Gus Miracle by Janice Mann-Clay
When you look at his sweet face and sparkling eyes, it is hard to believe that a month ago we were talking about possibly having to put Gus down. He was so sick that we were afraid that he would not survive, and if he did he would be so incapacitated that he would need constant care.
Gus is a lovely dog, a pedigre Braque who arrived at our finca 3 or 4 years ago. Somehow he had lost his previous owner and arrived in quite a state. We looked after him and got him cleaned up and well again, and expected that he would wander off again. Gus it seems decided that he had had enough of wandering and preferred to stay with us. He fit himself into our family of three other dogs and 4 birds and a rabbit. Little by little he became a beloved member of our family.
Most days we enjoyed taking the dogs for a morning walk on a quiet country track where they are reasonably safe and can be free to run around the woods that surround the track. Gus was a joy to watch as he galloped up the track and leaped over stone walls, ears flapping and tongue hanging out.
One day Gus seemed a bit tired on our walk, not in his usual high spirits. He walked by my side most of the way. The next day he hardly wanted to go for a walk at all. We couldn’t see any problem but this was so out of character, that we felt there was clearly something wrong with him. We brought him to Ma Conxa’s veterinary practice, and spoke to one of the other vets. He looked Gus over but could not find anything particularly wrong with him. He gave him a cortisone injection and off we went.
The next day, Gus was worse. His back legs seemed weak, and he did not seem able to stand for long. Gus had stopped eating and drinking so we had started to give him water with a syringe every half hour or so. The next day, 4 days into the illness, Gus could hardly stand up, and kept collapsing when he tried. We went back to see Ma Conxa, as we were getting quite worried. Ma Conxa checked him over again. Clearly there was something wrong, as his legs were very weak, but there were no signs that would say what was causing the problem.
The next night at about eleven, we were preparing to go to bed, when we realized that Gus could not get up at all. He had no strength in his front or back legs. We called Ma Conxa and brought Gus to her home straight away, because to be truthful, we were not sure that Gus would make it thru the night. He was not sick or vomiting, he did not have a fever, or any thing that would point to the cause of this malady, but there was clearly some sort of attack on his nervous system. He had no feeling or reflexes and no strength in his limbs, he could not move. It seemed that Gus had no muscular control below his neck. His central nervous system had been severly attacked.
We both feared that we were losing him, he was such a lovely dog, and given us a great deal of pleasure since his arrival. We were both in tears, and worried sick. How can a dog survive in this state, we wondered?
Ma Conxa suggested that she do some acupuncture on Gus, and said that it had helped in other situations. We were a bit unsure, but we were happy to try this. Ma Conxa did the first acupuncture treatment there and then, in the garage of her home at 11:30 at night, with Joan as assistant. Gus didn’t notice anything. We took him home, carrying him in his bed and hoped for the best while fearing the worst. We agreed to bring Gus to the veterinary office, for a further treatment in 3 days. I think we were all wondering if Gus would still be alive then.
Gus was still not eating or drinking anything, and was not much interested in what we tried to feed him. Sometimes he would swallow the water we squirted into his mouth, and sometimes it would just drip out again.
One amazing thing was that during his entire illness, Gus’s eyes remained bright and knowing, and this encouraged us to continue our efforts. Each day, several times a day we stretched and massaged his legs to try to keep his muscles moving. We carried him from room to room, inside and out to give him things to look at. He was still interested in all the activities going on outside. When the other dogs started barking and running off to fight phantom enemies, Gus tried to join them, and could not comprehend that he could not get up. We tried to hold him up so he could have a pee, trying to give him hints, and things to smell, but it didn’t work. He didn’t pee or poo for quite a while.
One of us was always with him. For over 3 weeks we didn’t leave him. We brought him back to Ma Conxa and he had more acupuncture with a low amount of electroacupuncture to stimulate his nervous system and muscles. There seemed no real response from Gus, but we knew that acupuncture is a quiet worker.
