Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Update on Ty

While I don't blog about my dogs often, they do make several appearances in my blogging content in the means of pictures or short blurbs here and there. Most days, my blog deeply reflects my horses and our adventures together. Today, it is all about my four-legged best friend.

This handsome guy right here.
For those who don't know - Ty is a Shepherd my parents adopted for me as a gift in the winter of 2004. I've had him for a large portion of my life and he has been a constant companion to me, especially during my growth and fight against PTSD and a variety of other anxiety related issues.

Earlier this year, the Boyfriend and I noticed something was not quite right with Ty. It started out as small things - unwilling to sit evenly on his haunches, occasionally dragging his toes on the asphalt, waking up stiff in the mornings. It was around early April I started to notice all of these things and they begun to compound into a rolling ball of moss.

A large reason we took the dogs on our holiday
was simply because of Ty's mobility issues.
He started to drag both paws on the asphalt - more frequently and much more noticeably than before. He'd walk with this super weird tempo - bouncy steps, but with no rhythm. His nails also started to get worn down, especially the two central toes, from all of the toe dragging.

I assumed he was showing signs of hip dysplasia, so I started him on some anti-inflammatory treatments and arthritic supplements to see if it could help with his stiffness and weird walking.

It didn't.

So, I booked a vet appointment.

The vet at our small animal clinic did a full evaluation and even before sending Ty for radiographs, seemed to know instantly what the problem was. In addition to a few tests (which included walking up and down the curb, trotting out, etc), he found a largely delayed response in a "paw flip" test. Here, the vet disclosed he feared Ty was beginning to struggle with some kind of neurological issue, stemming from his spine.

Severely delayed reaction.
He began apologizing to me, "I am really sorry, but you're going to hate me for saying this... It is tough when our younger dogs get these kinds of issues."

I asked him how old he thought Ty was, as this vet has known him for most of his life.

He responded by asking, "Didn't you just hike him last year on some pretty intense trails?"

Why yes, yes I did.

He was shocked when I reminded him Ty would be turning 13 in October and complimented me on my dog's otherwise excellent health.

Not long after, the tech's came and took Ty for a series of radiographs. Weirdly enough, the x-rays showed no real issues aside from a minor inconsistency between two of the discs. Even more interesting, Ty's hips are completely free of arthritis or any other breed-related issues Shepherds tend to get. The small little blip on his spine was the only indication of a problem.

Which is kind of hard to hear.

Having a perfectly healthy dog with a teeny tiny speck on one portion of his spine. A tiny speck that is going to cause a very intense and incurable set of issues.

It's almost like being so close to something but having an impenetrable barrier in the way - no matter what, there is nothing I can do to fix it. Which really, really sucks.

I stayed quite a while past my appointment time I'm sure, talking with the vet and discussing various options. Without an MRI (which we do not have in this area), we can't exactly determine if this is some kind of degenerative myelopathy, type 2 disc disease, or some other spinal issue. We know for certain it is not trauma related (we re-did x-rays a few weeks later because I am neurotic). All we know is there is some kind of degeneration happening within his spine that will eventually cause him to become paralyzed.

There is no fast and hard time-frame for when complete paralysis will occur and there is no telling how Ty will ultimately respond to the changes his body undergoes as the disease evolves.

And it scares me beyond belief.

The last six months have been a whirlwind of adjusting our lives and our home to fit Ty's new lifestyle. Additional carpets have been installed, especially on our hardwood surfaces where Ty finds it hard to balance and slips. He wears goofy little dog socks with rubber pads on his hind legs for extra grip. He uses a dog ramp to get in and out of the vehicle (which he hates, thank you very much). And he rarely gets walked and when he does, it's short 15-30 minute strolls around the neighborhood depending on how he is feeling.

Sidenote: no one tell my boss I used the work
truck to try it out... 
I have found myself bringing him to the barn almost every time I go, because he loves growling at the horses when they get too pushy for grain, and he loves sneaking a bite of poop when I'm not looking.

I've laid on the freshly cut lawn and cradled his head and kissed his muzzle.

I have let him win so many games of tug of war.

I've cried so many tears into his neck, telling him how sorry I am there is nothing I can do to help him.

The end result is always going to be the same, which is why I find it so hard to accept most days.

"Helping" grain Suzie.
And a lot of friends have tried to be helpful. A family member actually suggested purchasing a cart or wheelchair if he becomes completely paralyzed. And I've tossed the idea around a time or two.

But the more I think about it, it's just not Ty.

