Motik, (a Hebrew word meaning “sweetie”), my 10 year old Pekingese”Conversations with my Dog” by Joan E. Childs
Motik, (a Hebrew word meaning “sweetie”), my 10-year-old Pekingese, recently ruptured a disc for the second time in four years. After a week of going to my regular vet with an inconclusive diagnosis, he advised us to take him to a specialist who could ascertain a diagnosis and treat him properly. On Christmas Eve day, 2011, my daughter and I rushed him to a neuro-surgeon some 20 miles away from our home to learn that he had to have surgery. Within a week we brought him home and after a quick recovery, he had since been well. On July 2, 2016, it was another trip to the neurosurgeon; another $3500.00 MRI but this time a different neurosurgeon as well as a different disc. After learning the rupture was considered to be “moderate”, the decision was made to treat Motik conservatively. This required medical boarding at the cost of $55.00 per day. He needed meds and cage rest for a minimum of one month. I was about to board a flight the day after I had taken him to the hospital. I was picking up a cruise ship and deliberated whether I should make the trip to Amsterdam with my daughter for 20 days or stay at home while Motik was hospitalized.
The doctor assured me that he would be taken care of and by the time I returned, he would be ready for discharge to convalesce at home.
“Even if you stay at home, you will not be able to help him or see him while he is under treatment.” Dr. Frank said. Dr. Frank was a young, well-spoken, and compassionate man. His professionalism and manner convinced me that I could trust his advice, although he was careful to say it was a “personal decision.”
I heeded his advice and left for Amsterdam. The staff was remarkably caring and emailed me twice daily as to his condition.
Twenty days later I returned to a dog that was ready to return home. I paid the bill that now was an additional $1100.00. But, seeing him well, took the sting away from my pocket and put a smile on my face. My little man was coming home. I was overjoyed when I put him on my lap while Monica, my daughter, drove home those 20 miles.
“The worst is over”, I said, feeling greatly relieved that he would return to his old happy self.
His recovery lasted only one week. I heard the familiar, ominous “yelp” after we returned from our nightly walk as he entered the front door. That “yelp” drove a knife into my heart. I was not prepared to go through this again. Two days passed without a drop of water or food. I knew we were in trouble. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was in a dilemma. Should I bring him back to the neurosurgeon, or to my regular vet’s office?
My choice was made to get him taken care of as quickly as possible so I drove him with my daughter to my local vet. As luck would have it, he was away so I saw a vet unknown to me. I explained what had happened including his history and my concern. She was very pleasant and reassured me that they could keep him, hydrate him and give him the proper care that was needed. The cost for the overnight medical boarding would be $148.00. I had no choice that eve, but called the neurosurgeon’s hospital and was told that their medical boarding fees were $250.00 per night. It was a no-brainer, so I decided to have him stay the night as he needed emergency care that they could provide.
On my way home I received a call from the neurosurgeon who told me that they would be willing to board him for the previous fee of $55.00 per night, so the following morning I picked up my disheveled, frightened little man, and once again, with my daughter drove down to South Miami, but not before I was handed an invoice for $367.00 in charges for the previous night.
It gets better. The neurosurgeon told me that they would try once more.
“Three strikes and you’re out. The next relapse would mean surgery.” The look on his face was sympathetic. He said they would try once more and see if they could resolve the issue medically. I drove home with Monica in a state of despair, however, hopeful. Another week and another $700.00 including hospital boarding and meds had been successful.
The following day I applied for an equity loan from BB&T as they were offering a rate of 2.4% for the first years and 3.5% adjustable thereafter. The vacation, plus the time away, combined with the medical costs exceeded my budget for animal care. I had another dog and cat at home, and this event was over the top. However, I had no options. This was my baby and I could not let him suffer or euthanize him. I was told that if I cage rested him for another 4 weeks, chances were that he would be good for another 5-6 years.
