Afraid Of What Lies Ahead For Tiger Lilly

I’ve talked about how I am not fearless, and how I think being brave has more to do with facing your fears than not being afraid. I know there are areas of my life that are limited by fear, and I’m struggling with that. It’s usually cycling that instills such a visceral reaction–butterflies in my stomach, a racing heart rate, even tears–but these days there is something else that has me afraid of what lies ahead.

Tiger Lilly Blossoms April 2016

Our sweet Tiger Lilly has been diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, also known as DM.

DM is a disease of the spinal cord that is progressive and untreatable. While it does not cause pain itself, affected dogs will lose coordination and strength in their hind legs, eventually becoming paraplegic as the disease progresses. After that point–which can take 6-12 months from diagnosis–owners are usually encouraged to make “the humane choice” as dogs lose their quality of life.

Tiger Lilly’s first symptoms mimicked arthritis–we noticed that her hind legs sometimes would slip on our bare floors. At our vet’s recommendation we started giving her glucosamine. Although she loved the cheese-flavored tablets, she still fell from time to time.

It was a Saturday in February when I saw her walk up a carpeted step with her paw upside down. I later learned that was a sign of propioceptive ataxia–loss of awareness of the position of her joints/body parts. A visit to a veterinary neurologist for a full exam, MRI and spinal tap ruled out other causes, and a DNA test confirmed that she carries two copies of the mutation associated with degenerative myelopathy.

Tiger Lilly Walk

So, what lies ahead is months of watching Tiger Lilly lose her strength bit by bit, each day drawing us nearer to the day when we will have to make that terrible, loving decision. For now, she still enjoys her walks, but I can see a wobble in her hind legs when she stops to sniff out a particularly interesting spot. For now, she still has the run of the house, but we have covered most of floors with area rugs and try not to let use the stairs unescorted. For now, I’ve convinced my husband that letting her climb up on the sofa is good exercise for her, because I know snuggling with her is good therapy for me.

Tiger Lilly 3

I know others face harder struggles. I know others are called on to be brave in the face of much worse fears when parents, spouses, siblings, or children have grave diagnoses. But for me, for now, this is my hard. I am not facing it fearlessly, but I will be brave when I need to be, although I guarantee there will be buckets of Boxer-sized tears.

Deb Runs

Today’s Wednesday Word is fearless.

Is your dog allowed on the furniture? In your bed?

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29 Responses to Afraid Of What Lies Ahead For Tiger Lilly

  1. Pam says:

    Aww, I am so sorry about your poor dog. When our animals are hurting it is so hard for them to understand what is going on. I’ve never heard of this problem but do wish you luck with keeping Tiger Lily comfortable for her remaining days. Our little Lulu does sleep in our bed (on her own tiny bed) and yes, she has the run of the house, furniture etc. Spoiled little pup
    Pam recently posted…London Marathon Expo and Trip PhotosMy Profile

  2. Lauren says:

    Aw Sending so much love and healing energy to Tiger Lilly, xo!
    Lauren recently posted…Fearless RunningMy Profile

  3. Kimberly G says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your sweet dog 🙁 Dogs are family so I totally understand your pain.

  4. This makes me so sad! After losing my baby Cleo earlier this year, I debated whether or not it would have been better to have some warning. I still don’t know. I don’t think it’s easy to lose a pet either suddenly or after a prolonged illness. Give Tiger Lily tons of love. And yes, let her on the furniture and your bed. What can I say?
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Lessons Learned: Big Sur MarathonMy Profile

  5. Okay, I admit I could not read this post to the end cus it made me teary eyed and I’m at work. Can’t be crying at work.
    I o know how you feel though cus I went through this with our Weimaraner an now our Labrador is not well. It’s tough and it’s scary. Your girl is beautiful.

  6. oh this is so sad! It must be so hard to watch her lose her strength and know that she might be hurting. All you can do is keeping being the best doggie mom to her that you can. hugs
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…American Odyssey Relay-Gettysburg to DCMy Profile

  7. Anne says:

    This is a heartbreaking post. Tiger Lily is a beautiful sweetheart and is so lucky to have you. I’m so, so sorry.
    Anne recently posted…Things that Go “Bump!”My Profile

  8. Carrie says:

    I’m so sorry. I think about her a lot. She’s a lucky girl to have you as her person. Sending love and strength and comfort.
    Carrie recently posted…BOSU Balance Trainer & BOSU Sport ReviewMy Profile

  9. Chaitali says:

    Oh, this is hard. I am so sorry to hear about her diagnosis 🙁 But it sounds like she has a life full of love with you guys
    Chaitali recently posted…Ben’s Run 5kMy Profile

  10. Jenn says:

    :hug:

    Our Molly has DM. Obviously, she is a much smaller dog (14 lb pug) so it’s a lot easier for her to get around despite the weakness in her hind legs (which at this point, don’t work more than they do), and for us to offer assistance, but we got her a cart and she has been much more active and mobile. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me and I can share the info I have. Love on that sweet girl lots and lots. She’s a beauty. <3
    Jenn recently posted…wednesday word: fearlessMy Profile

  11. Tamieka says:

    I am so sorry to read this ;(

    Sending positive thoughts to you and your family.

  12. Yum Yucky says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Please give her a hug for me. And I’m also sending one to you.
    Yum Yucky recently posted…International Burger Project: Yum Yucky is Team USA!My Profile

  13. lisa says:

    I am so so sorry. 🙁 There is nothing wrong with being sad, or grieving loss (or potential loss) of pets. They are family. We love them, care for them and grieve them like we do our other loved ones. I hope Tiger Lily’s journey is comfortable. It’s great she’s surrounded by her people who love her. Big hugs. 🙁

  14. Awe…my thoughts are with you. We have gone through many hamsters (I know, not quite the same thing as a dog), and it gets really difficult in those final months when you can see them slowing down. We’ve had our dog 15 months, and he is such a vital (?) member of the family, I can’t imagine what it will be like when his time comes. That is many years down the road, thankfully, but I am already dreading being in the position of making “decisions.”
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…Fearless…A Long Time ComingMy Profile

  15. Ana says:

    I am so sorry to hear your doggy is struggling with DM, it sounds awful! Lots of snuggles are in order for you both.
    Ana recently posted…Fear of FeedbackMy Profile

  16. HoHo Runs says:

    As a dog mama, my heart goes out to you Coco! They are members of the family and IT IS HARD. I’m glad she will not be in pain! I’d absolutely snuggle with her as much as possible. That’s a beautiful picture of her sitting in the cherry blossoms!
    HoHo Runs recently posted…Fearless TrainingMy Profile

  17. Meesh says:

    So sorry to read this. It sounds like you are surely giving her good quality of life, even with DM. My dog had IVDD and started losing a lot of functionality in her legs around age 7, though she stuck around til nearly 10 (this January). When you spoke of area rugs, my life with her last year came flooding back to me, bittersweet. I will say, though she was a much smaller dog, we found good success with the products from http://www.gingerlead.com/ to help us with her potty processes, etc. Best of luck. You are doing everything you can – rest assured, she knows you love her no matter.

  18. Meagan says:

    I’m so sad to hear about Tiger Lilly’s diagnosis. That is really scary. Sending comforting thoughts your way! Dogs become so much a part of our family and I know this is tough.
    Meagan recently posted…Ragnar Trail Relay Richmond – Leg 1 Race ReportMy Profile

  19. I am so sorry to hear that Tiger Lily has gotten this diagnosis. I hope you both are enjoying lots of snuggles on the couch!

    Thanks for linking up!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…Running DilemmasMy Profile

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