The Storm after the storm, with a capital S

By mid 2011, Nishi had already been to hell and back. Because of one critical mistake from us our 11 month old puppys face was driven over by a speeding cab. It took us several weeks to be convinced that she was not going to die. We stroked our puppys little head as she went through surgery after surgery for several months. We cried at each complication we discovered in her eye, nose, teeth, jaws etc…but Nishi led us through it bravely. Eventually we were contemplating a sigh of relief at having perhaps salvaged more or less a whole puppy and learning to come to terms that she was going to have some disabilities for life. And then all hell broke lose all over again.

We discovered that Nishi suffered from a degenerative genetic disorder called Patellar Subluxation. In simple English, the knee cap that keeps jumping out of it’s place. This is often experienced by humans. If you sat on the floor with your legs extending out in front of you and someone sat on your knee and shifted their weight around, your knee cap will slip out of it’s place. Don’t try to do this because, I have watched people experiencing this, scream out in pain and describe the pain as excruciating. But it’s very easy to fix as well. Imagine the knee cap to be held in place by springs. Tap on it lightly or kick your leg out and springs it right back into place.

Now with Patellar Subluxation, these springs are either in the wrong place or get lose. So the knee cap keeps jumping out frequently. Nishi would experience this while just running around in the park. She would kick her hind leg and it would slip back. But the frequency with which this happened started increasing. But we were still not too concerned. After all she was in pain just for a few seconds at a time and we had been through enough to even contemplate another complication with a puppy that had barely completed her first birthday. But of one of the subsequent visits was to reveal that we had no such luxury in story for us. We were informed that the problem was not the pain. The problem was that the knee cap moving so much would slowly start grinding down her bones till the nerve endings got exposed. When that happened, she would be in constant unbearable pain, which would only keep worsening with age. What did this puppy have in store? Whose brunt was she bearing?

With a heavy heart we prepared for another surgery. We learned that the bones would be sculpted to make the knee cap fit better and the spring mechanism would be tightened and repositioned so that it would hold the knee cap in firmly in position. We consoled ourselves that the procedure sounded simple enough. I mean, after an encounter where we were nervous we had left behind a part of her brain on the road. After that scare, this sounded relatively simple. So we went ahead.

After the surgery, the vet recommended that we leave her behind for post operative care. I knew that if we left her behind she would be in a crate. The thought of that made me shudder. We decided to stay home all day and take care of her till she recovered. We did physio every day, dressed her, iced her and gave her hot packages. She suffered through all of it without complaining. We were instructed to keep her tied at all times. But how could we do that to a puppy who had been through so much. So we just monitored closely. The irony in that effort can only be understood by someone who knows Nishi. One fine day she woke up to find that her pain had reduced a bit. So she started bolting around the house in the morning. Her leg was in a tight bandage that but that did not stop her. Keeping one leg stretched out, she was bolting on 3. We were relieved to see her in good spirits, smiled and gently insisted that she stopped playing.

We took her back for a check-up and the vet almost burst into tears. We were puzzled. She was in good spirits. We had done everything religiously. So what was he so upset about? Turned out that it had slipped out again and healed there, sticking it completely out of position. So she was actually still in pain, but was choosing to ignore it and just focus on play. So she was back under the knife. And again. And again.  She was in so much pain that there would be nights she would just sit up and stare into space for almost an hour, not moving, doing nothing. I would wake up and sit with her. I did not know what I could do to ease her pain. So I would just sit beside and and stare with her. Her leg was in a cast for so long that she lost all muscle mass in the leg. We could not take her on a walk because the walk could put pressure on the knee cap again, but she needed the exercise to build her muscles again. The situation was just going from bad to worse. So on the next scheduled surgery date, we said No!

Nishi’s leg in a splint, comforting herself with Teddy, her toy

We went for a second opinion and a third. What we learned there made me sick to my stomach. Turns out that this surgery is a super complicated one to start with. Success rates are very small. But it was indeed a degenerative condition, meaning it would get worse with age and surgery was the only solution. Where were we to go from here? We held each other and cried. Where had we gone wrong? Would our puppy, with boundless energy have to lose her leg? Were her best days behind her and every day bring with it new pain? We had started spiraling down a bottomless pit of darkness and despair.

But then there was a little voice inside our heads. If Nishi spoke out loud, her voice would perhaps sound like that. It asked told us “Do you see how Nishi has put blind faith in you and followed you down every path you have asked her to take. She has faith in you. Why do you not have that faith?”. We picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and got to work.

What ensued was intense research. We spoke to as many qualified people as possible. We looked up what was done in other countries. We explored alternate medicine. We inquired on what was done to humans. The only viable option that emerged was swimming as physiotherapy. So we searched every nook and cranny of the city for a pool that would admit her. We asked all pools and no one would admit a dog. Finally we came across Paw n Claw. The pool would only be open on weekends. We met the owner Adnan Querishi, who would turned out to be her angel in disguise. He took one look at her, heard her story so far, and graciously agreed to accommodate her every day.

Thus started swimming! Short snout dogs really do not like swimming. They struggle in the water. So we got into the pool with her and slowly taught her confidence. We took her favorite toy into the pool. There was no way we would stress her out any more. So we did everything we could to ease her into the water, literally and figuratively. Soon she gained confidence. Within a week she started looking forward to her swimming sessions. She would get super excited as soon as we stated driving towards the pool. We would take her swimming 4-5 days a week, for two and a half months and it was a joy to watch each time. She swam for 2 hours a day, every day for several weeks.

Fast forward to today. I invite all of you to cubbon park to watch her run. It is a joy to watch. And when you know what she has been through, it will move you to tears. She swims like a pro and leaps into any water body she encounters with unbounded joy. She jumps up to hug her favorite humans and showers them with all her love. She runs like the wind, chasing anything that moves. She is my hero. Her heart has more courage than I am confident I can muster. She is a role model. One we were close to losing so many times. But all it required was a little faith on our part. It would have been so easy to give up. Several times we had people telling us that “others” would have given up. But today, when we look at her, we know that we did the right thing by not giving up on her.

Nishi swimming like a pro and her never-give-up attitude
Nishi running like the wind!

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