Canine Crisis, Part 1

So this post requires audience participation. Please contort your face with me: wide-eyed, mouth-slightly-agape and vaguely smiling. You’re stupefied when you’ve just been told you need to make a $5,000 dollar deposit for a medical procedure.

For your dog.

It’s a look that says, “I’m sorry, whaaaaaaat?” It’s a laughline . Cue audience tittering. Let’s call it “The Gavin Look”.

Several weeks ago, our kids and sitter were playing normally with our dog, Madison (Maddie). Suddenly Maddie yelped and lay down. The kids ran toward her and, when she tried to escape, she drug her back legs behind her.

Just dragged them.

When I got home, I saw she was, indeed, paralyzed. I took her to a 24-hour dog hospital. (Only in NYC).

Before leaving, my partner said, “If they have to put her down, don’t let it happen tonight. We have to say goodbye.”


I walked into the hospital carrying Maddie and said, “Uh…my dog’s back legs aren’t working.”

Within seconds, a vet led me to an exam room.

After a quick look, the vet said, “I think she’s had a herniated disk. In dogs, that means surgery.”

Insert your first Gavin Look.

“I love my dog,” I said. “Aaaaaaaand…how much is that going to cost?”
“About $8,000.”

I went white. Insert Gavin Look.

“But,” the vet went on, “we won’t know for sure until tomorrow morning when our neurologist arrives.”

“Your canine neurologist?” I said.

Insert Gavin Look. How much is THAT going to cost?

At 6:30 the next morning, the first time in months that my kids chose to sleep past 6:15, the neurologist called.

“So I did an MRI on Madison…”

Insert Gavin Look. How much is THAT going to cost?

“…and she doesn’t have a herniated disk. I think it might be Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. We say ‘FCE’. It’s like a stroke that cuts off nerve communication between the spinal cord and hind end. With your permission, I’ll do a spinal tap to find out more.”

Gavin Look. How much is THAT going to cost?

“I’ll call you back in an hour,” the neurologist said.

I lay in bed fretting about my poor, wonderful dog. (And money.) She’s the best: 35 pounds of pure dogginess. She buries bones.

No kidding. Once she got into a loaf of bread and, lacking outdoor access, “buried” bread slices between cushions, under a chair, and under our bedspread.

Ellison walked into our room and interrupted my pity party.

“Where’s Maddie?”

“Ah, buddy,” I say. “Maddie has a boo-boo and is at the doctor.”

“Oh. I want some milk.”

Quick recovery.

The neurologist called back.

“Ok. The spinal tap came back clear. I’m certain it’s FCE. With work, she has a 50/50 chance of walking, again. Some dogs bounce back after a few. And some dogs don’t.”


“There are lots of things that can be done: acupuncture, a doggy harness/wheelchair. Our strongest recommendation is hydrotherapy. You can take her to walk on a treadmill in a tank of water.”

You must be joking. Insert Gavin Look. After babysitter and cab fare, how much will THAT cost?

I called a canine acupuncturist. We’d dodged the cost of back surgery. Might as well do more.

To be continued…

(There’s a happy ending…)


  1. So sorry for Maddie. A had a neighbor once who had a cat she loved beyond measure. The cat got hit by a car and the vet recommended surgery. Of course she said OH YES and forked out several thousad dollars. Six months later, the cat died of cancer. For some reason, I always found that funny. But of course it isn’t. Still….


  2. I really like your storytelling voice–so down to earth and warm, which is why I enjoy your blog. Plus my two boys are older now (17 and 11), so I like reading about yours. I’ve spent my share of money on animals; we have quite a few. So I can definitely sympathize! Thanks for letting us know that there is a happy ending; she is a very cute dog!


    • Thanks for sharing. Nice to hear I’m engaging people who outside of my hometown Facebook friends. (They’re wonderful, too.) I’ll keep you posted, for sure. 🙂


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