On the phone, in emails and in person, the first thing my friends, many of you and my family ask is “How is Orchid?” So, I thought I would give you an update on my delicious pooch.

Last year, after a rabies shot, Orchid started to limp. This was the beginning of Orchid’s downward health spiral. This was the beginning of our 100% dedication to keep her with us as long as possible. I did most of the work. My husband gave me all of his support. He has been my partner throughout the whole ordeal. I know Orchid knows. I see it in her big black eyes as she looks at us as if to say, “Thank you for helping me.”

My dog’s diagnosis

I took her to the vet who suggested a pill for arthritis. He decided to check her liver and kidney enzymes before he prescribed the medication. After a liver biopsy, we were told Orchid had too much copper in her liver. The course of action I took to rid her body of copper was a diet without copper and six pills each day. Some of the pills had to be given with food and some without any food. I also investigated dog food brands and table foods without copper and finally sent all of Orchid’s records the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center’s nutrition department for evaluation. Taking into consideration her weight, the amount of copper in her liver and her breed, a diet of all table foods was prescribed for Orchid. The diet did not go over well with Orchid so I started my own search. There is only one brand that has a kibble made without copper, Royal Canin. The foods with the least amount of copper are turkey and chicken without the skin. My diet for Orchid is one cup of kibble, twice daily, mixed with a handful of diced chicken or turkey cooked on my stove top in a Teflon skillet.

The vet said her liver count would never be normal. 

Over the next several months Orchid underwent monthly blood tests to check her liver enzyme count and I was diligent about her diet and pills. One pill at 6 a.m. without food and an hour wait for her breakfast, three pills after she ate, and two pills before dinner. If we left town for a few days, her pills were divided up in special plastic baggies with the time written on each bag. I was dedicated and determined to help my pooch. Over the course of several months, her pills were brought down to four a day; the two at night were no longer needed. And, then, I got the shock of a lifetime: Orchid’s liver enzyme count was normal. Don’t bother bringing her back until May for another blood test. My little heart sang with joy.

Orchid’s ordeal is not over: ALS

Last May, I noticed Orchid dragging her foot on the leg she had the shot in. I heard her toenails on our wood floor. I took her to the vet. After many expensive tests we were told Orchid did not have a tumor on her spine, a slipped disc or fluid on her spine. The only possibility left was called Degenerative Myelopathy, which is similar in many ways to ALS. We sent her DNA to the University of Missouri for a diagnosis. Unfortunately for Orchid, she carried the gene. There is no cure. Orchid is a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier and she is stricken with a fatal disease that is more commonly found in German Shepherds, Welsh Corgis and boxers, among others. I cried for weeks. I mourned my pooch. I did not give up on her. We could not save her life, but we could lengthen her life and we are doing this with a vengeance. Acupuncture, physical therapy and salt water swimming classes began immediately. We bought her a little red Radio Flyer Wagon to pull her around, special leashes to help hold her up when she had to go to the bathroom. We stopped traveling. Orchid’s survival was first and foremost our number one priority. The vet told us she could live another three months. It has now been seven full months and and Orchid is with us, even traveling through O’Hare Airport in a wheelchair to make our flight to California.

Are we doing the right thing by keeping her with us?

We are definitely doing the right thing by not putting Orchid down. I would describe her as a child with polio. Her back legs, especially her leg that was inoculated, is numb and the other is partially numb. She cannot take walks, she drags herself half standing around our home or I help her with a strap I bought that holds up her back legs and she uses her front legs to walk. I take her from room to room with me because she needs socialization and the feeling of our love. Her appetite is huge, she drinks tons of water, wags her tail, loves her treats and of course is probably wondering why she can no longer run to greet us at the door. She barks when she hears strange sounds and cries if she needs my help.  Under no circumstances will we put Orchid Good down.

Life is difficult for us physically and emotionally and I know Orchid is not the happy pooch she once was.  But, my darlings, life is full of challenges and each of us must decide our limitations. We have decided our life without Orchid would be far worse than our life with her.

My relationship with my pooch is even closer.  We are glued at the hip and it feels wonderful. I look at her and I am filled with joy. And, so is my husband. And she looks up at us as if to say, “Thank you for your loving dedication.” I look at her often and say, “Thank you for making my heart sing.”

If only we could all behave like our pooches. So loving all the time, so kind all the time, so accepting all the time and, most important, so wise all the time.

Off to feed Orchid. It has been an hour since I gave her the pill she takes an hour before her breakfast of skinless chicken cubes, kibble without copper, water and kisses. Those kisses go on all day.