Adventures with Sazi: Five+ Years with My Special Needs IVDD Dog

Sazi’s Memorial:

It was somewhere around Labor Day, 2017 when I spied a post on the BCAS FB about a little dog that had to be taken in because of the owner’s unfortunate life circumstances. A little chihuahua that wouldn’t come out of her crate despite Debbie’s attempts. I was working from home and dreading the cooler months. I needed a project and my dogs were great socializers. I reached out to Debbie as a foster and picked her up on my way home from camping at Mesa Verde. (I renamed her Sazi Ana in honor of the ruins).

She was a hot mess, unsocialized, obese, and dirty because no one could pick her up. No teeth, but she didn’t let that stop her from putting the fear of God into everyone. She bonded with me instantly, but not with my other dogs. I would just fix her up for Senior Whiskers and be done.

As weeks passed, she ate her veggies and walked with us each evening. The bonds started to form. Socialization-wise, she was still a reactive nipper, likely making her unadoptable. But, Sazi looked so happy and healthy, finally! My heart grew and I took her in, telling myself, “how much trouble can 7 pounds be, anyway?”

It was only a couple months later that she was first diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). 5k for surgery??? I just couldn’t do it, so was offered euthanasia or told I could try to treat her with decreased activity. I’m a nurse-midwife, so read up on IVDD conservative (crate rest) therapy. I could do this!

She recovered but sometimes got back pain because she liked to sneak around to get food in places that she wasn’t supposed to go. I have more baby gates than a nursery, now!

About a year later, she was having some mild back issues so I put her in a carrier for a walk. I was getting her out, and she somehow slipped out of my hands and fell head-first onto my concrete porch. I thought that was it, she needed to be euthanized. But, she woke up seconds later growling at me. To my horror, she was fully paralyzed from the waist down. But, we had been through this before! So, back to another 8 weeks of crate rest. By now, I am gathering enough IVDD dog recovery equipment to run a store.

We camped all season with her in a crate and she gradually found her legs and was running again by fall.

That’s when she somehow snuck past me, out of the yard, and got hit by a car. Everyone thought that was the end. I was offered euthanasia but she was totally unconscious so I talked to the vet about watching her from home. I put her back in her IVDD crate and tried to go about my day while she died in her sleep. Except, she didn’t die. She woke up hungry. Sazi was very sore for a few weeks and hurt another disc, but the crate rest worked, again.

It was winter by the time she got out of the crate, and her little muscles weren’t getting enough exercise. So, my COVID project was to buy her wheels and teach her to use them. It took a few tons of treats, but she did it. Soon she was strong enough not to need the wheels, except in the spring. It was the best feeling on earth to help her to learn to walk and run, again.

She followed me everywhere, every day, after I retired from nursing and started an in-home business last year. Sazi didn’t have another disc problem until last month, but she did lose a bunch of body mass and her sense on balance by early winter last year. I got her grippy socks. But I worried about her and joined a hiking challenge group as motivation to keep everyone moving.

Winter was long and cold, and in early February she had a couple minor accidents that caused a disc injury. I knew the routine. I dug her equipment out of the garage and got her vet care. She could still walk the first couple of days, and that was encouraging even though I didn’t let her out of her crate.

She spent the next 3 weeks getting a bit stronger, working her snuffle mat and taking steps in her crate. But then, out of nowhere, she hurt a disc during a routine diaper change. That had never happened before. I was in tears but we reset the clock and started over.

Unfortunately, she started getting reinjured by seemingly nothing from there on. She still had such spirit, though. Barking happily and chortling for treats a lot. I didn’t give up, I hired a rehab vet. Unfortunately, the vet could see that Sazi’s spine was degenerating and she was losing her front legs now, too. I didn’t believe it at first, but I did the next day when she was too wobbly to stand at her food dish. I made one of the most painful decisions of my life and let her run to the Rainbow Bridge this morning. Run, Sazi, run.

So often people think IVDD is incompatible with quality of life. Well let me tell you something, in our 5.5 years together, Sazi hiked at around 30 National Parks, a few dozen State Parks, and numerous tourists sites across the southwest. She slept in tents and hotels with her canine siblings. More tourists asked to take her photo than I can count.

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