked up, she fought to walk, she fought to navigate stairs by herself, and she fights with me every day to have as normal a life as possible.
This is a challenge for both of us. We see different realities. She sees where she has been for most of her life and asks, why not? I think about where she was on October 10th, and never think again. So my reality gives her a little more freedom every day, and her reality gives her less freedom than 10/10 ago, and more freedom that I ever dreamed she would have.
After her surgery I was amazed at the amazement of people that I would give a 12 year old dog, this operation, this therapy, the best medicine of mind and hands a hand to offer. I knew I had to give her every chance I could identify and afford. And she gave me back my old Miss, almost, and a renewed belief that anything is possible.
With special thanks to my Moshe, Metropolitan Vet Hospital, Dr. Axlund, and Dancing Paws Animal Wellness.
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