We've had Dakota since he was a 6-week-old puppy. He has been Tom's "buddy" for 10+ years now. He has intensity like no other dog I've ever known, and that focus has always been on balls. Big, little, heavy, light, anything round means it's time to fetch.
It was a common June morning. Tom and Dakota walked with Haley down to the park where they said goodbye to her as she traipsed the last block off to school. The best way to make Kota happy was to run him until your arm couldn't throw the ball any longer. After a few minutes, Kota started limping on his way back from running for the ball. By the time he got back to Tom, he collapsed and couldn’t move any further. Tom had to carry him home.
Honestly, together as a family we went to the vet that day believing we were probably going to have to put him down.
He didn’t seem in pain, just mostly scared and in shock, understandably so. The vet offered us hope, said there was a chance with some steroids that he might regain use of his legs, and we would probably know within a couple of weeks. They taught us how to use a towel to move him around, supporting his hind legs and letting him use his front.
We brought him home, hopeful but still very unsure. The first couple of weeks one of us slept downstairs with him. He was so scared. It was a long long couple of weeks and we knew we were facing tough decisions ahead.
Our neighbor, Angela did some acupuncture on him, we gave him lots of love and care…but after several months the best we got out of the treatments was him lifting his tail to wag it slightly. We resolved to do whatever it took to keep him with us, comfortable and happy. He was still Kota in spirit, but just not in body.
He started being able to drag himself in the house, scooting along on his rear, learning to manoeuvre around, but we still had to carry him outside and help him stand to relieve himself.
Three or four months had passed, we had been told that if he hadn’t improved by now, he was as good as he was going to get.
We got him a wheelchair/cart type set-up. It took a couple of tries to get one that fit his body just right, but once we got it correct…he took off. Tom literally has to get on his bike to keep up with the dog. He gets in that cart and immediately knows his freedom again.
We noticed he started showing signs of having strength in one of his legs, occasionally propping himself up on three of his four legs. Tom started leaving that leg down during short walks, allowing him to use it. That leg continued to get stronger and stronger.
Now, we are seeing movement out of his weaker leg as well. He can stand on all fours, although not for long periods of time. He can walk on all fours. He’s wobbly, and can’t go long periods but he’s walking. Going up steps is still a challenge for him as well. But he can go outside without help, stand to eat and relieve himself when needed. He even chases the ball and wants to play. He’s happy to chase the puppy around to exert his “authority” over him as well. He’s gaining strength and movement more each day.
He’s our miracle dog…still bringing us joy and companionship each day we have with him. It’s been a wonderful lesson to all of us. Taking care of him, struggling with him and nurturing him.