Thanks to Natasha for taking the time to share her experience adopting Winston, a paralyzed French Bulldog who has survived intervertebral disc disease.
How did Winston find his home with you?
Winston was rushed to Penn University with 3 bulging discs associated with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). He immediately had back surgery. His owners traveled and knew they couldnt give him the care he required. Post-op, Winston went to his pet sitters house to stay quiet and have the extra care he needed. They wanted a good home for him. That's when I met Winston. We brought him home to our three legged cat, and every day since has been a gift.
Winston has an Eddies Wheels wheelchair now and travels all over with us. He loves the woods and beach and even just going for a visit to grandmas. As a vet tech I wanted to open my heart to a dog with disabilities and I'm so glad I did. He doesn't let anything stop him. We've come a long way, getting our routine down. IVDD does not mean euthanasia and I hope Winston shows that to everyone
What is a regular day like with an IVDD dog?
My boyfriend Zach gets Winston up with him in the morning. (Winston sleeps on our bed with us). He takes Winston out to express his bladder and then feeds him breakfast. When he leaves at 6 am, he brings him back up to snuggle with me for a bit. I get ready for work and take him out once more. I grab his dental treat and tell him to get to his bed, give a kiss and head to work.
Zach gets home to Winston around 2:30. Out to pee and then usually playtime, maybe even snuggle too. Don’t forget dinner. I get home around 6. On Thursdays we all go to his "grandmas" for dinner and he gets to play with a cocker spaniel (Annabelle). Whatever chores we have to do, Winston is usually not too far behind. He always wants to be involved. Bedtime involves putting his "wee wee diaper". This leads to him performing his night night dance (rolling and snorting across the bed). We still haven't quite mastered keeping the belly bands on yet. We’re looking into making/ suspenders.
Weekends are usually busy, but Winston goes everywhere with us. We go up to a gun range nearby and he loves to go. He meets a bunch of people gets to experience nature. He goes to his other grandparents’ house sometimes too. They have two other dogs he plays with. We've taken trips to Lake Ontario and a small lake nearby, all the time during the summer. Naps are his favorite.
What advice do you have for others who may be facing life with a paralyzed dog?
In the house, he’s not in his wheelchair. He does not like wood or slippery floors. What works for us, is we buy bathroom matts/rugs and line floors with trails. They can be thrown in the wash if we have an accident and he loves them. Seeing him zoom from one room to another is hilarious. Portable too.
For his dog bed, we lay down a mattress pad and then put a crib sheet over that. Easy to throw in the wash in case of accidents. I can’t justify buying new dog beds.
Don’t give up. Once you get into a routine, it’s a piece of cake. They teach you so much.
Have you tried rehabilitation for Winston?
I actually work under a Veterinarian that has his rehab certification. We have an underwater treadmill that I do plan on getting him in. I wanted him to adjust to the house and his new life before we went ahead and started that. Winston has reflexes in his hind legs. I do believe he will spinal walk one day. We do 'range of motion' excercises every day until then.
Thanks to Natasha for sharing her story and the great work she's doing with special needs rescue animals. You can find all of our interviews with IVDD dog owners here.
If you're looking for your first dog wheelchair, make sure you read our dog wheelchair guide, developed from the survey responses of over 50 paralyzed dog owners.
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