Viivi’s new beginnings – Life with and after IVDD: written by Mona Leino
Photos & videos: Mona Leino & Tommi Linden
Viivi was 4 years old when the dreaded IVDD–monster changed her life. Viivi is a miniature wire haired dachshund who lives with her best friend Riemu, a standard wire, and their mutual servant Mona. Viivi used to regularly go to shows, do agility as well as Rally Obedience. Every year she also spent a few weeks traipsing up and down the mountains of Finnish Lapland, but the best part of her life was to be able to cuddle up with Riemu on the sofa.
19.5.2014 @ 17.00
The day when my world collapsed and a normal Monday turned into a nightmare.
It was time to take the girls out for their walk, but suddenly, only a short distance from the front door, Viivi sits down. She does not make a sound or show any discomfort, she just stares at me with a look of puzzlement on her little face.
She will not move and carries on staring at me. My gut instinct is telling me that something is seriously wrong, so I pick her up and run back home. I try once more in the front garden to see if she is willing to walk, just in case Little Missy is pulling my leg. Viivi takes a couple of steps but it looks all wrong. I take her in, give her a painkiller and place her in her crate. At 10pm I carry her out for a wee, again she takes a few weird looking steps. I move her crate next to my bed and place her in it to sleep and eventually fall asleep myself.
20.5.2014 @ 06.00 am
I wake up and check on Viivi. She looks to me like a very small lifeless litte girl. She has an expression of despair on her sweet face and her back end is totally paralysed. She does not try to move, she just lies there very still and in silence.
I jump on the phone and call Aisti (animal hospital which specialises in neurological conditions) in Vantaa and am told by the nurse that I will have to call back at 8am. Those are the longest 2hrs of my life, I cannot stop crying, all possible thoughts are flying around my head....is it too late...are there warning signs for IVDD? Just last Saturday we were agility training, swimming on Sunday and there were no signs....why her, why Viivi?
Call Aisti again and within 5 minutes Viivi has an appointment for 11am. My very good friend comes with me as I am worried that I am so upset I will not be able to make the journey safely on my own.
The owner of Aisti, a neuro surgeon, meets us, and for the first time I feel hopeful. They take Viivi in straight away and send her for a MRI scan. We are sent back home.
On the way home, I receive a phone call from the vet, of which, I don't remember much of as the tears were flooding out. Viivi is already in the operating theatre and he will call back after the op is finished. Later that day I receive a call from Aisti telling me that her operation is a success and that she can come home next day.
Aisti call to say that everything is going well and that Viivi will be ready to come home later in the afternoon. I am told that she had tried to sleep on her back already. I go to pick her up with mixed emotions and I cannot lie about how huge my disappointment is when I see her. She isn’t the Viivi I am used to, she is not wagging her tail or acknowledging my presence. Instead there is a very small, indifferent girl with a huge wound on her back. Of course I am aware that she has just gone through a major operation and we have a long road ahead of us, but it is a crushing moment for me. I am given instructions on how to look after my beloved Viivi during her recovery including how to empty her bladder.
21.-22.5. 2014 next 24 hours
The next 24 hours are horrible! Even though I have been told how to care for her, it is all unfamiliar to me. I feel like I do not recognise this dog at all, this is not my Viivi! She is there in body but not in mind. She won’t eat, she won’t drink or move a muscle in her body. She just keeps staring at me. I manage to get some fluids into her using a syringe but she still won’t accept any food or react if I try to get her moving. I knew that she cannot empty her bladder on her own I so try to empty it for her but without any success. I am tired and desperate. I start to second guess myself and wonder if I have made the right decision or if I should have let her go and spared her from this.
“My fear and desperation are changing to hope and expectation. We have a long and difficult road in front of us, but now the only way is up! The apple of my eye will hopefully recover and be my little, beloved, girl again and beat this monster called IVDD, all because of a brilliant neurosurgeon at Aisti!
I hope with all my heart that no-one ever has to go through this experience.
I manage to sort out physio appointments. I have been messaging them from the word go asking this, that and the other, espcially how I can manage to empty her bladder without causing her more distress. Everybody keeps telling me ”you just need to keep going and try try try...easier said than done when you are running on empty and burst into tears at the smallest thing. But I do try and try and try and finally manage to get at least most of her bladder emptied, and then cry again, but this time they are tears of relief.
Viivi - 3 days after her operation (YouTube)
I manage to get a week off work.
Our days now consist of physio – emptying her bladder – and giving her water using a syringe. I am overjoyed when Viivi starts to accept small amounts of food. The next milestone is to see if she is able to go to the toilet all by herself, otherwise we will have to go the vets.
It is the 4th day after her operation and the plaster, which has been giving her pain medication, is removed. A few hours later I am about to pop down to the shops while my friend keeps an eye on both my girls. My famous last words before I leave are ”don’t worry, Viivi doesn’t move on her own anywhere, just keep an eye on her”.
As I am just about to go out of the door, my friend yells ” HELP, IT MOVES”!
That is the end of that shopping trip. Suddenly Viivi is moving. She is able to wee on her own, wag her tail and she even tries to scratch herself.
