Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dog Tales: William and the Bad Scare

People on our regular dog walk route may have missed William and me in the past week or so. This story tells why. I share it for readers who live with and love old dogs, in the hope that it may spare them some fear and anxiety should this ever happen to their cherished pets.

As regular Gossips readers know, William has been having some issues with loss of appetite. He also has some problems with his left hind leg, which is probably degenerative myelopathy—a condition that causes no pain and for which there is neither a cure nor a particularly effective treatment. (William is fifteen, possibly closer to sixteen, after all.) But it was neither of these things that caused me to call the vet last Tuesday to make an appointment for the next day. It was an abscess I noticed inside the lower lid of William’s left eye, which turns out to be unrelated to anything I am about to tell.

Later that day, after the vet’s office had closed, William’s general health seemed to deteriorate—dramatically. The problem with his hind leg worsened—he was very unsteady on all his feet. He refused everything I tried to get him to eat—even the grilled salmon fillet we were sharing for dinner, the same meal he had scarfed down the night before. Because he was having a hard time getting up and down the stairs, the two of us spent the night on the parlor floor—I sleeping on the couch, he beside me on his dog bed, which I had moved down from my office on the second floor.

Early the next morning, I awoke to find my beautiful dog in a terrible state. His head was tilted to one side, his tongue lolled out of his mouth, he was panting, his eyes moved rapidly from side to side, and he could hardly stand. I feared the worst: my beloved dog had had a stroke.

It was still hours before our appointment. Wanting to put off what I feared was the inevitable—being told that William had reached the end of the line—I waited to take him to the vet until it was time for our appointment. Then I cursed myself for doing so. If it was a stroke, time was critical. My cowardice might be costing my cherished dog his life.

Finally, not long before the actual appointment, I called the vet’s office to tell them I was bringing in a dog in crisis, and I called the friend who had agreed to help me get William to the vet (William hates the car, as longtime readers know) to say it was time to go.

On the way to the vet’s office and while waiting to be seen, I tried unsuccessfully to battle down the dread. I was convinced that I was about to lose my precious companion of fourteen years. Imagine my total and utter elation, when, after I'd given my distressed account of what was going on with William, the first words out of Dr. Steuerwald’s mouth were, “The good news is . . . .”

It was not a stroke. William was suffering from old dog vestibular disease—canine vertigo! It’s not known why it happens, but most dogs recover from it on their own, given time and care.

Today, more than a week later, I am thrilled to say that William has recovered . . . almost. After days of complete immobility, having to endure the indignity of wearing doggie diapers and being fed Ensure with a turkey baster, William is eating solid food on his own again (Rachel Ray’s Nutrish—not the stuff I cook for him), and last night, with a little help from a friend, William went outside for the first time since returning from the vet's office.

Today, we’ve had two walks—the first, just back and forth a couple of times in front of the house; the second—more ambitious—from our house to South Second to Partition to the alley back to Allen Street and home. Look for my beautiful, courageous old dog promenading on Warren Street again very soon . . . maybe listing and faltering now and then, but if you see that, try to ignore it.

My deep and enduring gratitude—and William’s, too—to Rick Rector, who helped get William to the vet, carried him out of the house for his first walk, and was there for us both during this very rough patch, and to Ellen Thurston, who was ever supportive as William struggled back to being himself.


  1. That's a very touching story. There is no end to love of dog.

  2. Carry on William! Grand good going at 15+. And the same to Carol and her grand good helper Rick Rector.

  3. I am so glad he is okay. I had a cat with developed vestibular disease out of the blue. I know how scary that is. All my best to William!

  4. What a relief to read William is OK.