Just before Christmas back in 2018, we were asked to help a little dog by the name of Toby. Toby was surrendered to the shelter because he was struggling to walk and seemed to have a neurologic problem in his hind legs that was getting worse as he was growing. He was moved to a foster home, and the shelter searched for a rescue that might be able to help him and figure out his neurologic problem! We saw his cute little face, and I just felt we needed to help him. After posting him to our foster group, Alyssa inquired and we had a few convos about how this could be really difficult and he could take a long time to get adopted, and he may need help recovering from surgery – but she was not to be deterred, and was all-in to help him start his new life with her!
When he arrived, he was tucked into a foster home with Alyssa, and settled right in! From the very beginning he had a great personality, and could win everyone he met over with his sweet and goofy antics! We changed his name to Scooter, as he would scoot himself around using his front legs while dragging his hind legs. He has always been able to walk, but with a very stilted gait, and will often fall down because he is very unsteady and wobbly in his hind legs. Per his previous foster, he was that way since he started walking, but it had definitely worsened as he grew.
We ran bloodwork and took xrays, but all appeared normal – so we honed in on it being a spinal cord abnormality. We speculated that it was either an injury at a very young age, or possibly something he was born with that was preventing his spinal cord from growing with him as he grew. We tried a few different treatments including laser and steroids and anti-inflammatories, but didn’t see any significant changes. We consulted with our orthopedist, and ultimately determined that we needed to have him consult with a neurologist to see if there was anything we could do to help him long-term. Our rescue is always all in for our dogs – if there is something we can do, no matter the expense, we will do it if it will help them to have a happier life longterm.
We worked with Dr Logan at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital, and decided to have an MRI done so we could really assess the spinal cord and figure out his injury. His MRI showed that he had a narrowing of his spinal cord at the end of his thorax (ribcage area), right before his lumbar spine. There appeared to be a mild vertebral abnormality that led to the space where the spinal cord should live being narrowed – which was then compressing the spinal cord in that region, and causing the hind legs and anything below that region to be affected. When the spinal cord is compressed, it will affect the normal nerve function to the muscles and bones of the body below that level and that typically presents like Scooter with difficulty walking, or ataxia – which is when they have a very wobbly gait or are even not able to walk!
We had a long conversation about pros and cons of surgery – the goal would be to go in and remove part of his vertebrae to open up the space and see if his function could improve by relieving the pressure on his spinal cord. But the concerns were that the damage could already be permanent, and the surgery could actually make his function WORSE, which was a huge risk. At the end of the day, we decided to take the risk – the pros of him possibly having increased function, or it preventing it from worsening more as he continued to grow, outweighed the possible con of it worsening after surgery.
So in March 2019, Scooter went in for spinal surgery and we all anxiously awaited an update. Thankfully, the surgery went well and he recovered beautifully. As he recovered too, he slowly improved and was able to walk again…he got back to about where he was prior to surgery, and since then has actually improved further, though his gait is still very abnormal and he still often does his signature ‘scoot’. However, it has never worsened and I still feel that the surgery did him some good in the long-run!
Shortly after his surgery too, the most amazing family reached out to inquire about him. As soon as they met him, they fell in love, and so did Alyssa, and we knew it was the PERFECT home for him! Kelly and her husband, Lutz, knew immediately that Scooter was the dog for them! They have a big house with a huge property, and were very comfortable helping him to pee, and working with his abnormalities to keep him comfortable.
They adopted him, and he lives the most perfect life. They bought him his own set of wheels, and he even now has a sled to get around in the snow! He books it through the yard, and runs and plays with a carefree abandon that is something to see! He has continued to have the best personality – he loves everyone he meets and is just a JOY to be around. He really LIVES and does so with a joyful spirit despite his handicap. He is a perfect example of handi-capable, and I’m so thankful every day that Alyssa was willing to take a chance on him in the beginning, and that Kelly came into his life to give him the one that he truly deserves. He is an amazing dog, who so many would have given up on…but is a beautiful example of living, despite setbacks, and making the best of the hand you are dealt. We love you Scooter – keep on scooting little buddy!