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Josie was surrendered by a breeder in February 2013. She had lived 6 years of her life in a cage. When Josie came into the rescue facility, she was so terrified of human touch and very shut down. She had been adopted into a home soon after but unfortunately, they returned her after 7 months stating that they did not have time for her. Josie was still in the same state of mind that she was in back when she was surrendered. I chose to foster her, so that I could work with her. Human touch terrified her , she’d growl, show her teeth, make a loud screeching noise and just plain run away. I fell in love with her and decided to officially adopt her. It took alot of time and trusting before she came around. I was also able to leash train her even though she was so reluctant at first. I took her to the groomers while I fostered her and she even had them in tears. They couldn’t believe how shut down she was , even after being in a home. A week before all this happened, I took her to the same groomers and they stated how amazed they were, that she was not the same dog theyd seen and that what ever I was doing, was working.
It took about 5 months of her being in my home, before her personality really started to show and shine. I think she finally knew that she could let her guard down. I noticed her walk to be a little bit funny so I took her to the vet and that vet refused to even feel her legs or exam her. I was told to ” wait and see if she gets worse, then bring her back.” Well, She did get worse, she fell down the stairs so I took her to a new vet and it had been determined that she had arthritis in her hips so she was put on meds to help. I did notice that she started to run and walk even more after that. It was so amazing to see that smile of hers and see her running, enjoying herself. It was such an amazing feeling to see her like that, especially knowing the state of mind she was in , not too long ago. I can't even begin to tell you how much it feels to see a scared, timid dog come out of their shell and shine bright. Its beyond rewarding.
On June 9th,
I had taken all my dogs out as usual in the early morning and brought them inside. 10 minutes after bringing them inside, Josie began to have a seizure for the first time. I panicked, broke down into tears , held off my other 2 dogs. I had never seen a seizure before. I immediately called the vet and rushed her there after she was done. While we were waiting to get the blood tests done, She began to have another seizure. Our vet noticed that her left side looked a bit unusual. They had taken her in the back room to give her something to stop the seizure. We were told to wait about an hr to see if she would have another but she didn't so I took her home. I had noticed that Josie was only walking around in circles so I had called our vet to ask if that was normal, they had told said she could be disoriented from the seizures and to keep an eye on her, also explained to me that if shes only able to walk in one direction, it could mean a neurological issue. I kept an eye on her and it was very apparent that she was only able to turn in the “right ” direction. If she attempted to go in the other direction, she’d fall over.
In the early afternoon on the same day, Josie had another seizure so I took her back to the vet. At this point, it was also noticeable that the left side went into a state of paralysis. This was the hardest vet visit of my life. They had me carry her into the back room and our vet explained everything to me, that its clear her left side was extremely affected, and that if shes only able to turn to the right , it means something is most likely wrong with her brain. I was so upset because I did not want to hear "those words" and then she said it " You might want to think about euthanasia." Our vet had also said she had never seen a dog have so many seizures in a short amount of time in one day and that she might not even be able to recover at all. Iwas told that she was so far gone neurologically that the chances of her surviving were little to none even if I spent a million dollars on her. I cannot explain the heart ache I felt with those words. My tears became heavy rain and I told our vet that I was not giving up on her. We were referred t o the C.A.R.E Centre as they said they would be able to do more at this point. Unfortunately, the neurologist was away so we seen an Oncologist. When I brought Josie in, they took her into the back so that they could watch her in case she had more seizures, which she did. I sat in the room, waiting to talk to the oncologist and she also gave me the not so good news about josie's prognosis. She then gave me 3 options;
1) Do an MRI, which she then quoted me about 5 grand to do.
2) try the steroid (Prednisone) but also explained to me that if there is a bacterial infection in her brain, that it'll make her condition even worse.
I, again, said I was not giving up on her. She had such a crappy life and that it wasn't fair that this was happening to her. But I didn't have the funds to get the MRI done and I did not qualify for the pet card. So, I chose to put her on the steroid. Josie had 8 seizures in less then 8 hrs in one day.
The first 48 hrs was very hard. I made a bed in the living room for her. I slept on the floor next to her, kept my hand on her stomach so that I could feel her breathe. I set my alarm clock to wake me up every hour to make sure she was still breathing. At one point of the first night, I thought she was going to go. Something seemed off with the way she was. I hugged her so hard and I told her that I loved her and that she was so very loved. I told her that if she feels its time that I'll accept that and I wouldn't leave her side. I also told her that if she chooses to fight , I would be there every step. I remember calling my mom around 2 amish , in extreme tears , saying that I don't think She's going to make it. My mom also said the next hardest words I've ever heard. She asked if I made a plan on what I was going to do with her body if she does pass away through the night and I welled up in even more tears. I remember waking up at 6 with the alarm clock and I could tell she was having trouble breathing. I stayed awake and just watched her until the vet opened.up. Over the night, I syringed watered her to keep her hydrated.
