Today is Charlie the whippet's 12th birthday, and it's extra special because he's had a tough year. In fact, during the summer there were times when I wasn't sure he'd make it.
Charlie exploring the garden on his recent holiday
In June, Charlie collapsed in the garden and lost the use of all four legs. We took him straight to the emergency vet who confirmed him as quadriplegic, probably due to a neurological problem in his neck.
My vet referred Charlie to Dovecote Veterinary Hospital in Castle Donington for an MRI scan the next day, to see if it would be possible to operate. The scan revealed a prolapsed disc and some other conditions in the vertebrae of his neck, which had compressed and damaged his spinal cord. He had major surgery ,the same day to remove the tops of his vertebrae and decompress the cord.
Unfortunately, Charlie refused to eat for most of the six days he spent in hospital. Whippets are already naturally slender dogs, so Charlie was a worrying sight, but luckily he started eating properly again as soon as we got him home from the hospital. Then we began a long process of rehabilitation.
As he recovered, Charlie had to reroute his neural pathways so he could first roll upright, then stand up and learn to walk again. For the first couple of days I had to drain his bladder using a catheter because he couldn't go to the toilet for himself - that was a new skill for me! Then I had to take him into the garden and hold him upright whenever he wanted to go to the toilet. But he wanted to move around for himself and he gradually got stronger. As the vets constantly reminded me, his recovery would be slow because he's not a young dog - but although it took over three months of hard work to get him properly walking again, the time seemed to fly by.
Charlie's been signed off by the physiotherapist at Dovecote and he's just come back from a short holiday in Wales, where he enjoyed his walks with the other dogs. He's still slightly unsteady on his left front leg, but he doesn't let that stop him running about.
So, happy birthday Charlie. I think we'll celebrate with a quiet night in though, away from all the fireworks.