Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Week of April 18th

On April 18th, Max's life changed forever...

The day after Stephen (my husband) fought the Oak Hill Fire for over 10 hours and got 3.5 hours of sleep, he went to a 3-day Swiftwater Rescue Technician's Course in New Braunsfels. On the first night of his absence, the kids and I were hanging out in the backyard when we heard a scramble at the back fence, then screeches and barking. Sam hopped up to look over the fence and saw Max lying in the neighbors back yard, not moving, with 2 dogs looking at him. We ran around the corner and knocked on the neighbors door frantically describing what had just happened. When we went into the yard, Max was lying on his back, not moving his hind legs but still hissing and scratching at the dogs and their owner. I tried to carry him out of the yard, but he was also hissing and scratching at me. I laid him down and noticed a 3-inch diameter hole by his leg/under-belly. He was breathing very fast, obviously in shock. We loaded him up in the carrier and hurried to the emergency vet clinic (our vet had just closed). (Bella had actually busted through the front window screen to follow us as we ran out of the house, so we had to get her back in the house first.) The emergencey vet quickly took Max back and started an IV with pain medication. She came back with her initial evaluation and an estimate of cost of basic care (about $120). Max was still breathing quickly, so they gave him some oxygen, but he was still alive. Since he hadn't been moving his hind legs, they needed to take X-rays to make sure he didn't have a broken back. The X-rays would also give some information on the condition of his lungs and other organs. Meanwhile, Samuel is too emotional to come inside and is sitting in the truck crying. Maya is wailing, "MAX, MAX, MAX, don't die!" To put this into a little bit more perspective, we had just been to this same clinic on January 1st to put our 13 year old dog, Otis, to sleep due to cancer. So, there was some deep emotions coming to the surface for all of us!! To make matters worse, I couldn't get a hold of Stephen after my initial phone call to him of freaking out while driving to the vet. After about 15 minutes, the vet returns with Max's X-rays: he has contusions on his lungs, a severe leg muscle tear, multiple puncture wounds and his L7 vertebrae is fractured. So...his lungs might recover or not, his leg muscle would need operating on and may regain function or not, the puncture wounds may be severe or not, and his fractured back may cause paralysis if displaced or not. This meant that Max may live or not!!! After handing me another estimate on his overnight stay ($850-950), I had to decide what to do. Do I wait to see how he does overnight and take him to our very good, reasonable vet in the morning or do I choose to euthanize him? I still couldn't reach Stephen on his phone, so called my mom, sister-in-law and mother-in-law for their support and opinions. I was so conflicted, because I knew that Stephen wouldn't want to spend this kind of money on Max and I didn't really know what else Max would have to endure, but I couldn't tell the kids that we needed to euthanize Max either. We went back to visit Max for a minute and then left the emergency animal hospital to think things over and try and reach Stephen again. Driving on the fly-over from I35 to Hwy 290, I decided to give Max a chance based on the complete peace I felt when finally making that decision. So, we went home, Maya passed out cold, Samuel & I cried together, and we tried to sleep until we needed to pick Max up at 7am.

Arriving back at the emergency vet clinic, the vet was very hopeful that Max would make it. He hadn't needed any oxygen throughout the night and urinated on his own, showing no paralysis in his bladder. The vet had also reduced our costs to only $720. Since our vet didn't open until 11 am, we had to transfer Max to another vet for four hours to keep receiving IV fluids and pain medication. I was so relieved when Max finally made it into Dr. Meyer's hands at noon. We anxiously awaited a report all day. Finally, we talked to the receptionist right before Max went into surgery around 8pm. Doc was going to try and fix his leg!

I called the vet at 8 am sharp the next morning, Max had made it through his surgery! Dr. Meyer was extremely concerned about infection and Max regaining function in his right hind leg. That leg muscle had been torn completely in half, so there was a chance that the nerves would not reconnect, and he wouldn't ever regain use of that leg. So, for the next 2 days, we patiently waited, calling the vet office twice/day to check on Max's progress. During this time, Dr. Meyer was extremely concerned with infection and was dosing him heavily with antibiotics and watching him closely post-operation. Finally, on Thursday morning, Doc was a little bit more optimistic because Max had urinated in his litter box! He still wasn't eating on his own, but we could visit him the next day and bring some of his favorite food.

On Friday, all four of us went to visit Max at the vet for the first time since we had dropped him off on Tuesday morning. It was good to finally pet him and give him some love, but he was extremely dopey and lethargic. His leg wound was really bad looking and bad smelling. It was not a very hopeful visit, but we didn't let him know that :) All we could really do was hope for the best. Maybe he would be better tomorrow...

And he was!! The kids and I visited him again today (Saturday), and he was acting completely different than yesterday. He was extremely alert and even ate some food!! He was trying to walk around and even jump onto the bench, but I held him down so he wouldn't hurt himself. He talked and talked and talked to us until finally falling asleep in my lap. It was so good to see him somewhat back to his old self, although we realize that he may not come home with all four of his legs.

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