Feeding Josie- This is how she would eat- her head had to be all the way turned to the right- http://youtu.be/LPokvkfzOZk
When 830 came around, I called our vet again and explained she was having difficulty breathing so I brought her back into the vet. She examined Josie and then discussed me with me that we could do a chest xray or put her on antibiotics and see it helps with possible lung infection. Our vet discussed me with about her blood work and nothing was really popping out. Her bile acids were elevated but stated, it most likely has nothing to do with one-sided neurological signs. Her lymphocytes were also a bit elevated but nothing too significant and once again, Josie was given a poor prognosis. I was told that if she didnt improve within a few days, she will most likely not improve and that I would have to make that fateful decision.
That evening, Josie wasn't moving, she was very limp , her left eye kept rolling down but I wasn't sure if that was because she was so sedated from all the meds, or if she was at the point where she gave up and was suffering. I called the vet and they told me to keep an eye on her , that she could be just really sedated from the meds but if i was concerned, that again, I should think about euthanasia. But they had said that its a good sign that she hasnt had anymore seizures.
Over the next couple days, Josie became more alert. I started to call all over alberta, BC and even the states to get pricing for an MRI but I had spoken to a radiologist in Kamloops and he had told me that alot of the times, most vets will chose to get a ct scan done instead , which is a cheaper cost. I looked into very possible thing I could, raising money, looking into anywhere that could help. The states was the cheapest but if you factor in travel costs, ultimately, its about the same pricing. I called the lethbridge animal hospital and decided that we would go there to get the CT scan done, to reduce less travel for Josie.
Josie showed how strong and determined she was, she got herself up even if she fell down. She didn't have use of her left back leg so she'd kick the left back leg with her right back leg to get herself up. It was the weirdest thing because she had the paralysis on the left side but she was still able to move her legs like normal when she got herself up. It even made everyone else go " hmmm.. " because they have never seen anything like it. With this determination, I researched traction mats, and paw grips as my suite is all hardwood and i felt like it was hindering her a bit. So, I went to a liquidation centre and found these mats that were meant to be outdoor mats and bought alot of them to act like "traction" mats for her. I thought about doing a runner carpet but I couldn't see the runner staying in place.
Over time, She had improved significantly. She was walking and even running around. Meal time was her favorite time of the day, shed bounce around the room like no ones business!
Josie and I traveled to lethbridge to get the CT scan done. Dr. Jacob and all the staff there were amazing and made me feel like there was even more hope. During our visit, Dr. Jacob also did some x-rays which showed some secondary issues, which included an enlarged heart and possibly a stone in her gall bladder but in his opinion, most likely had nothing to do with what was going on with her. The scans were sent to a radiologist , which we'd get the results in a couple days time. All in all, it probably took less then 2 hrs of being there in the hospital. Even though her left side was experiencing a state of paralysis- Everything showed that her left organs were functioning like normal. As per Dr. Jacob, she was to finish the rest of her medication and let her ween off of the prednisone.
Josie made me laugh so hard because Dr. Jacob had told me she is going to be sedated on the way home from the slight anesthesia but shes stubborn and hard headed like her mom, as soon as we got into the car, she was acting like she needed to go to the washroom so I pulled over to a rest side , let josie out of the car, and she decided she was going to run like the wind. It was kind of like she had pent of energy that she needed to let loose.
The scan showed that she has a lesion in the left side of her brain. and most likely had a stroke with hemorrhage. but cancer, tumor or a granuloma could not be ruled out. Unfortunately, this is where the MRI comes into place or ct scan with contrast , that can really look more into those types of things. Clinically, Josie had been improving significantly except that she was still circling to the right.
Josie had another seizure on June 25th, while I was at work. She was a little unsteady , her coat was bathed in drool and she had a dazed look in her eye. But she was still walking and eventually got herself balanced again. At this time, she was still on the phenobarbital which is an anti-seizure medication. I then called C.A.R.E. Centre to book an appt with the neurologist, but unfortunately the earliest date available was July 7th.
