In early February 2010, my black lab gave birth to a litter of nine puppies. It was her first litter, and my wife and I were delighted to see nine healthy puppies and a healthy mother. However, our good fortune was short lived.
Approximately one week later, my wife noticed that one of the puppies had no use of its back legs. We immediately took the puppy to our local vet who said the legs were bruised and gave him a steroid shot to speed up the healing. There was no improvement in his state, so there was a second visit with the puppy to the vet. He took X-rays and determined that nothing was broken; he was just born paralyzed from the waist down. We were given the options at three weeks of age to either raise him as a paralytic or euthanize him. We brought him home to raise him and to love him.
We named him Dex, after the shot of dexamethasone that the vet gave him in an attempt to heal his legs. Dex had to drag his legs behind him to move around. Eating and playing with his siblings was difficult as best. We were instructed to perform daily physical therapy with him in attempt to prevent any muscle atrophy in the back legs, and we did it faithfully several times a day. His life was hard, and many tears were shed watching him drag himself around.
A few weeks later, Dex seemed ill. He was sluggish, and a terrible odor was coming from his legs. Tiny sores began to develop on the rear legs from dragging them around. When we tried to bathe him, his toes and toenails began to fall out one by one. That was a long night waiting for the sun to rise so we could head out for the vetís office.
Our vet said that there was nothing he could do. His legs were basically rotting off of him, and we should have euthanized him when we were given the option several weeks earlier. Desperate and crushed, we took our sick puppy home with us.
In a last attempt, we found a pet hospital an hour away and took a very sick Dex there for help. The staff there was great, but the options were devastating. Apparently, Dexís mother had stepped on him as a one week old puppy and had dislocated his hips and broken his two legs. Blood supply to the limbs had been compromised, and thatís why his legs had deteriorated almost overnight. The physical therapy we had been doing was in vain. A double amputation was mandatory or a sure death from sepsis was imminent. My wife and I told the vet to do whatever it took to save him.
Dex pulled through both amputations beautifully. However, what does one do with a two-legged lab? The amputations were too high up to fit him with a prosthesis. Labs are active and to limit his mobility to two legs was cause for concern.
Perhaps this is where I should talk about Dexís fighter spirit and his larger than life drive. He is by far the happiest dog Iíve ever met, and he was retrieving even when he was dragging two useless legs behind him. He doesnít realize that he is different, and he has the playful nature of any lab puppy. He has never had a day of depression or hesitation throughout the pain and hardships that he has experienced. He is truly an inspiration.
After much research, we located Walkiní Wheels, a company that manufactures wheelchairs for dogs. We purchased one, and it has changed all of our lives forever. This chair has given Dex his life back by giving him the gift of mobility. He can keep up with other dogs just fine, and he loves to go on long walks with us. He is a messy swimmer, but a swimmer nonetheless. He even enjoys chasing his Maltese sister around the island in the kitchen!
Dex has changed our lives for the better. He has taught us to never give up. He knows no limitations. He adjusts to whatever life throws at him. I hope you have enjoyed his story, and I hope you think about him the next time you have a bad day. Iíve attached a link of him retrieving from You Tube. We know it will make you smile.