Last night I was in Mia's room putting her to bed when I heard Chickenbone yelp in the living room. My stomach lurched to hear him in distress, since earlier in the evening we noticed he was walking a bit gingerly and was more subdued than usual. I decided to finish putting Mia down and then go see what was up, but then I heard him yelp again. And again.
I opened the bedroom door and walked into the living room to find Chickens on the couch, with Sal standing in front of him. Sal said every time he went to try to lift him off the couch, Chickenbone snapped at him. So I gave it a try, and Chickens bit me. He immediately felt sorry about doing it - he was just in pain, and that's how dogs in pain react. We know this from too much experience.
I tossed a soft blanket over him and lowered him to the floor. (See? Experience.) Then Sal and I sat there staring at him in silence for a few minutes, until I said, OK, I'm going to put the baby to bed. And then we'll figure out what to do. I went back into the bedroom and was rocking Mia in the dark when Sal opened the door and said, "Stop what you're doing."
He said Chickenbone's back leg had gone out from under him when he tried to stand up. And his chin was quivering, just like it was that night in November when he went paralyzed. So, we loaded up the whole family and made our way to the animal hospital ER.
Did you know a baby can totally stay up till after midnight, an go nine straight hours without a nap, without totally melting down? Ours can, at least. That's how long we were out dealing with this, no thanks to a particularly busy night at the hospital. So busy, in fact, that after we had spent the better part of an hour waiting there, they urged us to go across town to their sister hospital where there was no wait. (A dying cat and two other patients were in front of us and it was going to be a good long while before they got to Chickens.) So! We loaded up the whole family and made our way to another animal hospital ER.
There a vet finally examined Chickens. He said it was tough for him to know exactly how much deterioration there had been - after all, Chickens wasn't neurologically normal to begin with, so our observations were all he had to go on. And he said that if we sensed a problem, then there's a problem.
I was stunned. And numb. We had done EVERYTHING to make sure this could never happen again. We kicked him off all furniture. We built the stupid ramp. We practically destroyed our back door to create an easy walkway for him to get in and out of the house without extra effort. How could we possible be here again? But the vet pointed out that people can throw out their back with a sneeze. It's not like Chickens needed to have some big accident for this to happen - it can just happen.
Now, it's not nearly as bad as it was last time. He isn't paralyzed, and he has deep-pain sensation. He's just very, very weak, and as we know, it's a quick slide to the worst-case scenario. The vet gave Chickens steroids and pain medication, and then said the two words I dreaded most: crate rest. Ten days of being in his cage around the clock, except for potty breaks. I wanted to throw up. We barely survived that the first time, back when both mom and dad were on leave and our daughter was a tiny newborn who slept through most anything. But what is our option? There isn't one. This is the only way to give his back time to heal, and hopefully avoid another disk rupture that only surgery will fix.
At the moment, I'm surprisingly calm about all this. I'm keeping the panic at bay by thinking about how it isn't EXACTLY like the nightmare we had last winter. After all, it's not like we're putting post-op Chickens in the crate, with the staples in his back and all the drugs making him crazy. We don't have the stress of learning how to express a bladder. It's only 10 days, not two months. And when I was reading the paper this morning, I saw the obituaries page and thought, those people are dead! That's WAY worse than what we're going through!
So, it's day one of 10. Right now Chickens is in his cage resting quietly. He's actually a little too quiet - I think we'd all feel better if he were good and pissed off about being caged up. That would be like his old, feisty self. But right now he seems lethargic and depressed. Think a happy thought for him, would you? Maybe one for the rest of us, too.