On the evening of July 1st,
I noticed Josie walking really funny, extremely stiff and looked like she had a hunchback. I felt her back and noticed the "bump" that had always been at the top of her neck/spine at suddenly disappeared. .
On the morning of July 2nd,
she was struggling really bad to get herself up and walking. I knew something was wrong. When I came home from work that day, She had pretty much lost most of her mobility in her hind legs. She was able to get herself up once but then fell back down. This is where extreme heartache set in. I called my mom in tears, I couldn't stop the tears, seeing her struggle to move broke my heart into so many pieces. I was already so emotionally drained and had people tell me theyve had dogs that lost mobility of their legs and they chose euthanasia. As hard as it is to say, at this point, being already emotionally drained, I thought maybe this is it- seeing her struggle was so beyond heart breaking and I hated to see her like that but there was something in my heart that said, " Dont give up." As much as it hurt to see, she was still fighting.
Josie lost complete mobility of her hind legs. I couldnt get an appt for the vet until July 5th so I watched her very closely, I brought water to her, hand fed her etc. She was still able to drag herself to the bowls but she had rubbed her bum and tail raw from dragging her back end. She had also lost complete function of her left side.again even if you said her name or made sounds on the left side, she would move her head all the way to the right to see what was going on. I also cut up an old towel so that I could use it as a "sling" to help hold up her back end. I did whatever I could to help her and accommodate her needs. She sat in a way that reminded me of a person sitting in a wheel chair.
,-At this point, I had spent my savings and everything I had into all the veterinary costs. I knew I needed help financially but wasn't quite sure where to look. I also didnt qualify for the pet card and didn't know anyone that could co-sign. But, I wasn't giving up on her what so ever. She has come this far. There was something in my heart that said keep fighting.
Later that day, I was browsing facebook and came across a post in the Alberta Lost Pet Locator and Rescue Society FB page about an organization called " In Memory Of Maggie May." I read what they're all about and I thought to myself, wow, this is a blessing in disguise. I wrote an email to them and told them Josie's story. Eva emailed me back the next day. I am so very blessed that she believed in Josies story and even more blessed that Eva had become a support system as well. I am so very thankful for the help that they have provided. I am also so very thankful for Eva calling and talking with me. It was nice to talk to someone that had been through something similar.
I took her into the vet, at this point, it was already day 2 of having no mobility of her back legs, the vet checked her front left leg as well and neurologically, it didnt seem right either. The vet prescribed Josie some cream for her bum, probiotic for diarrhea, put her back onto the steroid and put her on an antibiotic. She didnt do much since we were seeing the neurologist in 2 days.
We met with Dr. Diaz who is the neurologist at the C.A.R.E. Centre. Upon his observation, and going over all the tests, he started off with eliminating everything... he started off with " cancer of the brain" which sent me into tears in an instant but then quickly said it wouldn't make sense for her to have that or a tumor and have it cause a secondary problem. He was working off of what he knew from the scan and tests that had been done so far. He said it didn't make sense as to where the lesion is , that it didn't connect. I wish I could explain that better, but I was so emotional during this appt that alot of the words became a blur. In his mind, he was 95% sure , she has meningitis. He wanted to do a spinal tap. He then explained to me that with the treatment, it would be an 80 percent chance that she would walk again. He then left the room and came back with an invoice of the cost of the initial start up, and again, I burst into tears, it was way out of my budget. I had saved up $300- $350 for this visit. The invoice was $1263 with the first treatment.. I literally didnt know what to do because I didnt have that kind of money. Dr. Diaz an amazing man , he knew how much love I have for her, and he truly cares about the animals. He went to talk to the practice manager to see if there was any way we could work something out. While he was gone, I sat on the floor with josie and just cried. The care manager had came in to talk to me and said they talked to the practice manager and as long as i could put down the 300 deposit, i would be able to pay the rest at a later date. I cant explain the gratitude I felt that Dr. Diaz was able to help us out. I filled out some paper work, made the deposit, left josie in their care and went home. I am so very thankful for the generosity of " In Memory of Maggie May" as they had helped me out with this vet bill.
In the early evening, Dr. Diaz called me and said the spinal tap came back negative but her being on the steroid can cause a negative result. He then explained to me we can do the MRI, which was out of my budget or go ahead with the treatment and see how she does. He then expressed that in his opinion, doing the treatment right away would be better and I agreed. So, She stayed in the hospital and got 4 doses of the cytosar , which is a chemotherapy drug.