He's a very stoic and proud dog. Not unlike my Suzie-mare. He doesn't like us helping him in any regard. And it's not that he is aggressive. He is far from it.

He's a gentleman and pride radiates from him like rays of sunshine. He takes his place in this world very seriously and with the other issues old age brings (lack of hearing especially), he is trying to paw his way through and make sense of what is happening to his body.

Although carts can be really helpful, they are not meant as a means for indoor transportation, especially for a big dog. Paralyzed dogs often are moved from room to room by their owners and without the means of being able to completely feel, some are subjected to wearing diapers or otherwise due to being unable to control their bladder and bowels. This opens a whole new can of worms with bed sores, depression, and a whole myriad of other issues.

It just isn't a life I want him to live.

For now, I'm trying to balance the necessity to pre-plan for the future, but also be guarded about how I make those decisions. Everything is more or less up to him and the rate of this disease. Both of which are out of my control.

So, I continue to bring him out to the horses so he can pretend he's a real herding dog.

I continue to shuffle along the street with him, smiling as he gets quiet bursts of energy to frolick like a half-drunken goofball.

I continue to let him sneak the last piece of chicken.

And I will continue to do these things for as long as we are able.


  1. I'm so sorry. He seems like such a good boy. He's lucky to have you.

  2. This feels all too raw still, exactly what I went through with my Moo girl. It's just the hardest thing to watch and know that their time is getting shorter with us, but that just reminds us to enjoy every moment with them.

    He looks like a truly wonderful dog and best friend. And he is lucky to have owned you for so long!

    1. I am so sorry about your Moo <3 It's so hard when they get old and their bodies start to fail :(

      Thank you so much

  3. I am so sorry- d'Arcy has been this way for a while now. He gets metacam which helps some and reduced walks and such. I believe in letting them be happy rather then try to prolong. ((HUGS)) to you and your family- I know how hard this is.

    1. Gah - sorry to hear about d'Arcy. The more I mention this disease, the more people have similar experiences with it. It truly sucks :(

  4. sorry to read this. Hugs to you and your family. He looks pretty happy and as long as he is happy and eating, you do what you can to keep him that way. He will tell you when he is not happy. I had a dachshund with back issues and he told us when it was time :( You are doing everything right for him. He may surprise you yet. Sounds like he has had a great life with you. Just continue to love him.....

    1. It's so tough when they get old :(

      Thank you for your comments <3

  5. He is such a handsome boy. You are right, he does look like he has this quiet stoicism about him. Hugs.

  6. Totally cried reading this, he sounds like such a wonderful guy. Sending hugs! <3

    1. Aww <3 I'm sorry. Writing about it is really therapeutic for me.

  7. aw poor Ty :( so sorry!! he seems like a happy dog tho, glad you're able to help accommodate him and help keep him comfortable!

    1. For the most part, he is pretty happy and content :)

  8. It's so hard when they get older and face obstacles like this. I'm sorry to hear about his issues.

  9. Oh man, I so did not need to read this today. Animals getting old sucks. Animals coming up with weird, incurable diseases sucks. I hope you still have lots of time left with Ty. Sounds like he's living life to the absolute fullest in the meantime.

    1. So sorry, Carly <3 I know you are in a tough spot.

  10. I'm so sorry. It's so hard when their bodies start to fail but their spirit is still going strong

    1. I try to do little things to remind him he's a big scary dog. :)

  11. I'm so, so sorry. My shepherd/lab cross from years ago had the same thing. Like you, I assumed hip dysplasia but it was a neuro issue. Fingers crossed it's a slow progression and you have lots of quality time left with him.
    I just have to add that he has the nicest expression - such a handsome boy!

    1. It seems like the more people I talk to, the more I realize I'm not alone in this diagnosis.

      Thank you <3

  12. Oh no, Cathryn, I'm so sorry to hear this. Ty seems like a wonderful dog, and it sounds like you're a wonderful mom. <3

    1. Thanks <3 It's been a tough few months. I'm just glad he is adjusting to life with less mobility and more wobbles.

  13. Ty is a very special guy and I can tell this his hard on him and all the people who love him. All I can say is that he will let you know when he is ready to leave with dignity. I hope he has a lot more time to be with the people and animal friends he's loved all these years.

  14. I ugly cried through your whole update. I know how much you love him and what an incredible dog Ty is. It's so hard to face the reality of 'elderly', especially when it's something inevitable. I can't imagine how you're feeling, but I love seeing the pictures and snaps of you spoiling Ty. I hope the progression is slow and that you're able to soak up as much time with him as you can. <3 Hang in there.