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7 Steps to Face Down Your Challenges
I call Missy my wonderful dog.
The call came out of nowhere. On October 10th at 9am my Missy, a rescue blond cocker spaniel, lost the use of her hind legs. Overnight, she went from Michael Jordan’s athleticism to a paraplegic. We had 24 hours to decide if surgery was a viable option.
Missy is the kind of soul that takes three steps at a time. She ran where others walked. She jumped where others jumped. She lived for a ride in the car where she sat shotgun on the front console. His will and determination could bring a sleeping adult downstairs in the middle of the night when he deigned a needed treat.
Now we had 24 hours to match a medical miracle with our daughter Missy. We were hoping an MRI would show a herniated disc, easier to repair with a better chance of it working again. The results showed damage over a period of time she had just silently compensated for.
A team of doctors said the surgery may or may not restore her ability to walk. She is a fighter and she had to be given the chance to fight. On October 11, she was prepped for surgery. She survived the operation well, but there was still no promise of normalcy. Just the promise that there will be a new reality of normalcy.
From Missy and this period of recovery, we learned a lot about how to overcome our challenges. Perhaps you too can learn to overcome your challenges:
Four months later, we’ve all learned. We learned to be grateful for a neurosurgeon, a physical therapist, an oncologist, laser acupuncture and the water treadmill. What I am most grateful for is this dog with a heart, will and attitude of steel.
1. Deal quickly with problems
We had to decide quickly if surgery should be a viable option. We gathered expert advice as quickly as possible and moved forward. In some ways, we were fortunate that medical reality dictated a quick decision. The lesson here is that no matter the challenge or the situation, moving forward is always positive.
2. Assume the best
If I could speak for Missy, I think she always assumed the best. The day after the operation, she tried to walk. Even when she couldn’t walk without help, she continued to assume she could. The surgery was followed by physical therapy including laser acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Every two extra minutes she spends on the aquatic treadmill, I kiss like the first moon landing. When people roll their eyes at this story, I roll my eyes at their lack of faith. From the start, I assumed that if I gave him every advantage, the best would come.
3. Listen to your inner voice
My voice and her inner voice didn’t always speak in unison. My voice said, you can’t use your hind legs, wait until I get a towel to put under your belly. His voice said, I’m going to crawl where I need to go. My voice said, you must be confined until you regain the use of your legs. His voice said, I can drag my hind legs to get where I want to go. Finally, I listened to OUR inner voice: a combination of my caution and optimism.
4. Live your life by your standards. . . most
We had her make three access ramps because she was not allowed to use the steps at the start of her recovery. As she takes leaps and bounds, she chooses the steps over the ramp. She insists she can do stairs on her own, and if left unattended, she would jump in the car. My job in life is to constantly change expectations.
5. Reluctantly adapt
As she progressed, she was allowed to negotiate steps on her own, on a leash, doing them one by one. A great upgrade from having to walk up and down stairs every day. After a few weeks, she seems to have reluctantly agreed to the terms. Even in his world, not all mountains are worth dying for.
6. Constantly fight
My daughter is a survivor. Since her first post-operative day, she has fought for every success. The neurosurgeon first told us that she might not walk; she may not have control over her bodily functions. She fought to not be confined, she fought to walk, she fought to complete the stages on her own, and she fights with me on a daily basis to have as normal a life as possible.
seven.Accept the realities
It’s a challenge for both of us. We see different realities. She sees where she was for most of her life and asks, why not? I think of where she was on October 10 and I never think again. So my reality gives her a little more freedom every day, and her reality gives her less freedom than before 10/10, and more freedom than I ever dreamed she would have.
After his surgery, I was amazed at how amazed people were that I would give a 12-year-old dog this surgery, this therapy, the best minds and hands medicine has to offer. I knew I had to give him every opportunity I could identify and afford. And she gave me back my old Missy, almost, and a renewed belief that anything is possible.
With special thanks to my Moshe, Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital, Dr Axlund and Dancing Paws Animal Wellness.
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