For me personally, I have always said I would never be one of those people that would put any of my animals through chemo to extend their life. When you think of chemo in humans, its hard, its painful, its emotionally hard to go through it. Chemo was the only thing that was going to ultimately save her life. Without it, she would have continued to deteriorate and suffer. I would have had to make the decision that I didnt even want to think about. So, it wasn't about me extending her life for my benefit, it was to save her.
I picked up Josie from the hospital a few days later. She was very loopy and dazed. Once we got home, I placed her in her bed and just held her. I was given instructions about physio exercises to do on her legs so I did them 4 times a day.
Days had passed since the initial treatment with no movement of her legs so I continued to use the "sling" to help her, Through all of this, I became really in tune with her vocals. I somehow was able to distinguish her "water" sounds and her "bathroom" sounds. I still hand fed her. But, I noticed a huge improvement when it came to her left side. She was able to look to the left again, and, hear from the left ear. That alone, amazed me.
I researched dogs and meningitis and came across a story from a woman in the UK and everything from the start was pretty much the same about what we were going through until I got to the end of her story, and it sadly did not end well for her pup that had meningitis. I felt a bit discouraged after reading that but I wasn't giving up on hope. Its all I had at this point is to hold onto it.
I felt horrible that Josie wasn't able to come on our regular walks so I asked my landlords if I could borrow their kids wagon. I wasn't even sure how josie would feel about being in a wagon but I put her pillow and a traction mat in it and off we went! She seemed to enjoy it, rather then feeling left out.
Again, Days went by and still no real improvement of her legs. I tried to get her to put pressure on them as much as possible while using the sling, Her right leg would allow a tiny bit of pressure but her left leg was still very behind, looked like it was just lifeless .Gradually her right leg started to become a bit more strong where shed completely fight me with the exercises. I started calling around to canine fitness and rehab centers to get pricing and see if maybe she would benefit from any of the programs. I also researched wheel chairs , prosthetic's and anything that would help . I was not giving up on her. I had watched so many videos on youtube about dogs that have been paralyzed that have learnt how to walk again , even dogs that only had 2 legs that were living the dream!
It had been a couple weeks and she still couldn't walk. Her back legs were paralyzed for 2.5 weeks but ironically, the day of our recheck, I woke up without my contacts in my eyes, looked over and swore i saw her standing, quickly put my contacts in my eyes and there she was! She was standing in all her glory! She even amazed me by walking over to the water dish. It wasnt perfect, as her left back leg still needed work but I cannot tell you how ecstatic and happy I was. I quickly called my mom in tears. I think i had her in tears right away because she thought I was going to say that something bad happened. I got my miracle that I asked for.
During our recheck, Dr. Diaz was happy with her progress and said the number 1 thing is to get her to walk as much as possible. Since her back left leg was lacking, she was putting a lot more pressure on the front left leg to compensate. I kept doing the exercises on her legs, even though she was really fighting me on it..
It is now Aug 20th-
Josie has been through 3 treatments and She has improved substantially. Her walk is almost normal with only mild paresis. She walks, she runs, she gets super excited. She has even surprised me by climbing down and up stairs, as long as theyre not steep and spread apart. She still only circles to the right but I think her brain is trained to ultimately go that way since it was all she could do for so long. I have seen her go to the left and if I take a treat and get her to turn to the left, she'll do it. Dr. Diaz looked over the CT scans himself and has completely ruled out cancer and is now 100 percent certain it is meningitis. She was officially diagnosed with non-contagious inflammatory encephalitis meningitis. He is an amazing man!Currently; she is receiving treatment every 3 weeks. She is also still on the phenobarbital, Prednisone, Rantidine and sucralfate. The treatment and the prednisone are life long treatments. Treatment involves lifelong suppression of the immune system so it is controlled and not cured.
I want to say a huge thank you and a huge heart felt gratitude to those that have helped Josie on this journey and road to recovery,. My mom has been through this roller coaster of emotion with me and I am so grateful that I have had her to lean on. A huge thank you to Eva, Dr. Maja and everyone at "In Memory of of Maggie May." I'd also like to thank Sharon & Richard for their amazing support. Also, thank you to Lynn for her continued support. Dr.Diaz, and everyone at CARE for continuing to care for Josie. From the bottom of our hearts, Josie and I appreciate you all so very much. I am truly blessed to have crossed paths with each and every one of you. I couldn't even imagine going through this without all of your support.
I Hope that Josie's Story will inspire those and give hope to those that are in the same or similar position where hope might seem lost. I never knew dogs could get meningitis. Please dont ever give up. If theres hope, there's a way <3