Animal Writes
© sm
16 April 2000 Issue

by [email protected] 

In 1992, I rescued from death row and adopted my dog who outweighs me by 20 lbs. I named him Forte. He was about 9 or 10 months old at that time. He grew into a wonderful dog who reminds you of “Strongheart” of the ’50s. A dog so strong yet gentle and fair, who protects little ones from big bullies in the doggie park, who teaches us how to appreciate what we have instead of feeling self-pity, who shows us true spiritual strength — as his name indicates.

After giving me 6 years of joy, Forte had a serious spinal surgery last July, but it turned out to be the vet's intentional misdiagnosis, rather. What Forte actually had was Degenerative Myelopathy, and any surgery would make it worse. The vet knew it, but because he wanted to gain more experience in operating big dogs, he decided to practice on Forte. As a result, it took most of his walking ability. He, however, started to do better thanks to weekly acupuncture and homeopathic treatments. His hind legs were [so] extremely weak that he could no longer run or jump, but could still enjoy walking around in the neighborhood and the doggie park.

Then, on the 6th of January, he had a bloat, a stomach turn. As you may well know, the bloat is very common among big dogs, especially Great Danes. It happens when a dog has much water or food in his stomach and jumps around or runs around. So, it definitely caught us by surprise since he could hardly walk now. But we figured that when he loses balance due to his neural problem, he sometimes swings his body and spins 360 degrees trying to catch himself, and the centrifugal force must have worked against him...

Most dogs do not survive the bloat primarily because people do not catch it soon enough. The dog has to be operated within a few hours. They open the dog to untwist the stomach, and even if the dog survives through the surgery, some of them do not make it over the following few days. Forte was hospitalized for 4 days under critical condition, and the vet said that he had a 50% chance to live. The vet techs, however, said that they had never seen a dog with such a strong will to live. He wanted to live. He wanted to come home. He wanted to be with me.

This incident worsened his Degenerative Myelopathy as expected, and he is now on a wheelchair. We knew that to put him through any surgery again would make it worse because of the effect of anesthesia, but we did not have a choice. He cannot stand up by himself anymore, and I now have to feed him 3~4 times a day and make sure that he stays calm for a couple of hours before and after every meal; i.e., it almost requires a full-time attention.

He now walks around the block on his cart and is very appreciative about it. It requires a bit more work on my side, but as long as he is happy and wants to live, I will do anything to support his will. Many people have commented that most people would put him down by now. But if you see his happy face, you would not be a human if you could do that. People should consider putting animals to sleep only if the animal was miserable, in pain or wishes to go.

Above all, the past nine months have taught me to perceive hardship as part of experience but not as my life itself, and to appreciate and respect “life” more than ever.

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