Today Dominie earned her wheels. Last Autumn (September/October 2008) Dominie, then fourteen years old, was having enormous difficulty walking, because of acute discospondylitis. Her front legs were fine but the back legs were not cooperating so that the front legs worked extra fast to compensate for the weakness of the hind legs. The net result was that because her very strong front end was trying to compensate for the weaker hind she would overbalance and fall on her nose. Also the back paws were 'knuckling' – the messages reaching her hind legs were not telling them to lift highly enough so that her paws were bent under and she was not walking on her pads. A course of NSAIDS gave her relief and, once she'd stopped it, allowed her to heal. We bought a 'Ruffwear' vest – absolutely wonderful! It saved my back from further strain and so pleased were we that we bought a spare harness on the principle of 'one on, one in the wash'. By Christmas Dominie was walking strongly enough to undertake an hour's walk.
Recently, though, she has deteriorated and though keen to accompany all her canine friends on their outings, she has found it increasingly difficult to stagger along and it has been no fun for her, or us, effectively to carry her for most of the walk. Today we set her in her wheeled carriage - a harness supports her hind legs, though they still touch the ground and make the walking movements, and the front half of her body is released from carrying the back end. Once Dominie had realised that she could now move freely she rushed along through the forest, only overbalancing once when she stopped for a particularly attractive sniff. It was wonderful for her to be independent again and now she is sleeping deeply, having relished her supper.
We know it can't be long before our gentle Dominie travels on but for now she is happy, alert, alive to everything and everyone around her, greeting all her many friends with her chirruping, warbling welcome. We wish for her, as for all our loved ones, human and non-human, a peaceful, pain-free slipping into a final sleep in her own home, surrounded by familiar things.
Tomorrow we venture forth again and hope this time the other dogs don't get tangled in the wheels of Dominie's magical carriage.