Four years ago, I wrote a blog post detailing how Ellie became Ellie the Wonder Dog after being diagnosed with intervertebral disk disease (IVDD).
Four years later, here I am writing another blog post. This time, it is Kingston. This time, it is also IVDD. But this time, it is going to have a different outcome — I was determined.
The weekend started like any other weekend…
APRIL 20 at 10am: The dogs and I are a little slower to get up, but we finally did and went about our usual morning routine, just like any other day.
APRIL 20 at 2:30pm: I had plans with some friends, so I took Kingston out for a quick walk at an earlier time than usual. Like I always do before leaving the house, I told them, “I’ll be back!”
APRIL 20 at 10pm PT: And back I was. The dogs greeted me at the door, like they always do. So far, it was just another day — nothing was out of the ordinary.
There was a game coming down to the wire with only a minute left when I got home, so I thought I’d finish it first before taking the dogs out again. Both Ellie and Kingston were on the floor, but Ellie, per usual, wanted to sit on the couch with me. I picked her up and I heard a yelp. I wasn’t 100% sure who it was, but I assumed it was Ellie since I heard it right when I picked her up. After Kingston jumped on the couch, I noticed he was shaking and was kind of sinking into the cushions. I shrugged it off, as the game ended seconds later and it was time to take the dogs outside.
Like most dogs, Kingston would normally pee first and then poop. He pooped first, but I thought maybe he just had to REALLY go — he only peed earlier. But when I took him to his usual spots to pee, he didn’t go, not even tinkle. This raised my eyebrows because this is the dog who likes to mark his territory and pee like three times during the same walk, let alone last going seven hours ago. He kept looking at me like he was ready to go back inside, so I skeptically obliged.
Kingston went straight to his crate. I didn’t think too much of this because he does like to rest around this time of the night anyway. I told him to come out though so we could have some cuddle or play time. He came out and went straight to one of the dog beds. Out of nowhere, he started panting. Now, this was also abnormal. He usually only pants when it’s hot, but it was not at all. I offered him water, but he didn’t want any. I moved a little away from him and told him, “Come here!” He did. Except something looked off. His back side looked funny. Now, I started to think maybe that yelp earlier was actually Kingston, not Ellie. As I went upstairs to tell my roommate about it, he tried to follow me up, like he always does, but only made it up three steps. Barely. Clearly, something was wrong. We went downstairs and kept telling him to walk around so we can see what’s going on.
My initial thought was that maybe he sprained his leg or something and maybe I can wait until the morning to bring him to the vet. But as we kept looking at him, we realized his back side looked wobbly and arched. At this point, something was telling me I should bring him to the hospital now.
APRIL 20 at 11:15pm: I arrived at a 24/7 animal hospital nearby. He was able to walk, but still wobbly. They brought him in to check his vitals and then we waited until a doctor was able to talk to us. I held him the entire time because I didn’t want him to have to sit on the hard floor, fearing that it will cause him even more discomfort.
APRIL 21 at 12:30am: Kingston and I finally got called into the exam room. I started explaining everything that had happened, even telling her I had to pick up Ellie because she has IVDD. And that’s when she stopped me and said, “Wait, your other dog has IVDD?” “Yeah.” “Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry. I was just going to tell you that he might have a disc…” I could tell that she was prepared to break it all down, but realized she didn’t quite have to, at least to the extent of explaining it to someone who is hearing this type of problem for the very first time. I felt a sense of concern from her, but also a maybe little bit of relief. I don’t blame her — it was very hard for me when it happened to Ellie.
At first, she was going to offer medication and have us wait until the morning when a neurologist would be available to see Kingston. I asked her if there are any other options because that is exactly what happened with Ellie — she lost sensation in her back legs while being monitored at a hospital overnight, waiting for a neurologist to come in the next day. She understood and said I could go to a hospital in San Francisco or Davis now because they actually have neurologists on staff. She explained the differences of going to each and ultimately recommended San Francisco because it is a lot closer. I called my sister and asked her to come with me.
APRIL 21 at 2:30am: We arrived in San Francisco. It wasn’t busy here, so they took him in and gave him an injection right away. While we were waiting in the exam room, things suddenly became so familiar. He was drugged up and in pain, and had this helpless look in his eyes while panting. This was the exact face that Ellie had when we first visited her post-surgery. It’s like they’re there, but not really there at the same time. They brought out a dog bed for him while we waited so he’d be more comfortable. The way he was sitting? Just how Ellie does now.
The doctor said that he is indeed in pain, but hides it very well, which sounds like that tough cookie Kingston I know. She said the neurologist already had two surgeries booked later that day, so they couldn’t guarantee he’d be able to have surgery until possibly Monday, should he need it. She mentioned two other hospitals with neurologists, one in Redwood City and one in Davis. She checked with Davis and found out that while the surgery availability might be similar to theirs, they do have more neurologists on staff and should he lose sensation during after-hours, they have the ability to perform an emergency surgery. At this point, I knew I had to bring him to Davis. Staying and potentially having to wait until Monday did not sit well with me or my sister — he seemed like he was already getting worse and it has only been a few hours.
