Finally! On June 16 Sasha went to Bethel Animal Hospital for acupuncture. I’d met Dr. Gary Stuer for just a minute when he at Portland Veterinary Specialists where he works one day each week. He brought integrative veterinary medicine and acupuncture to their group of specialists. It’s funny as I look back; he was behind the 3 person reception desk searching for something and I thought he was a new employee.
As I wrote in my last post, Sasha was on a treatment protocol from Dr. Agrodnia that was causing her stress and me angst. I don’t believe Dr. Agrodnia’s approach was wrong but rather the many variables thrown into the mix made it extremely difficult. Sasha was originally scheduled to see Dr. Stuer for acupuncture at Portland Veterinary Specialists (PVS) on July 6 which would mean she would start acupuncture after the series of laser therapy and Adequan injections that Dr. Agrodnia initiated were completed. I reached out to him via email and he was more than happy to see her earlier at his practice in Bethel. The drive was shorter than the one to Portland by an hour but the best part was the route was through the bucolic meadows, lakes and mountains of Western Maine as opposed to the stark, loud turnpike we took to Portland.
As we turned into the driveway I was taken aback at the size of the building (larger than I’d expected for a smaller, rural community). It even had a ramp which I’ve never seen at a veterinary practice before. The waiting area was extremely large and quite pleasant. An interesting sidebar ~ I discovered that 90% of Dr. Stuer’s staff have been with him for at least 15 years. After registering the receptionist said they were running a bit behind as Dr. Stuer had emergency surgery. I saw a man in the room that looked tense so figured it was his pet. I later learned it was indeed his cat and that the surgery was successful.⬅︎
I really liked the Dr. Stuer. He knows his profession but more important, he connects with his patients on a personal level. After 10 years of correctional nursing I’ve become rather adept at assessing one’s character and am confident in saying that Dr. Stuer sees his patients as living creatures, deserving of compassion, care, and time as opposed to some vets who appear to view an animal in a clinical manner, almost void of emotion. Very controlled, black & white without gray areas. They subtly imply that modalities used by another vet are not “gold standard in veterinary medicine today” and offer their preferred treatment. It’s as if you’re on a never-ending merry-go-round of the latest and greatest treatment, each with a hefty invoice attached. You literally spend all your time traveling for the treatments, knowing that so many hours in the car are uncomfortable for your pet but do it anyway because you’ve been convinced its necessary. You begin to think you need a laptop just for your dog to keep track of the growing stack of lab results, exam progress notes, and invoices along with the huge amount of money spent. You begin to feel as if you’re in a clash of egos, a pissing contest if you will, between respected doctors who sadly, view your animal as a symptom or a disease process unlike Dr. Stuer who recognizes they are sentient beings and treats them with respect. Finally, as a nurse I always observe the manner in which other health care professionals assess a patient, human or otherwise. I found it interesting that some reviewed Sasha’s records but barely touched her body. In contrast, Dr. Stuer reviewed her records but then did a full hands on assessment. I can honestly say that with the exception of her internist, Dr. Noble, none of the other veterinarians participating in her care have ever done that, not even the neurosurgeon. Speaking of which, Sasha had her second progress exam following SCT scheduled for June 4; based on her first exam, I cancelled it. I’ll leave it at that.
Now on to those findings which blew me away! While stroking her body, checking pulse points etc., he made a startling discovery. Sasha’s spine from the neck to mid-point of her back was warm ~ as it should be. However, from mid-point to the distal (bottom) end, it was cooler. That says that blood is NOT flowing in that area as well as it should be. When you have a dog like Sasha, who because of a FCE (spinal stroke) is left with a residual weakened rear leg, impaired blood flow is a huge factor in her ability to function and heal. To break it down let’s look at a human who has diabetes. We’ve all heard how diabetics have to take special care of their feet right? You might know someone who’s had a toe or more amputated due to diabetic complications. Diabetics have impaired blood flow to their feet hence if they injure a foot or lower leg it is slow to heal. Many times the blood flow is insufficient to maintain healthy tissue and they subsequently have a toe, foot or leg amputated. Without adequate blood flow, healing and tissue/muscle maintenance cannot occur. Could this be part of Sasha’s problem? Most definitely. Is it causing her left rear foot knuckling? Probably not because as I’ve previously stated, that’s a result of a neurological event. Having said that, impaired blood flow in her spine is still important because without proper flow, she won’t get the circulation necessary for both healing and maintaining tissue and muscle in her affected leg. Dr. Stuer started acupuncture ⬅︎ on her spine, beginning with a low dose which over time he’ll gradually increase. I certainly don’t expect an immediate improvement but hope with time she’ll experience less discomfort. After he finished the approximate hour-long acupuncture session, Sasha had a laser treatment. He agreed with me in that the twice weekly trips to Portland were a bit much for her so I cancelled her last appointment with Dr. Agrodnia.
Sasha has 2 other issues that are impeding her. The first is the blindness which her internist is working on in an attempt to restore some or all of her vision. The second is boots. Yes you read correctly. I still haven’t found the right boot. Because of her left rear foot knuckling, she tends to slide on our hardwood floors. I’ve turned the house into Goodwill Central with a hodge podge of non-slip throw rugs for her to walk on. However because of the recent onset of blindness she has difficulty following my rug trail and winds up falling. I’ve purchased several brands but none work for her. Dr. Stuer mentioned that he treats another GSD for knuckling and the owners are very happy with the boots they finally discovered. He promised to get the name and kept his word, emailing it to me. I downloaded the company’s sizing chart, measuring her and placed an order. In closing I feel really good about the direction Sasha is heading. I think that acupuncture ⬅︎ and laser treatments along with the rejuvenating stem cell therapy she received in April will enable her to regain a better quality of life. She’ll never scale a 6′ fence or go snowshoeing and that’s ok. Someone suggested to me recently that at 8 years, she is really old for a German Shepherd and perhaps “it’s her time”. My response? “You’re nuts. Get out of my face.” I wouldn’t throw my aged relative under a bus because they had slowed down so what makes anyone think I would do it to my dog?
Hopefully you’re still with me as I just realized my post has become lengthier than I expected. I made the decision to bring Sasha for weekly acupuncture ⬅︎ and laser treatments. The ride is enjoyable for her as I can leave the moon roof open which she loves. Beautiful places to stop for potty breaks or just stretch our legs and take pictures. I’m including photos from her first few appointments ⬅︎ however I think the videos explain everything much better than I can. I’ve chosen not to put them in date order because there is a clue in several. Wonder if anyone can spot it?*HintHint Samantha?
I’m not a savvy blogger so unsure of menus, icons etc. Click to see Sasha’s You Tube channel which chronicles her journey from onset until present day. Please subscribe to her channel for all new videos.
To accompany my post’s title, the soulful and extraordinary Etta James singing “At Last”
💜Next up ~ Supplements & Stuff💜