My husband, Patrick, and I adopted a pair of littermates, Cash and Levi, from your rescue in November of 2009.
Carolyn, thanks again to you and your husband for delivering our babies to us in Colorado Springs.
It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that Patrick and I had to say goodbye to our buddy, Cash yesterday. I wanted to let you know in case there is any way you can pass the word along to his original owners. I believe he was fostered by the previous owner's parents, if I'm not mistaken. Please let them know that we did everything we could to keep Cash with us and with the greatest quality of life possible. Levi still alive and well. I would want to know if I were in their situation. I'm sure it was a difficult decision to give up their fur kids.
Cash came with us already with hip dysplasia. He was, generally speaking, an "orthopedic" dog. At the recommendation of his Colorado Springs vet, we fed Cash a prescription dog food, Joint Diet (or J/D). In July of 2012, Cash showed signs of difficulty using his front legs by "knuckling" every once in a while. X-rays revealed he had two vertebrae near his shoulders that were very close together, so we treated him with medication (pain killer, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxer) and cage rest. This improved his walking ability after about 4 weeks of treatment. During this time, Patrick and I relocated to Manhattan, Kansas in August 2012
During the first week in March 2013, Cash started showing signs of knuckling again with the added fact that his neck's range of motions was significantly reduced. His walk was more of a stagger. Recognizing the signs, we immediately brought him to the K-State vet school for an evaluation. We first tried to treat him with a similar concoction of medications that you prescribed for him in July. After a week, he was still in great pain, and experiencing difficulty moving the forward parts of his body. A myelogram showed that Cash had two cervical disk protrusions of his C5-C6 and C6-C7 vertebrae. The location and severity called for the very invasive dorsal laminectomy procedure. If you Google this surgery, you'll see how complicated it is. Thank goodness we live so close to the vet school. People bring their pets from all over the state to have their pets treated. Our choices were surgery or euthanasia. Even the heavy doses of medications weren't enough to keep him comfortable, and he was rather out of it when he was on the pain killers. I took him to the only AAHA certified vet in town for a second opinion and consulted with a friend from college who is a veterinarian before Patrick and I made the difficult decision to give Cash a chance and opt for surgery. We did this knowing that the surgery could result in paralysis or paresis.
Cash went down after the surgery, and we went through 8 weeks of visiting him in the hospital on week days and bringing him home to care for him ourselves on the weekends (usually Thursday-Sunday). We built up our strength expressing his bladder for him, working his passive range of motion, regular rotations to prevent bed sores, hoisting him into the slinged cart that the school let us borrow, and doing weight bearing exercises on a peanut-shaped yoga ball. He never slept through the night completely, so on the weekends Patrick and I would take turns sleeping on the couch (or floor) with him to keep him feeling safe and to rotate him when he got uncomfortable. I can't imagine how insecure Cash must have felt when he woke up from surgery unable to use his limbs. At first he couldn't even lift his head, but with lots of work--and peanut butter--he built up the muscles in his neck. Unfortunately, his front and hind legs quickly atrophied, and we were not able to rebuild the neurological connections to get him back up on his paws again. He had feeling in his paws, but couldn't flex his muscles to demonstrate a healthy reaction to the neurological tests. He could wag his nubby tail and could slightly move his left paw when we would ask him to "shake." Those were encouraging developments, but he had plateaued since those milestones over the last three weeks of his life.
After a consultation with the veterinarian overseeing his case, she told us what we really needed to hear...that it was ok to let him go. We had been prepared to do this but weren't sure if we had done enough or given Cash the time his body needed to recover. His quality of life had greatly declined. Weims want to be out stalking squirrels and birds, not cooped up inside laying down all day. Cash had three fourth-year vet students care for him during the course of his stay at the hospital. They were all phenomenal
! Never once did we feel as though Cash was a burden on them. To show our appreciation we would always buy a box of donuts from the fancy donut shop in town for each girl and her rotation-mates. It was certainly a team effort to take care of Cash. He became a bit of a celebrity at the hospital, right up through the receptionists. Everyone loved him and was pulling for him. With the exception of two or three days, we visited Cash in the hospital every day he wasn't home with us. The vet students were so patient and professional about accommodating our schedules and keeping us updated on his treatments and progress.
Cash had a couple of stumbles along the way. Two weeks after the surgery, his anxiety caused him to lick himself a pretty nasty wound in his left bicep area that became quite infected. Packing it with sugar cleaned out the bacteria and a few staples later, he was good to go. Within the last 10 days, Cash developed some sores on the right side of his body, but we are not sure what caused them. They were not near pressure points, so we couldn't attribute them to bed sores. Maybe he picked up something in the ward at the hospital?
Through all of this, Cash's veterinarian reported that he was a great patient. His temperament was sweet throughout the entire process. And that is what we will miss most about him. His unconditional love and affection. Maybe Levi, a more obedient dog than Cash, will soften a little, but we know she will never be Cash, nor do we want her to be. She was great through this journey as well, although I do not think she understood very much. We feel guilty that she did not receive as much attention when Cash was home with us on weekends, but she will be the center of attention from now on. We will make it up to her.
We fulfilled a bucket list of things during our last 24 hours with Cash. He got steak with his dinner and breakfast. We spent a few hours at the local city park under a shady tree enjoying extra dog treats as well as the breeze before it got too warm and the flies started to annoy Cash. Patrick tossed him popcorn to catch in his mouth--a favorite past time of Cash's--while I held him upright. The best part of Cash's last day were the car rides. Patrick and I took turns holding him in our laps so he could stick his head out the window and let his velvety ears flap in the wind. It was the happiest he had been in a very long time. (Since he couldn't keep himself upright, he was always laying down in the back of our cars whenever we transported him.) Cash's passing was surreal yet peaceful. In true Cash fashion he made saying goodbye as easy as it could be on us in his final moments. We decided to donate his body to the school for research and for practice for the vet students. His way of helping the next generation of K-9 pets in need.
I've included a few pictures of Cash in his slinged full support cart, a Radio Flyer wagon (best Craig's List purchase ever) in which we would pull him around the neighborhood on our walks (he got lots of attention and encouragement from curious passersby), on his therapy ball, and in his glory hanging out the car window.
Thank you so much for all you do to ensure the homes you send your Weims to are filled with love and support. Your organization facilitated the creation of so much joy in our home. We will miss Cash greatly. Again, if at all possible, please ensure this message makes it to Cash's previous owners. They may want to say a prayer for their buddy, Johnny Cash.
Jessica (formerly Hewitt) and Patrick Dwyer