Animals

My Dog Helped Me Learn How to Walk Again — Now I Have to Do the Same for Her

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Andy Cunningham, 58, from New Zealand, shares his true story:

My heart leaped as a blur of black jumped out from the bushes. “Woof!” my dog, Meg, barked. The adorable black labrador crossed with New Zealand huntaway had lived with me and my wife Alison for a year, and loved nothing more than going for walks in the nearby forest. Her companionship meant so much to me — I looked forward to our daily walks as much as she did.

Meg Dog NTL

(Photo Credit: Now to Love)

One day, after one of our big treks, I ran a hot bath to soak my aching body. Leaning forward, an intense pain surged through me. I cried out in agony as the spasm grew greater. I couldn’t move at all and the pain was so intense that I thought I might pass out. Hearing my cries, Alison ran into the room. Panic flashed across her face as she pulled me out of the bath, straining under my weight. Within minutes, an ambulance arrived and I was pumped with pain relief. A doctor ran X-rays and MRIs. Meanwhile, I could barely move without feeling like I was being stabbed.

“One of the discs in your spine exploded,” the doctor explained. “It crushed your spinal cord.” I knew from his expression that this was serious. “It means you’re paralyzed from the waist down.” Paralyzed? My head spun as I struggled to take in the words.

The first thing that flashed through my head was never being able to walk with Meg again. I had an operation that day to remove pieces of the disc. It was a high-risk procedure. When I woke up hours later, it felt like I’d been flattened by a brick wall. I stared at the ceiling, feeling only despair at my new life. When the surgeon appeared hours later, he was smiling. “It went very well, so there is a chance that you will regain the use of your legs,” he said. “But it’ll be a long and hard battle.” The relief was immense.

After three weeks in hospital and one week in rehab, I was sent home on crutches. Every step was a struggle. Back home, Meg sat at my feet, whining for a walk. I felt so guilty every time I looked into her pleading eyes. Eventually, I couldn’t bear her begging anymore so Alison drove us out to the beach. “Are you sure you’re strong enough?” she asked, helping me out of the car. “Meg’s so sad,” I pleaded. “Please let me do this.” Meg ran off ahead as I hobbled on the sand. Alison gave me space but kept an eye out in case I needed any help. Sweat dripped down my face with every agonizing step I took.

Andy Meg Walks NTL

(Photo Credit: Now to Love)

From then on, Meg and I walked a little bit more every day. After six months, I was stumbling along without using any crutches.”You’re the best little carer,” I said, scratching Meg behind the ear. Her encouraging barks gave me a real boost. To celebrate my renewed health, Alison and I went on holiday and arranged for a friend to look after Meg. A few days in, the friend called in hysterics.

“We were driving Meg to the beach when we hit the curb and the car rolled,” my friend explained. “Meg’s disappeared.” We rushed to the airport, and within hours we were back home, running around the street where it happened. “Meg!” Alison and I both screamed frantically. “Come here, girl!” We shouted until our voices became hoarse, posted on Facebook, and put up posters all over the suburb. By the time the sun went down, we were distraught. We didn’t have kids, so Meg was like a daughter to us. But when five weeks had passed without any sightings, we realized our baby girl wasn’t coming home.

“I’ll tear the posters down today,” I said, choking up. A few hours later, my phone rang. It was a farmer who lived close to our house. “I think we’ve seen your dog in our lower paddock,” she explained. “She’s got a broken leg.” We dashed over in our pickup, not daring to believe it could be her. We ran through the field and saw a small black shape cowering in the grass.

Meg Broken Legs NTL

(Photo Credit: Now to Love)

“Meg!” I shouted. Tears fell down my cheeks when my girl looked up. She tried to move but collapsed back into the thick grass. It was distressing to see her bony figure and the big, open wounds that matted her fur with blood. We hurried to the nearest animal hospital with her, where the vet explained she had two fractures in her front left foot and a dislocated wrist on her front right leg. Huge lesions, each about the size of a coaster, covered her legs. “The wounds are infected and they’re eating away at her wrist bones,” the doctor explained. “We have to inject her with antibiotics.”

We patted Meg gently as an IV drip was inserted. “You’re going to pull through,” I soothed. “We’re right here, baby.” For weeks, the vet worked tirelessly to fight the infections. Eventually, the lesions healed. Every day, we thank our lucky stars that we got our good girl back. In my hardest moments, Meg helped me back on my feet. Now, I’ll do everything to make sure she gets back on hers, and that we’re walking together soon.

This article was written by Andy Cunningham as told to Now to Love editors. For more, check out our sister site, Now to Love.

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