By Rod Clough
It is a beautiful sunny morning in Kamloops this day, and I have just tied off my two Alaskan Malamutes to their stage lines in anticipation of a fun day of dogsledding at Sunpeaks mountain. Looking at the excitement in their eyes, I am slightly overwhelmed by the feeling of satisfaction I have seeing my dogs in their true element. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what they were born to do! The local dogsled tour operators, Chris and Taryn have been gracious enough to hook up a guide team to show us around and as we wait in anticipation the realization comes over me, how far we have truly come to arrive here! It was just over one year ago that the youngest of the two, Jade began on a journey that would challenge her far more than any day of sledding possibly could.
I had taken a weeks vacation from work when my wife Tannis and I first picked up Jade to ensure that her transition into our home would go smoothly, and for the first few days everything appeared to be going great. Jade had a new companion with her older sister Skaya whom we had acquired from our friends Sue and Roy from Mountain home Malamutes a year or so earlier and they were getting along famously. I decided that since I was home for the week that I would take Jade into the vet and get her checkup completed. Jade had recently been given the rabies vaccine , which was required in order for her to cross the border into Canada and this was clearly explained to my vet. After some discussion, I decided that I should do “the right thing” for my new friend and get the additional vaccines that were recommended. We live on a heavily forested piece of acreage that all of my dogs enjoy, its a fantastic place for them to live but there is the usual assortment of mice, rabbits, bats, owls, coyotes etc. in our area so I wanted to be sure she was properly protected and agreed based on his advice.
Later that afternoon Jade had appeared quite tired, which I thought was merely from the big outing to the vet earlier that day but I called the vet back and inquired just to be sure, and they advised to watch her condition and call in the morning if the condition worsened at all. That evening Jade turned from simply a tired puppy to a lethargic “wobbly” dog, and we could see that she was having trouble co-ordinating the movements to her back legs. The next morning we were back to the vet, she was thoroughly examined and my vet made the determination that Jade most likely had some kind of Spinal trauma and prescribed Prednisone for her to reduce any swelling.. Another sleepless (for us) night passed and poor Jades condition continued to deteriorate so we were back again to the vet who went out of his way for us on a Sunday and x-rayed her extensively but found nothing. Tannis and I were feeling slightly relieved that at least we hadnʼt let Jade get hurt in her first week with us, but admittedly were very upset by all of this. We have had dogs all of our lives, always gave them the best possible care, and had never hesitated on our vets words of advise for our dogs. Now we were being told that exploratory Nuero surgery would be the only Medical option, which even my vet agreed just wasnʼt practical, and was the end of the road for us as far as the “accepted” medical advise was concerned. My vet did acknowledge the possibility of this being related to the recent vaccinations, and offered to inquire with the pharmaceutical company.
Through all of this we had been in constant contact with Sue who had considered from the start that Jades condition could be the result of the vaccinations. Fortunately she had a contact in world renowned pet vaccination expert Dr. Jean Dodds, who was able to provide some answers right away. She described Jades condition as the “perfect storm” and explained that the combination of stress caused by Jades recent relocation, change in diet, the initial rabies vaccination, then the additional vaccinations, and finally the Prednisone as contributors. She recommended that we start treatment with the oral homeopathics, Thuja (for all vaccines other than rabies), and Lyssin to detox the rabies “miasm” as soon as possible and we did not hesitate. (Important note – Dr. Dodds felt that having the remedies given to Jade in her system within 24 hours was of great importance, unfortunately almost two weeks had passed since Jades initial Rabies vaccinations and at least 1 week after the additional vaccinations were administered before we could get these items into her system). By this time a few days had elapsed, and Jade was already in the gracious care of Sue and Roy and their amazing family of Malamutes. Sue had actually taken on the worst part of the winter drive through the Cascade Mountains to meet us and take Jade into her care as they could provide 24 hour attention to her where we could not. Jade had little to no movement in her back legs at this point and was now getting acquainted with her new home which was a kiddie pool in the middle of Sue and Roys kitchen! She was truly in the best of care with her Mom Stealth staying inside with her and a constant cycle of her brothers and sisters taking their turns in the pool as well.
Sue and Roy endured the winter months caring for Jade with minimal signs of improvement from her. For the first few months they saw little to no movement from Jades hind legs, but began rehabilitation for her using a sling apparatus they put together. Working both Jades body and Spirit, they persisted with only the occasional slight twitch from Jades legs to shed some hope. Jade had learned to get around a little on her own by dragging herself through the snow and could occasionally be found down by the pen (20 yards or so) where she would watch the big dogs play which showed her as one determined little puppy!
Eventually, Jade started to come around , the first sign was her “scrunching” her legs up to her body. I remember how happy we were getting the e-mail from Sue about this! Tannis and I had basically given up on allowing ourselves to think about the possibility of her actually recovering and now finally there was some hope! Jade continued to slowly (and I mean slowly) show slight movement of her legs assisted by her simple desire to get out and play with the other dogs. By this time she was getting pretty active in spite of her problems. She dragged those little legs around for all she was worth, then slowly started using them to help push herself around much like a cross between a seal and a frog perhaps but it did not phase Jade.