It was mentioned that if he didn’t improve we might have to think of putting Gus down. We knew that caring for Gus as we had been, was not sustainable for any length of time. However, Gus’s eyes where still bright and we thought he was still with us in spirit, so every time we saw the Vet Ma Conxa, we agreed that we were not ready to give up.. ‘A few more days’ we kept saying, though we didn’t imagine what would happen.
At one acupuncture session I realized that if Gus was ‘wedged’ in a certain position he could hold up his head. I thought that if we tried this at home Gus might manage to drink and eat a bit by himself. This definitely helped, he started to drink water by himself, but he was still not very interested in food, not even pernil dolç (cooked ham), which he would eat reluctantly.
It was our custom to give each of the dogs a chew bar to settle them in their beds for the night. Even though Gus showed no interest in food, his eyes lit up when he knew chew bars were on the way. We could tell that he definitely wanted his chew bar. He gulped it down and looked up with those imploring eyes, for another. Of course he got it! We started using chew bars to tempt him to eat. Not only did we give him fresh chicken, and pernil dolç, and salami.. and all the things we could think of to tempt him, we started him off with a chew bar, so he got the idea of eating. We put some chew bar in his food, to get him to put his nose into the dinner plate, and it worked! His enthusiasm for the chew bar, showed us that his will to live, and excitement and zest for life was still there and it again encouraged us not to give up.
That’s when things began to turn around. Gus began to drink and eat a bit at a time. He still could not control his body muscles and after a while he would flop over, but he could do it himself! I think that he began to feel better in himself.
Meanwhile, he had started peeing, but he could not control himself, which you could see he didn’t understand, and hated. We had to wash him and change his bed, sometimes 5 times a day. At this point, the washing machine never stopped. We were also constantly trying to devising easier ways to move Gus around and care for him, as he was too heavy (17k) to carry or for either one of us to move by our selves.
He continued to have acupuncture treatments every 3 or 4 days. I have lost count how many treatments he had or what medication and vitamins he had in addition to the acupuncture treatments. And of course, we continued to exercise and stretch his legs many times a day.
Then one day, while we were exercising Gus’s legs, we started to feel some resistance. At first I thought it was my imagination, but the resistance continued and we began to sense it in other legs as well. We had been laying him on a comfy mat rather than in his bed, as it gave him more room, and made it easier for us to move him around. Suddenly we realized that Gus was no longer in the position that we had left him. He had managed to manouver himself around the mat. WOW. He still could not stand up or even sit up, but he could move! From then on we left a water bowl for him, only slightly out of reach to encourage him to move to it.
The next time we saw Ma Conxa for another acupuncture treatment there was a bit more improvement. Gus could hold himself up on his back legs for a few seconds, and then he would collapse, but this was a great improvement. Ma Conxa continued acupuncture treatments and we continued stretching and massaging his legs, and Gus continued to improve!
We again brought him outside to try to get him to pee outside, but Gus still either could not control this, or he didn’t understand what we wanted him to do, and could not pee with us holding him up.
Then one day he got up and walked on very shaky legs, a meter from us and had a pee, walked back and collapsed. The following day he walked a bit further and had a poo, but couldn’t get back. We could hardly believe our eyes and rushed to carry him back. Each day Gus continued to improve. So much so that at our next acupuncture treatment, we carried him in the surgery in his bed as usual, but Gus stood up and sang hello to Ma Conxa, Nati and Ani.
Now you would hardly believe Gus could have been so ill. Every day the dogs wake us up excitedly reminding us that it is time to go for our walk. I don’t even mind, as it is such a pleasure to see all the dogs especially Gus enjoying themselves on the track, a sight we feared we would not see again.
We have changed his name to Gus Miracle. And of course he is officially the most pampered dog you can imagine. We thank Ma Conxa, Nati and Ani for the wonderful acupuncture treatments that revived and stimulated Gus’s nervous system, and which were, no doubt, instrumental in Gus’s recovery from this mysterious and frightening illness. At our last treatment, our beautiful Gus walked in and sang to each of the team, Ma Conxa, Nati and Ani , as I’m sure he will every time he sees them. We all thank them for his miracle recovery!