I did not seek out a special needs dog. I really wanted something easy.
Killian was “whole” when I picked him out, sight unseen, on Petfinder. I completed my application and paid my fee, and made my plans to drive the 250 miles to the shelter to pick him up. The day before I picked him up I received a phone call. Killian was not walking on his back legs. They wanted to know if I still wanted him. I called every veterinarian I knew, I googled the condition, and I decided that I would bring him home anyway. I drove down the next day and picked him up. At his first exam, my veterinarian informed me that it was extremely unlikely that Killian would ever walk again, but that he could still live a long and happy life.
One in every five dachshunds is born with IVDD (intervertebral disk disease). It is common in all long back dogs, but especially so in these silly little dogs I love so much. Some dogs have a little wobble when they walk, but Killian had a bad case where he had lost all feeling in his body from the middle of his back down. IVDD dogs are born with this condition. It is a ticking time bomb in these little dogs, and when that bomb goes off you can end up with some terrible decisions to make. Many dogs do well with crate rest and pain management. Some require one or more surgeries. Some, like Killian, never recover. Some don’t survive.
The first order of business was to learn how to express Killian’s bladder. For two weeks I had to change clothes and shower after each attempt, but I finally mastered the art of getting him to pee without getting it all over me. I bought diapers in bulk, and spent a lot of time cleaning up after him.
I also found that the shelter had exaggerated about how friendly Killian was. He was a major resource guarder, and needed a lot of work. He was not grateful that I had rescued him. He didn’t seem to trust me at all. He was not a happy little dog. But the pain was gone. When the IVDD did its worst, Killian was blessed with a total loss of sensation from the middle of his back down.
An aggressive IVDD dog is a whole different ballgame than what I was used to. Killian had only his head to communicate his feelings to me. I had to watch carefully to be sure that I was reading him right. I fed Killian by hand for several weeks after he came home. I wanted him to know that my hands meant that good things were going to happen.
I continued to care for him and give him ear scratches that he could no longer give himself. When he had a resource, I found something even better and traded with him. He gradually learned to trust me. When his eight weeks of crate rest was over, I placed him in the cart that had been donated by Carolina Loving Hound Rescue. Before I could get him strapped in, he was off!
I discovered all sorts of new things about Killian once he was up and about. He is very alert, very curious, and extremely playful. His favorite game is fetch, and he will play for hours if you let him. He is also mischievous, and seems to have a sense of humor. He is an intelligent little dog, and I am happy to say we are now crazy about each other.
IVDD is a serious condition that is common in these wonderful little dogs. It is usually not a death sentence. Killian seems not to even notice that he is paralyzed. It takes a little extra care than an average dog, but I am so glad that I did not walk away. I am three years into my adventure with Killian. I have zero regrets about adopting him. He has some secondary medical conditions, but he is happy, and I love him to the moon and back.
Dawn Gardner lives in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas with her ten dogs, her donkey, and several other two and four legged critters. Dawn has been training dogs since 1998. In 2008 she started Happy Hound Pet Services, a dog training and behavioral consulting company now located in Northwest Arkansas. Dawn has worked extensively with dogs with anxiety disorders and aggression. She is also the behavioral consultant for CBHR, a breed rescue out of South Carolina. Dawn is a graduate of Animal Behavior College. She holds the CPDT-KA certification through the only nationally recognized and accredited agency for certifying dog trainers, the CCPDT. She is a professional Member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Pet Professionals Guild, and Modern Dog Trainers. She is also the founder and director of the River Valley Dog Training Club in Fort Smith, Arkansas.