My Dog Chance – Surviving Laryngeal Paralysis
April 13, 2012. It was supposed to be a relaxing Friday evening after a tough work week. I came home after running errands. I had moved to a new apartment in the West Village the month prior-a small one-bedroom at the end of three flights of the steepest stairs I’ve ever seen.
As per our routine, Chance greeted me at the door with his usual quiet excitement. A furiously wagging tail. A toy in his mouth to give to me. It was a typical Friday night by all accounts. I fed Chance his usual dinner. I had noticed for the past several months that, at times, Chance would make a gasping sound as if he was struggling to breath. I chalked it up to age and didn’t worry to much about it because never seemed serious. Or maybe I was hoping that by ignoring the problem it would just go away. No such luck.
Just prior to getting his dinner on that Friday night, I noticed Chance was gasping again. As usual, he got over it and ate all his food. I then put on his harness for his evening walk and we started down the stairs. After the first flight, he threw up most of his dinner. It was apparent he was in distress. I looked at his mouth and his gums and tongue were turning blue.
I rushed him down the next two flights of stairs as best I could and he threw up again. Once outside, I panicked. He still couldn’t breath and he was starting to stagger. I hoped that we could make it to the corner and I could catch a cab up to the emergency vet in time. Chance staggered the 20 feet to the corner and as he walked into the street, my heart broke. My 100 pound, 10-year old labrador retriever gave up and lay down in the middle of the street. I will never be able to adequately express my feelings when I saw that happen but the best I can say is that it was anguish, sorrow, helplessness and fear all at the same time.
I knelt down beside Chance and stroked his head. I didn’t know what to do so I yelled, “Somebody help me please.” Say what you will about New Yorkers. We may be rude and cold sometimes, but if a fellow New Yorker is in trouble everyone helps. I wish I could thank the woman who made the taxi driver stop and demanded that he take me to the emergency vet. I wish I could thank the two men who picked Chance up and put him in the back of the taxi. I wish I could thank the taxi driver for getting us to the emergency vet so quickly.
After Chance was taken into the emergency clinic, I sat for an hour not knowing what was happening. Finally, the veterinarian told me she thought Chance had canine laryngeal paralysis. LP for short. LP, in very basic terms, occurs when the muscles on either side of the cartilage covering the opening of a dog’s trachea, or windpipe, begin to weaken. In essence, the muscles froze in a closed position and prevented Chance from breathing. I was told that a specialist would be in the clinic the following day to examine Chance and that he should stay over night. Before I left, I went down to see him and quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to say goodbye without causing Chance to have another episode. I quickly left. I went back to my empty, lonely apartment and cried.
The following day I spoke to the specialist. He told me that Chance needed to have surgery immediately. For the operation, the specialist said he would take one side of the frozen muscle and literally tie it back so that it is permanently open. It’s called Laryngeal tie-back surgery. It was an expensive surgery. I had insurance but still had to pay more than $5,000.00 up front. So tell me if this is coincidence or divine intervention looking out for Chance and me? I normally don’t have five grand laying around, but by good luck, good fortune, or God’s hand, someone had paid me enough money earlier that very day for a property transaction that allowed me to cover the surgery costs.
Chance’s surgery took place on Sunday, April 15, 2012. I still couldn’t see him before the surgery because of the triggering effect of my presence getting him excited. Suffice it to say, Sunday afternoon sucked waiting to hear if the surgery was successful and Chance was okay. He came through the surgery with flying colors. In fact, the surgeon did an amazing job.
Of course there is a trade off that comes with the surgery. Chance’s windpipe is now permanently half-way open, He gets half the air flow he used to get. He is also at risk of having food or liquid going into his lungs while eating or via regurgitation or vomit. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia. So every time he throws up (twice so far), I have to watch him for pneumonia symptoms. His condition is also part of a larger neuropathy issue that has started to give him rear leg weakness. So now we are starting several supplements, acupuncture and possibly physical or hydro therapy.
At the end of the day, so what if our walks are a little shorter and a little slower? So what if I keep the apartment at a cool 70 degrees all the time? So what if Chance pants loudly when we go on walks and so what if his bark is now raspy in a Demi Moore kind of way? He is happy. I am happy and it sure beats the hell out of the alternative.
To me, every and each day after April 13th that Chance and I are together is a special day. I don’t take for granted that he is going to greet me at the door after I get off work, because I know that there will be a time when that won’t happen. It could have been that Friday in April. Everyone who has a dog that lives into its senior years comes to the realization that it can’t last forever. Know this: The love your dog gives you is unique.
There is no other animal or person other than a dog who truly gives you unconditional love and undying devotion. The two of us have a finite time together and I promised that Friday night in April that if God would let me have Chance just a little longer, I would make sure that every day after that, he would know he is loved.
Please visit my blog on living in New York City with my 100 pound Labrador retriever.