We haven’t slept at all and I didn’t know what to expect once I got to Davis. You see, Davis is over an hour away from home, so it’s not really practical to go back and forth as needed. All kinds of questions ran through my head. Would we have to stay there all day with him? Would we have to check into a hotel? Do we know anyone who lives there? If we aren’t able to go home until much later, who is going to take care of Ellie when she wakes up, given her special needs? Regardless, I knew we just had to go and and we can figure it all out later, whatever it may be.
APRIL 21 at 4:45am: We arrived in Davis. On our way here, my sister sat in the back with Kingston. He was tense and stood against the seat the entire drive, which again, was over an hour long. She tried to get him to relax, but he wouldn’t budge.
The San Francisco doctor had spoken with them, so they were already expecting us. For the third time, we went through the same process of vital-checking and explaining. We knew this was it though. There were no more places to go to — this is where he is going to be. They explained that the neurologist will come in at 8am, check on all the patients, and assess what needs to be done that day. That could mean an MRI will be done later that day or maybe Monday, depending on what the doctor thinks.
While we were talking, he was panting in our arms. But when we handed him off, his mood immediately changed — it was almost like a pout. This is classic Kingston. Normally, he’d fight back with the idea of a stranger holding him, but he was probably in too much pain and high on drugs to have the energy to do so. I knew that this is the best scenario for him though, so while it was a little sad, I was at peace.
After doing some more paperwork, we found out we were free to go home and have the doctor call us instead of waiting to speak in person.
APRIL 21 at 7:30am: We finally arrived home. I have been up since 10am and drove all night/morning — I felt so relieved to finally be able to lie in bed and sleep.
APRIL 21 at 10am: I was dead asleep until I heard the phone ring. It was the doctor. They had both my number and my sister’s, but we were both too knocked out to hear the first few times they called, until this one. He explained that because Kingston’s condition progressed so quickly from seeming normal to what it is now, he recommended doing an MRI today. After that, I couldn’t really sleep anymore. I just accepted the fact that I only had 2.5 hours in the past two days.
APRIL 21 at 11:45am: The doctor called again and said the MRI shows that it is indeed a problem with his disc and recommended going into surgery now. Based on the results, the surgery should be achievable and I should expect another call maybe around 2:30pm or so. I was told not to worry if I don’t hear back at that time because no news is usually good news.
APRIL 21 at 2:45pm: The Warriors game had been on, so I was watching while trying to keep my attention off the clock. I couldn’t help but notice when the clock struck 2:30pm though. I kept watching the game and told myself to stop looking at the clock. It was hard.
APRIL 21 at 3:45pm: I FINALLY received the call. I was getting worried. Yes, no news is good news, but they should’ve been done almost an hour ago, so of course, I was worried something did happen. He explained what they did during the surgery, which I admit I couldn’t fully understand, partly because I just want him to tell me if Kingston is OK and if he’s going to recover. He said the surgery went well and that the prognosis looks good. He will have to stay there for at least 2–5 days, depending on how quickly he recovers. What a relief.
APRIL 21 at 6:50pm – APRIL 24 at 9pm: I received calls every morning and every night. He was progressing, going from being too drugged up, to be moved out of the ICU, to being moved to the neurology ward, to slowly regaining some strength in his back legs.
APRIL 25 at 9am: I finally received that call — he can go home. They’ve been waiting for him to be able to pee on his own before he can come home and he finally did. I told them that I would pick him up the next day.
APRIL 26 at 12pm: I arrived in Davis. They explained everything and answered all of my questions — what happened, what they did during the surgery, why it happened, and how to help him recover at home. It was indeed IVDD causing spinal cord compression, which made him painful and weak in the back. It is genetic, as we believe he is part dachshund, and can happen basically at any time, with or without any repeated or significant trauma. The great news is that he has a prognosis of 90% recovery of motor function.
APRIL 26 at 12:30pm: I was reunited with my Kingston. He was as happy as he can be. His partial walk and lack of strength in the back legs is very reminiscent of Ellie, but they said because I caught it on and they acted upon it so early, he has a great chance of recovering. They said recovery can take up to six months, but given the progress they have seen so far, they think it will just be another month or two.
APRIL 26 at 3pm: Kingston finally reunited with Ellie. He was on the floor, and I felt his tail wagging so hard when he saw Ellie. I know Ellie had missed him, just as I did.
It has been one week since Kingston has been home and he has already made so much progress. During the first few days, he seemed like he just wanted to rest. He didn’t have too much strength in the back legs, but there was a little something. I even saw him try to scratch his ear — it was slow and gentle, but it was something, and something that Ellie is unable to do on her own.
His progress has ramped up in the past 2–3 days though. He is a lot more alert and I can tell he wants to be more active, but he has to be restricted for another five weeks, other than going outside to do his business, to be safe and for strong recovery. He’s now able to use his back legs to scratch almost at the same pace and strength as he did before the surgery. He has been able to stand longer without help and don’t curl his paws as much. And just yesterday, for the first time in week since he came home, he did what I like to call his little song and dance:
More singing, less dancing, but still a lot of tail wagging in this video — he actually looked and sounded even more like his old self after this video was shot. It is just so good to see my Kingston slowly, but surely, being Kingston again.
I learned so much from Ellie’s experience four years ago that I knew what I had to do to prevent history from repeating itself, even if it meant making some sacrifices. And I did exactly just that. And because I did exactly just that, Kingston is now progressing toward a full recovery.
We’re all rooting for ya, bud. May the fourth be with you.