On the 5th day she goes to the toilet and we cry again. These were the small milestones that made us believe that everything would be ok.
”Viivi is able to stand and walk independently. Restricted exercise up to 4 weeks from op
Aquatherapy started at Aisti, regular attendance, also daily physio exercises reviewed.
Exercise amount increased progressively”
”Viivi has again made slight progress. Ataxia still present in hind legs, this is clearly visible in her slow walk, but she does not drag her hind legs. Back end slides when standing. According to the owner she has been brighter in the evening. Feeling ok. New exercises”
28.7. 2014 physio
”Viivi has been on holiday for 3 weeks, she has been swimming and walking and feeling great. She still has issues with balance and control of her hind legs but she is showing improvement in repetitive tests. Right hind leg is clumsier and clearly weaker. She is in good muscle tone, patella laterally loose in right hind leg. Side movement and arching of the back and spine good.
Exercises as before but add reaching using a raised box, sofa etc. Place front paws higher and hind paws on the floor so that the spine and back are straight, repeat 5 times. As well as walking over ankles, add ladders and fences (low)”
It is four months after the operation now and we all go on a well deserved holiday to Saariselka, Lapland. Both Viivi and Riemu have spent many a trip hiking with us in the past, so this outing has been one of our goals for Viivi’s rehabilitation as well as a reward for everything we have gone through.
We all do 10km hikes on most of the days, one day we managed 19km. Viivi controls the pace and length of the hikes.
She soldiers on and declines any help, determined to do it herself despite her hind legs doing all sorts of side steps. Whenever we try to help or carry her she is having none of it. We all enjoy the fruits of our hard labour.
We are fully aware that this is it, and after returning home, we fall back into the usual routine, daily exercises, aquatherapy and massages for both me and Viivi.
”Viivi is now able to walk over 10km. She manages balance tests very well. When there is more weight on hindlegs and she has to reach there is some shakiness in the right hind leg.
Perceiving her back end is difficult in movements which require the whole body. This is clear also when exercising and in aquatherapy. Viivi has clearly benefitted from physio as well as aqua therapy, her muscles are a lot stronger and stamina is almost back to normal. There is still clear room for improvement on her right hind leg as well as the perception of back end.
9.2.2015 Oh No, not again!
Good weekend behind us, lots of playing in the snow, both Viivi and Riemu enjoyed themselves.
Then, during Monday morning’s walk, suddenly Viivi yelps and stops. Throughout this whole process, she has not made a peep, not even once. Panic starts to creep up my spine ”no, please not again”. I pick her up, give her some pain killer and place her in her crate. I do not want to take any chances so I call Aisti straight away and am given an appointment for the following morning. Next morning both of us walk in to the surgery, Viivi wagging her tail and looking very full of herself.
Her vet asks what’s up and I feel so stupid when I reply to him, nothing by the look of things. I do get a telling off though as he feels that I probably have overdone it with her but there doesn’t seem to be any serious damage. Just to be on the safe side I make an appointment to see the physio so we can see if anything has changed since our last visit.
9 months from the operation. Movement has stayed the same. Right hind leg is weaker than left. There is clear tightness in the muscles around pelvis, neck and shoulders as well as the large muscles on front legs. Trembling when massaged. Situation with spine and back is good and no visible tenderness when spine is being manipulated. Slight stifness between the vertibrae, which eases with gentle manipulation. Viivi might have some changes in her hind legs, which can cause kicking or odd movements when it is cold, this is difficult to test, but can try using boots, if necessary but keep an eye out for sensory irritation.
Most important is to have rest days ifin pain, otherwise normal life and exercise.
19.5.2015 One year after
I still have both of my lovely girls. Viivi enjoys her life to the full. The movement in her hind legs have not fully returned but who cares. Sometimes her legs seem to have a mind of their own and the cold has a clear impact on them, but this does not bother her so why should it bother me. Some of the things that all three of us used to do together are now things for our memories. Things like shows and agility, but we have found lot of new things to do. We run full steam ahead, bark at the little green men and jump on sofas. Basically, life is back to the way it was with one exception, WE APPRECIATE IT MORE as you never know when it will be your last day together.
Grand finale – Rally Obedience
Unofficial Rally Obedience competition in Karkkila, Finland. 20 competitors and, unbelievably, Viivi came third with 95 points out of 100, and I thought we had messed it up. I am so proud of my little heroine.
Alone, this path would have been hard if not impossible and therefore I would like to thank Nora Hagelberg for all her help and support throughout this difficult time
Mona & Viivi
What happened to Viivi and us has not stopped us living our lives to the full. Instead, it has given us the courage to enjoy and cherish every moment as well as trying new things.
Since July 2015 Viivi has taken part in blood tracking competion, successfully completing the two required AVO (open class) by achieving 1st result twice. This will enable her to move on to CH class.
Viivi has also competed in official Rally Obedience tests where she has fully completed ALO class (beginners) and successfully completed 1 AVO (open) class test; 2 more passes required.
All this has shown us that although Viivi has not 100% recovered from the incident, it has not stopped us and it should not stop anyone. There is life after IVDD after all.
Viivi - 2 years after her operation (YouTube)