My neighbor, Adele, a saint, angel and blessing provided me with a crate large enough to house Motik with his food and water. She came daily to assist with his home boarding along with sharing a glass of wine. I had been given strict, militant instructions not to take him out except for a 5-minute walk 3-4 times a day. This was to be the biggest challenge of my life.
Motik accustomed to a 20-minute walk 3-4 times a day had to adapt to a 5-minute walk. Although he had no problem urinating 5 times in 5 minutes, he was not used to pooping in less than 20. The staff was adamant about the time, so wherever we were in 5-7 minutes of our walk, I had to pick him up and carry him home, up the stairs and place gently back in his crate.
For the first week, he did nothing but cry and scream.
“Get me out of here! NOW!” were the unspoken words in dog demands. Over and over, hour after hour he relentlessly shouted those phrases in barks, howls, screams and dog cursing. I thought I was going to lose my mind, so occasionally I let him enjoy a 10-15 minute rest on the bedroom carpet where I lied down with him so he would not need to stretch his neck to look up at me or jump.
My conversations began.
“Motik, this is not a punishment” I would say. “I need to keep you confined so you will get better and we can go back to getting you the way you were before.” He listened intently but became sad each time he had to go back into his crate, which to me, was a prison. We both cried for the first week. I don’t know who cried more; him or me.
I marked off the 28 days on the calendar as each day passed. I shortened my work schedule so I could be at home with him as much as possible. It seemed as though Minnie, my one-year-old Shih Tzu and my 2 and a half-year-old Hemmingway cat understood our precarious situation and never interfered with his recovery. They stayed downstairs and Motik, upstairs in his crate.
As the sixth morning approached and I awoke exhausted, drained from the undivided attention I had to give him including his six meds, five of which were in pill pockets and one by syringe, I dreaded getting up to start the day and routine. I awakened bleary-eyed and anxious. This would be another rough day I thought.
I opened the crate to a very sad face, with a look of eagerness to get the hell out of there. I picked him up, tucking him under my left arm to go down to the landing and switching arms as the railing changed sides. Once down in the living room, I placed him outside in the lanai to put on his harness and leash so as not to have him even go down the one step from the foyer to the lanai.
It was steaming hot even before the sun came over my house on the preserve where I live. We began our five-minute walk followed by the carry back to the house. I placed him once again back in his confined space and went to take care of getting Hemmingway and Minnie their breakfast followed by Minnie’s walk. When I returned, I expected the same shrilling sounds that had become familiar over the last five days, but instead, much to my chagrin, there was no sound.
I prepared his breakfast, disguising the meds in the pill pockets, but he refused to eat. I left the food in the crate for the hour and a half as prescribed by the staff, and when I returned, all the food was still there. Disappointed, I took it away but managed to hand feed him the pill pockets with the meds. I was aware that for the last few hours, he had not made a sound. I was at first concerned, but when I went up to visit, he was relaxed, tucked in his bed fast asleep.
As the day progressed, he remained quiet and settled. I began to realize that I had trained him to be a spoiled, demanding, little prince who always had his way. By following the advice of the doctor and staff I had re-trained him to know that I was the boss!
It’s not over yet, but we are on our way to full recovery! I told him that if he stays quiet and behaves the way he is supposed to, I would take him for his usual and customary 20-minute walk again and give him the hugs we both miss so much.
Another 24 days to go before it’s over. I have to keep strong, with tough love to get my little man back to wellness. So many lessons learned by both of us. Sometimes we must be tough to show our love, even when they don’t understand the reasons. (This applies to kids too!)
I don’t know who suffered worse: Motik or me. Wellness takes patience, consistency, and discipline. I had to work hard to keep walking the line, but I tried to convince myself that it will be worth it.
A note to my readers: I had five children in eight years. I was divorced when the eldest was 11 years old and the youngest, just 3. I don’t remember a time that I suffered as much during the years I was a single mom with five kids as these past few weeks trying to heal Motik. I’m sure there were, however, time heals all wounds, so hopefully, time will do the same again.
Stay tuned to hear more as the days pass forward.