Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Man's Trash is Another (Wo)man's Treasure

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."  ~Mark Twain

One Man's Trash is Another (Wo)man's Treasure.....

Ripley, 1 week after rescue
Can you believe that someone just threw this beautiful puppy away? 
One day after work in September 2009, I was taking my two dogs, Brittany and Lacey, out to our favorite place to walk.  To get there, I had to load the dogs into my little truck and drive about 10 miles to a state conservation area, where we walked around a peaceful, scenic lake.  There were two ways to get there, depending on which part of the lake I was in the mood to wander :  on one route, I drove the back roads, and on another, I started out on Interstate 70.  On September 11, 2009, I decided to take the I-70 route.

I had just merged onto the interstate from the entrance ramp when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted her.  I had to do a double take.  For one, I was nearing a cruising speed of 70 mph, and secondly, she was just so small.  And she blended in ... she was frozen in fear along the white "fog line" (the white line on the right side of the lane).  I thought to myself, "was that a puppy?" and pulled over onto the shoulder.  I looked behind me, and sure enough, it was indeed a puppy.  So I backed up, got out of the truck and quickly snatched her up before she decided to run into traffic.  I remember feeling the 18-wheelers and other vehicles whizzing by and winced at the thought of this little creature wandering out onto the busy interstate highway.

Ripley, 3 months old

As I pulled her close to my chest, I noticed she smelled strongly of urine and grease, but she appeared to be in pretty good shape.  But rather than continue on to the lake (sorry Brittany and Lacey!), I figured I should take her home and get a better look at her.

Ripley has always been a "talker," and a great character.
Back at the house, she got a bath and a meal ... she was very hungry.  And then I wrapped her up in a towel and she slept for about 14 hours.  At the veterinarian's office the next day, she got some puppy shots and a clean bill of health from the vet.  She weighed all of 3 pounds and he estimated she was only about seven weeks old.  He and his staff were sure she was an Australian Cattledog (Blue Heeler) or a Cattledog/Australian Shepherd cross.  Whatever she was, I surely didn't need a third dog ... but almost 13 years later ... well, let's just say I'm a softie and leave it at that!

Acting the Clown
It was obvious early on that Ripley is smart ... she learned to use the doggie door and was house trained in less than 2 weeks!

Ripley has brought me years of smiles, laughter and loyal companionship.  Being a herding breed, she is extremely intelligent and has lots of energy.  It's often been a challenge keeping her mentally stimulated, but since I was already used to taking my dogs for long walks several days a week, I had few behavioral issues with Rip. 

 And Ripley has taught me so much.  She's been nothing less than inspirational.

When she was only five years old, she started to show signs of arthritis.  And unfortunately for her, it has been an aggressive and pervasive disease.  Within just a few years, her spine was nearly fused together with invasive tissue, and both of her knees were nearly unrecognizable in x-rays.  Added to that, her front right foot is also gradually being taken over by pernicious tissues.

The arthritis in her spine got so bad that the nerve to her back legs was crushed, which also affected her bladder ... she leaked urine almost constantly.  When her veterinarian, "Dr. Ben," showed me x-rays of her lower back and legs in September 2010, he said, "I don't know how this dog can walk!"  And he followed that with,  "if any human had arthritis this bad, they'd be in a wheelchair."  Then Dr. Ben looked me intently in the eyes and told me he had shown these x-rays to his colleagues.  Their immediate reaction was to put her down.  He responded to them with, "You wouldn't say that if you knew this dog.  She has the spirit of a puppy." 

And he was right.  You'd never know how bad her condition was just by watching her ... she was still happy and silly and more than willing to go on hikes with me and the rest of the Pack, and got around the house and yard well enough.  But I knew she was in pain and it was getting worse, despite daily doses of anti-inflammatory drugs and joint supplements.  I had a decision to make: take away her life, or seek advice from a specialist.  And when I looked into Ripley's eyes, I knew I couldn't give up on her.   

So Dr. Ben referred us to the best orthopedic surgeon he knew.  And I drove her 3 hours to  the University of Missouri--Columbia's College of Veterinary Medicine ... several times over the course of several months.  To make a long story a bit shorter, in December 2010, Ripley had surgery to scrape the foreign tissue from around her spine to free up the nerve that had been crushed flat.  I knew it would be only a temporary solution, but the orthopedic surgeon, "Dr. Jimi," was confident that it would make a significant difference in Ripley's life.  And it did!  Within just a few days after the surgery, I could see how much easier it was for her to walk.  And her bladder no longer leaked.  Along with the back surgery, Dr. Jimi injected steroids and other fluids into her stifle joints (knees), which made her all the more comfortable. 

For about six months, Ripley was practically a new dog.  She had to have more injections in her knees to keep them cushioned, but otherwise she was able to continue our hikes.  She couldn't run with the other dogs, but she trotted along quite well.  ...

But then I noticed she started to slow down and started to walk funny when going downhill.  She looked like a drunk, swaying from side-to-side and stumbling like she didn't have full control over her back end.  I had hoped the surgery would give her more time.  My Ripley still had the heart of a puppy ... always eager, always ready, and still the family clown.

I knew another surgery was out of the question.  She was getting too old and I didn't have the money.  So I started to ask around and search the internet for a brace of some kind to support her back during the downhill portion of our hikes.  I posted a video on YouTube showing how she walked and asked anyone who watched it if they had ideas.  Ripley got a lot of sympathy from viewers and a kind woman from Bahrain, who had become a "fan" of  my dogs (I have a few dozen YouTube videos of the dogs just being dogs), helped me search internet sites for something to help Ripley.

During my search, I came across the website  They specialize in wheeled carts for dogs.  I didn't really want a cart, though.  I wasn't sure Ripley would be able to use it out in the woods.  I contacted Dr. Jimi, Ripley's surgeon, and showed him the video.  He didn't know of any braces that existed that could help Ripley.  So I took a leap of faith, and borrowed more money from my savings, and bought Rip a wheeled cart from (And with the help of some friends and family, widened the path we walk through the woods to accommodate the cart.) 

Along with the surgery and the steroid injections, it has been Ripley's saving grace!  She only needs it going downhill, so to help keep her muscles toned, I only strap her in right before we head down the mountain.  Thankfully, the cart is very lightweight and it balances nicely on my shoulder.  Ripley is such a good girl!  She learned to use it very quickly and seems to "get" that it helps her walk much more easily ... so she stands still whenever it's time to attach the cart.

Ripley poses in her wheeled cart.

"Classic" Ripley
I can't imagine going on a hike without Ripley.  It would break both our hearts.  I also can't imagine the pain she must be in every day.  Yet she seems to just ignore it for the most part.  Ripley doesn't see herself as disabled ... or unable to do much of anything, for that matter.  She doesn't see obstacles.  She sees beyond them.  She has taught me that obstacles are almost always of our own making and that you can find a way beyond them if you look hard enough.  She has helped me to appreciate the little things in life ... simple joys and pleasures.  She reminds me to smile and laugh every day, no matter how badly I may feel.  

Ripley has taught me to slow down ... to take a deep breath ... and live in the moment.  For in such moments, there is peace.   

1 comment:

  1. You are a dear Ripley. I love your smile and your story!


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