Bear's Story

Girl kissing bear, a black dog, on his head.

Bear is my 6 year old Shih Tzu poodle mix. I adopted him when he was 11 weeks old and he has been a gracious and loyal confidant ever since. In May I was away for work and my friend watching Bear said he was not walking correctly. I had her take him to an emergency clinic where I met her shortly after. The news was not great. Bear’s long back was not in great shape. He had some inflammation and displaced disc material but the good news was that with some rest and some meds, he would be back to his normal self in just a few weeks.

That weekend we left for Chicago to visit some family and unfortunately the situation progressed to where the use of his back legs was obsolete and onset was rather sudden. I took him to another emergency vet in Chicago where they told me he had completely herniated a disc and would need surgery. The timeline for damage to the spine via a herniation is tight so I jumped in the car with my trusty Bear boy bundled in his bed and we hit the road. On the way back to Minneapolis through tears and moments of complete heartbreak, I assembled a plan to head back to the original vet so the quick deterioration could be noted and then a plan from there. I wanted to avoid the expense of a surgery if at all possible. At the emergency vet more bad news was delivered. Bear had lost the majority of the sensation in his back legs. There are different sorts of reactions they look for and for some reason Bear didn’t show any of them making his case especially bad. The vet gave me the news and I knew I needed to think of him and his pain level and not my own but could I put my 6 year old best friend to sleep? I asked the vet for her opinion and she said logically that she would put him down. I asked her for a few minutes alone where I completely broke down. The initial vet tech came in and offered me some tissues and asked if I had made my decision. She didn't realize that putting Bear down was one of the options because she was actually referring to which highway I wanted to take to get to the University of MN for a second opinion. When I said I think I have to put him down she baulked and asked that I please get a consult at the U done before I make that final call. I perked up and asked for my buddy to be brought back out so we could go to the U.

I got there at about 8pm and walked in carrying Bear in that trusty dog bed of his. The woman at reception came out to greet me and immediately gave me a hug. I think my face was sign enough that I needed one. Bear got checked in and taken back for his exam. The receiving doctor that night was Dr. Tara Sime. I can’t say enough good things about my experience with her. She was exactly what one hopes to encounter when you're in such a humbled state. Dr. Sime informed me that Bear was actually in better condition than he had initially proved to be. That deep pain sensation that he was failing to react to earlier in the day was now reacting on both sides and he was a good candidate for surgery. All of my options were outlined and the scenario completely debriefed in full. Her patience never wavered and she truly had Bears best interest at heart. I decided, with the help of my aunt and uncle from Stillwater by my side, to move forward with surgery for Bear. There was an 85% chance he would return to normal dog activities and those were good odds in my book. We signed some papers and she sent Dr Kevin Haynes in.

What to say about Dr. Haynes!? I guess the best way to describe it, is I felt like I was talking to an older and wiser cool big brother. Dr. Haynes explained exactly what was going to happen to my pup in surgery and the overall recovery process. It was an additional assurance I was making the right decision. I asked where Bears pain level was at through all of this and he said, "Bear is a stoic little guy- he's probably at about a 9/10 for pain." Even in this amount of pain, Bear still put me first and gave me kisses.

Surgery went great and I was kept educated throughout the entire recovery process post-surgery. I went to see Bear and was a bit weary to hold him given the large wound on his back and the vet tech completely supported me through the wooziness.

We are now at about the 4 month mark and Bear is one happy, running, fetching, hopping dog! Few things remind us of his surgery except when he runs and his back body can't keep up and he ends up looking more like a bunny. He is at about 85% and I will take every bit of it. I got a second chance to love a very lovable animal that I made a commitment to 5.5 years ago. I take my job seriously as his owner and luckily the vets at The University of Minnesota do too. They provided him a second chance as well, one that we are both greatly appreciative of. In formal, thank you specifically to Dr. Sime and Dr. Haynes for their bedside manner, the updates and their professional abilities. Thank you to all the techs that spent time with Bear during his recovery, and thank you to the University of Minnesota for the quality of education and instruction that saved my dogs life. Hats off to you!


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