Monday, August 31, 2009

Hope for Jinx

Jinx and I are at the UW-Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Well, actually Jinx is at the hospital and I am nearby at a hotel. My head hurts and my face is swollen and blotchy from crying, as I struggle to find rays of hope in this situation.

As you remember, Jinx has had a difficult year. First, the emergency surgery for pyometra. She recovered to pass her Type 1/CE test with flying colors as a disaster dog. In the fall, she started showing a slight limp and when the vet could not elicit a pain response to help diagnose, I was told to continue with our regular training and not rest and she earned her SchH2, becoming the North Central Region SchH2 Champion. The limp got worse, and she was ultimately non weight bearing on her right front leg. It was when we reported to the Animal Referral Center for an MRI that the vet, in one last exam, found the origin of the problem and Jinx underwent surgery for a near complete tear of the medial glenohumeral ligament. We thought the worst was behind us and that Jinx was on her road to recovery.

Things seemed to be doing well. You saw our photos of her rehab appointments, and she had been walking and improving in the water therapy. Since it was warm enough to walk outside, we transitioned to walks on the trail and around our property. She would put her foot down when reminded to "walk" and seemed to be making good progress, walking several miles at a time.

Approximately three weeks ago, Tom suggested that we rest Jinx a day in between walks as she seemed to be excessively worn out and would want to sleep the next day. And then she stopped using the leg entirely. I first noticed when I let her outside to go potty and instead of returning to the porch, I saw her laying in the yard. Jinx has never just lounged in the yard on her own, and this was unusual. I could not longer order her to use the leg. It simply was not a possibility, and if I picked up her rear legs, she would collapse. And then, the kicker... our goddaughter, Eeva, was visiting and accidentally brushed Jinx's foot/leg as she walked past and Jinx was on her doggie bed. Jinx ROARED. Had it been any other dog, that roar would have been accompanied by a bite. I had already made an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon again, but this sealed it. There was a big problem.

The shoulder post-surgery was stable. No problems there. I had Jinx in muzzle after seeing such a dramatic pain response, and it was a good thing. Pressure over the shoulder area resulted in a distinct pain response. Poor Jinx would look at me over the edge of the muzzle and her eyes would get wide and I could hear her swallowing hard. She yiped loudly on pressure. Bone cancer was the concern, so they Xrayed the shoulder. Nothing. They suggested I make an appointment with a neurologist and get an MRI.

In the meantime, I had several appointments with the holistic vet whom I fondly refer to as "the witchdoctor" for her use of Biocom therapy and the tensile that looks like a magic wand. In our first visit all she got was "Pain! Pain! Pain!" through the shoulder and down the leg, in the joint and the brachial nerve. Since she was clearly in pain and our appointment at UW was not for another week, we started Jinx on deramaxx. Within 12 hours, I swear I could see a smile on her face! It was clear that it offered her relief from pain and moved from depression to a more similar version of her happy self. Still resting alot, but happier. On the second visit, the pain was no longer masking the location and the vet said that the indications were that the pain was now high in the scapula area near the spine, in the thoracic spine area.

I clung to the possibility that further tests would reveal a magic diagnosis that would allow Jinx to work again, or even just exist without pain. Both the orthopedic surgeon and the holistic vet noted that her right leg was a hindrance and mentioned amputation, but for various reasons. Not finding bone cancer, the orthopedic surgeon considered the possibility of brachial nerve tumors. I didn't want Jinx to be on three legs, but if that was the solution to have her pain free, I was accepting of it... but only after I was sure that was the proper way to proceed.

Today we met with the neurologist. Actually, a neurologist, an intern and two students. All women. They all handled Jinx with respect and care, talking to her sweetly but without that overly careful tone of suspicion that some vets use, which actually serves to create suspicion in the dog. With their greeting, I was very hopeful. More hopeful than I have been for over half a year. They asked if I would like it if they could get Jinx back to work. Wow! I hadn't considered that might be an option! For a moment, I let myself be carried away by that possibility. Then they examined her. I had noticed that the knuckling on her front right was much worse, even to the extent that she would occasionally bend it over at the pastern. But how did I fail to see that problem had extended to her rear? When they lifted first the right foot and then the left, placing the foot in the knuckle under position, she was unable to right either foot.

Various other pinches and pops with the little hammer, and even my untrained eye could notice the impaired reactions. The phrase "peripheal nerve sheath tumor" has never sounded so harsh and cruel, and so belittling of the great strength of the dog it resides in. I was able to listen and ask intelligent questions until we reached the part where they advised that, if that was indeed the problem and it had progressed to the spine as was being indicated, it would not be treatable with chemotherapy. She would have two or three months and could be managed on pain medications. This was the conversation we had prior to any tests. So final.

I left my sweet baby at the hospital. How horrible it was to walk down that hallway, leaving her behind. They called this evening to advise that the Xray and abdominal ultrasound showed no masses. No surprise, as that isn't where they think the problem is, but wanted to eliminate that. So it is on to the MRI tomorrow. And I am here in this stupid hotel room, within walking distance of where my Jinxy is sleeping without me, when she should be here on the bed. She should be here iwth ME. She should BE. She should BE. Damnit all, she should BE!