When Lola arrives at the dog park, the other dogs greet her warmly. While the humans sometimes stare, the dogs are curious about her fancy wheels, but still see her as just another dog. And in most ways, Lola is like other dogs; she is happy, energetic, affectionate, and clearly fashionable. She loves making new friends, going for walks, playing with her canine siblings, and cuddling with her humans, Carina and Rene.
Image courtesy of Lessons of Paralyzed Dog
Lola was born with Hemivertebrae, a congenital abnormality of the spine where the left and right halves of the vertebrae grow unequally to create a “butterfly” shape in what should otherwise be a very straight spine. The condition causes the spine to bend and twist or grow at an angle and fuse vertebrae together into a wedge. Although the condition is not always serious, a compressed spinal cord can lead to a wide range of problems, depending on which part of the spine is affected, including urinary incontinence as well as weakness, pain, and paralysis in the hind legs. For more information on Hemivertebrae, please visit Lessons of a Paralyzed Dog.
Carina and Rene learned of Lola’s condition when she was three months old. Because her case was severe, they tried surgery to decompress her spine, laser therapy, underwater treadmill, electro acupuncture and physical therapy. Although the surgery proved to be ineffective, she continues to receive acupuncture and laser therapy once a month as well as regular massage to keep her circulation and nerves working properly.
While living with Lola requires careful monitoring and some extra work, Carina and Rene feel honored to care for her as she has more spirit and spunk than many able-bodied dogs and humans. Lola has taught them to tune in on a much deeper level and she always shows them what she needs. When she is thirsty, she licks their hand with a dry tongue. And when she is tired, she pulls up in front of her orthopedic bed and waits for help getting out of her wheels. While all paralyzed dogs are different, Lola does need to be expressed to urinate. When she was young, she wore diapers, but she is now fully housebroken and able to hold it until help arrives. However, keeping her on a strict food and bathroom schedule is vital.
In addition to Carina and Rene, Lola shares her home with two other Westies, Jasmine and Chico. The family recently relocated from Florida to Colorado. While Lola is not crazy about the cold, she is handling the transition like a champ!
Rene and Carina have learned much from Lola and their love and dedication for her has also brought them closer as a couple. Many dogs like Lola would have been euthanized immediately. But this was never an option for Carina and Rene. They were committed to Lola from the start and she has returned the favor by bringing much joy and meaning into their lives. And when she masters a new challenge, they celebrate her success together and her love and gratitude is immense.
Thanks to Carina and Rene for sharing Lola's remarkable and inspiring story! Special thanks also to Sharon at Lessons of a Paralyzed Dog for support and additional background information.