It was around this time that I received word through my vet that the pharmaceutical company did acknowledge that there “may” be the possibility of Jades condition being related to the vaccinations which of course at this point meant very little. Tannis and I impatiently waited for updates from Sue, but the progress with Jade was hard to even measure. Slowly but surely her improvements continued, and by early summer she was able to stand on her feet, albeit somewhat awkwardly. She had been relocated outside with her dog friends, and was now able to run (sort of) and play and was energetic and full of life so Sue finally gave in to my persistent inquiries as to when she would come back to us, and let her come to our home. I donʼt think this was too easy for Sue as by now they had become pretty attached, and of course they had been through a lot together.
Jade adapted well to our home (again) and really did well with her sister Skaya! I could not believe how well she had adapted to her limitations, but she still had some problems with co-ordination and developed some significant sores on her legs from dragging her toes and banging her legs together. Her rear paws were pointed outwards, and her hind quarters lacked any muscle definition so we certainly still had a long way to go. Now we were able to witness first hand how slow her progress was, but in spite of her limitations she was still able to play “all day long” with her incredibly hyperactive sister Skaya and had no problems hiking 5 to 10 kms with us!
What I found surprising, was the total lack of faith in her recovery from the Medical profession. Some caring family members of ours had shared Jades story with their own veterinarian who insisted they pass on his opinion that what we were doing with Jade was all very nice but in reality we were just reacting out of emotion and were not thinking practically. He provided them with some pretty “jaded” information and a very dim prognosis for her without ever setting eyes on her. Here we had this little dog happily recovering from all of this right in front of our eyes and yet the “accepted” medical profession still was not buying in. Very disheartening to say the least…
One more great example of this occurred when we took our dogs out to spectate at a local regional agility event this past summer. I have often wondered if hydrotherapy would be something good for Jade, and in the vendor area was a company that was promoting something similar so I thought to inquire.. After conversing with one of the ladies she asked if I could have a word with their “on-site” veterinarian which I agreed to do. He came out and after a two minute discussion where I mentioned her paralysis being caused by over-vaccination I could see a level of agitation on his face. He instantly turned on me, “how do you know it was the rabies vaccination?? Did you have an MRI completed?” Came the questioning in rapid succession.. I explained that wasnʼt in a position to argue about it, and the only reason I even bring it up is provide all of the facts so the best possible assessment could be made”. He continued on with his questioning so I calmly advised that I was well past this conversation and asked if we could stick to the issue at hand. Still he continued to the point where I had enough and finally I said, “ Look, no I didnʼt go and spend a ton of money that I donʼt have on Jade so I could scientifically prove Jadeʼs condition to you. Instead, with good help (including my vet) we came to a common sense conclusion as to the cause and are acting in this direction which has worked rather well thus far…. I did not learn much in that conversation except that some vetʼs get pretty darn excited when you even suggest that there could be adverse reactions to these vaccines!
I think my own veterinarian is probably one of the better ones who did show a good amount of care for Jade throughout this ordeal and maintained contact with me to see how she was doing and offer any suggestions he might have. His observations and recommendations were typically followed up by him saying “ and of course Rod you understand I have to very cautious about any optimism I have for Jades recovery” which you would expect. I think the big surprise to him was how well Jade has done, which certainly far exceeded his expectations. He also felt that “Tannis and I” are the exception and not the norm when it comes to the level of dedication that we were willing to put into Jades recovery and ok we have done quite a bit, but in reality, it would be Sue and Roy who truly were the “exception” here. They sacrificed a winter of dogsledding and put their lives on hold to take care of Jade simply because they felt it was the right thing to do… They saved her life and for this my wife Tannis and I are extremely grateful.
Fortunately Jade continues to improve to this day. At this point it is hard to say if she will ever recover 100% but at this stage the most important thing is that she is able to have a good life without any further complications and it looks like that may well be the case. She still walks a bit funny at times, with her toes pointed outward a few degrees, and she has trouble negotiating more difficult obstacles as well as her sister, but she is happy and healthy and loving life! When we picked Jade up in August of last year, dogsledding with her was the furthest thing from our minds yet a mere 6 months later she has begun her training to earn an AMCA Working Team dog designation and is proving to be a capable and confident little sled dog, in spite of her limitations. If she earns it great! If not, thatʼs just fine. Just as long as they have fun! Hindsight can be a difficult thing to face at times, and in looking back to the events that took place surrounding Jades paralysis I often shudder to think what I could have avoided, if I had only known what I do today. The main lessons I will take away from this is to take the time and research anything that goes into my pets for myself and not simply rely on others, and of course I will certainly be taking care and letting a new puppy settle in to be sure they are in top condition before considering any vaccinations. I also hope that anyone faced with a situation like Jade went through will think just a little bit more independently about the possibility of recovery for their furry friends.