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7 Steps to Face Down Your Challenges
I call Missy my miracle dog.
The call came out of nowhere. On October 10th at 9am my Missy, a rescue blonde cocker spaniel, stopped using her back legs. Overnight, Michael Jordan went from athletic to paraplegic. We had 24 hours to decide if surgery was a viable option.
Missy is the type of soul who bounds steps three at a time. She ran where others walked. She jumped where others jumped. She lived for riding in a car with a shotgun on the front console. Her will and determination could raise a sleeping adult to come downstairs in the middle of the night when she decided a treat was necessary.
We now had 24 hours to deal with the medical miracle with our girl Missy. We were hoping that an MRI would show a slipped disc that would be easier to repair with a better chance of walking again. The results showed damage after a certain period of time, she just silently compensated for it.
The medical team said the surgery may or may not restore her ability to walk. She is a fighter and we had to give her a fighting chance. On October 11, she was ready for surgery. She went through the surgery well, but there was still no promise of normalcy. Just the promise that there will be a new reality of normalcy.
We have learned a lot from Missy and this recovery period about how to face our challenges. Maybe you can also learn how to face your challenges:
Four months later, we all learned. We learned to be grateful for a canine neurosurgeon, a physical therapist, an oncologist, laser acupuncture, and a water belt. What I am most grateful for is this dog with a heart, will and attitude of steel.
1. Face problems quickly
We had to quickly decide if surgery was a viable option. We gathered an expert opinion as quickly as possible and moved on. In some ways, we were fortunate that medical reality dictated a quick decision. The lesson here is that no matter the challenge or situation, moving forward is always positive.
2. Assume the best
If I could speak for Missy, I think she always assumed the best. The day after the operation she tried to walk. Even though she couldn’t walk without help, she still assumed she could. The surgery was followed by physical therapy including laser acupuncture and hydrotherapy. He spends every other two minutes on the water treadmill, which I hug like the first moon landing. When people roll their eyes at this story, I roll my eyes at their lack of faith. From the beginning, I assumed that if I gave her all the benefits, the best would happen.
3. Listen to your inner voice
My voice and her inner voice did not always speak in unison. My voice said, you can’t use your back legs, wait until I get a towel to put under your stomach. Her voice said: I’ll crawl to where I need to be. My voice said you must be limited until you start using your legs. Her voice said, I can drag my hind legs to get where I want. I ended up listening to OUR inner voice: a combination of my caution and her optimism.
4. Live your life according to your standards. . . mostly
We had three ramps made for her because she was not allowed to use steps in the early stages of her recovery. As she has improved in “leaps and bounds,” she chooses steps over the ramp. She insists she can handle the stairs by herself and would jump into the car if left unattended. My job in life is to constantly change her expectations.
5. Reluctantly adapt
As she progressed, she was allowed to negotiate the steps on her own, on a leash, and did them one at a time. A big upgrade from having to carry it up and down the stairs every day. After a few weeks, she appears to have reluctantly agreed to the terms. Even in her world, not all mountains are worth dying for.
6. Keep fighting
My girl survived. From the first day after the operation, she fought for every success. At first the neurosurgeon told us that he might not walk again; they may not have control over their bodily functions. She fought to not be limited, fought to walk, fought to take steps on her own, and fights with me daily to have as normal a life as possible.
It’s a challenge for both of us. We see different realities. She sees where she has been most of her life and asks why not? I think of where she was on October 10, and never again. So my reality is giving her a little more freedom each day and her reality is giving her less freedom than 10/10 ago and more freedom than I ever dreamed she would have.
After her surgery, I was amazed at people’s astonishment that I would give a twelve-year-old dog, this surgery, this therapy, the best mind and hands of medicine that I have to offer. I knew I had to give her every opportunity I could identify and afford. And she almost gave me back my old Missy and a renewed belief that anything is possible.
Special thanks to my Moshe, Metropolitan Vet Hospital, Dr. Axlund and Dancing Paws Animal Wellness.
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