Friday, November 25, 2011

Old Dog Makes Another Comeback

Kelsey and Jax this evening. Note the shaved places on Kelsey's forelegs: they were for intravenous ports' insertion during his time under general anesthesia three days ago.

About a year and a half ago, we had a cancer scare with old Kelsey-the-Dog. Further testing ultimately showed that the scary initial test results were due to something considerably less dire.

This week we had another big "whew" episode with our stalwart friend and guardian of Fort Harrington. A couple of weeks before, he had developed a bit of a yeast infection in both ears, and his veterinarian put him on a course of topical antibiotics for ten days. By the time we took him in for a follow-up, it was clear that he had lost all hearing in both ears.

That follow-up visit with the vet was three days ago, the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving. The infection had cleared up completely -- but his ears were hurting him so badly that a standard visual inspection proved impossible, even with me and a burly vet tech gently but firmly trying to keep him immobile. Since he had recently had a routine blood panel that showed good kidney function, we decided to put him under general anesthesia to try to see if the cause of the pain and deafness could be ascertained.

He made it through the anesthesia well (though it ultimately took him two days to shake the unsteadiness and grogginess) -- but no progress was made on diagnosis. The vet took a head x-ray while he was unconscious, and made arrangements for consultation with a radiologist next week.

I picked him up on Wednesday morning, and the vet was convinced -- as was I -- that his deafness was complete and permanent. We had a short conversation about coping strategies for living with a deaf, aged dog, and I took him home. I made a brief post about his condition on Facebook before heading off to work.

When I came home after work that night, the poor guy was shaky and miserable. Diane said that she had tried all sorts of test noises during the day, and he hadn't responded visibly to any of them. I took him outside to do his business in the darkened front yard.

While we were out, someone up the hollow whooped and hollered at something, the noise echoing down the draw. I glanced at Kelsey, and saw he had his head up, alert in his standard vigilant-alert pose. He was ahead of me and to my right, about ten yards separating us. I clapped my hands once, hard.

His head whipped around. The wrong way, but it whipped around nonetheless.

That night, we continued making noises, testing him and confusing the spaniels mightily. Some things he seemed to notice, most not.

Thanksgiving day was a different story. Hourly, it seemed, his responses to sounds increased. By evening, he seemed to be almost completely back to normal, and today, "Black Friday," the recovery seems to be complete. Not only that, but the pain is gone, too.

We have another appointment with his vet tomorrow, and it will be interesting to hear what she has to say. My completely unprofessional guess is this: he's a geriatric dog (the chart on the vet's wall says that a rough human equivalent age to his is 85), so maybe his body just doesn't recuperate as quickly now after things like infections as it used to. Whatever the reason, he's shown his resilience once again, and we had a much happier Thanksgiving for it.

He's still hard of listening sometimes, but he's always been like that. I think it's the Akita in him; they have a reputation of hard-headedness.