Tripawds Community member akeelaisthecutest is recipient #77 of the Maggie Moo Fund for Tripawd Rehab. Read on for details about the benefits of free canine rehab for new Tripawd dog Akeela, and learn how you can get a free veterinary rehab evaluation for your dog or cat.
New Tripawd Akeela Learns Canine Rehab Exercises
Hello! My name is Parisa Negahbani, but my friends know me as ‘Reese.’ Before I dive into my lengthy story, I would like to thank you in advance for this opportunity! I think everything you are doing is truly incredible. I was completely lost when I started this Tripawd journey with my pup dog and have found several of your articles incredibly helpful. It puts me at ease knowing there are other families out there who are experiencing the same thing we are.
My best friend and companion for 13 years is a White Shepherd Wolf Mix named Akeela. I named her Akeela after the wolf dog whom raised Mowgli in the Jungle Book. I adopted Akeela from Safe Haven Humane Society, a no-kill shelter, when she was about eight weeks old. I am now 27, so you could say that she has been with me for roughly half my life.
In the beginning of February Akeela started limping, with no apparent cause. She is a bit of a dramatic dog (they say Shepherd nature), but I brought her to my regular veterinarian nonetheless. They suspected that she sprained or tore a ligament in her little dog wrist. They gave me pain medication and an anti-inflammatory and said if she hadn’t stopped limping in 14 days, that I should see a specialist. They provided me with a list of oncologists in the area that they recommended. I archived the email almost immediately after receiving it, because Akeela is supposed to live forever and there couldn’t possibly be anything seriously wrong with her. Well. I was wrong. Even wolves aren’t invincible
Her limp did briefly get better, but then dramatically got worse. In the beginning of March I decided to dig through my archived emails and gave my local oncologist a call. Later that evening I was giving Akeela some belly rubs and chest scratches when she let out a yelp … it was then that I realized it wasn’t her wrist, and could be something potentially much worse. After Akeela’s exam, the oncologist almost immediately knew what the cause was. A dreaded word that still brings tears to my eyes – ‘Osteosarcoma.’ The xrays showed she had lysis of her humerus. The oncologist said she recommended amputation immediately to lessen the pain and prevent pathologic bone fracture.
For two days I spent countless hours (one of the small benefits of quarantine) researching osteosarcoma and treatment options. After many a phone call and hours of internet searching, I decided to move forward with the amputation. Everything I read and everyone I spoke with recommended this route to extend her life as long as possible and to give her the best quality of life. I am very fortunate to have a spectacular mother. She took off work and drove out here (OR to CO) just to be here with us for the surgery.
Akeela’s surgery was two weeks ago today. They have been the longest two weeks of my life. I cried myself to sleep 12 nights in a row and created a ‘floor bed’ next to new Tripawd Akeela so that I would be alerted any time she moved. Maybe I have had an incredibly non-tragic life, but this was the most traumatic and difficult experience I have ever been through. Watching her struggle to walk up stairs, turn in a circle, lay down, get up, and so on absolutely breaks my heart. I do whatever I can to make it easier for her, but I know it will just take time and practice to relearn her basic movements. It’s incredibly disheartening to see her get frustrated and confused because she doesn’t understand why she can’t do a simple day-to-day activity anymore.
Today marked day 14 post surgery, so Akeela got her stitches out. We also had our first chemotherapy and rehab therapy consultation. I was fortunate enough to find a clinic about 30 minutes from my house that has oncology and rehab therapy – Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists (Longmont location). Rehabilitation Specialist: Sarah Leavell, DVM, CCRT, cVMA).
Due to Covid-19 I unfortunately could not go into the building, but the staff was incredibly supportive and immediately fell in love with her. She is on a 4-dose chemotherapy plan for the next couple of weeks, and then more to follow. In rehab, they told me they did a couple of different exercises with her to find out what her pain/discomfort/tightness level was. They also did some acupuncture, which she responded to quite well. They briefly went over the maneuvers in the parking lot and gave me a step-by-step handout.
For the next two weeks I am going to do the following at-home exercises: Massage Epaxials (lucky girl), Passive Range of Motion Bicycles, Front Ups, Front Ups with Weight Shifting, Cookie Stretches, Sit to Stands, Backing Up, Circling, and Leg Hurdles.
The above exercises should help loosen over worked muscles, maintain mobility, prevent joint stiffness, create awareness of her limbs, and strengthen muscles that she did not previously need to rely on. Watching new Tripawd Akeela struggle for the past two weeks has been incredibly difficult for me, so I am really looking forward to starting this rehab therapy with her. I am hoping that with these daily exercises I can help her get back to the energetic and lively wolf dog she was before surgery. I was very surprised to find that most vets do not recommend seeing a rehab specialist, as they say most dogs recover quickly on their own. This may be true, but I want to do everything I possibly can to make this transition easier for her.
I actually created a blog (my first ever) as a journal of Akeela’s journey. It started as a therapeutic tool for me in my journal, but I decided to make it public in hopes that our experience could be helpful for others. I created the blog through WordPress, because I did not realize there was an option to on the Tripawds website! I probably would have opted for that had I known 🙂
UPDATE: Akeela now has her own Tripawds Blog, including all her original blog posts at tripawdwolfdog.tripawds.com. Since this is the era of pictures, I also created an Instagram account to track her progress – @tripawdakeela.
I work full time as a Manager at a local start up and am also finishing up my Commercial Pilots License. I have been working towards this for the past 3 years and am *almost* about ready to take my final checkride. As it turns out…major surgery, chemotherapy and rehab therapy (without insurance) is incredibly expensive. I have put my schooling on-pause for the next couple of months, so that I can compensate for these unexpected vet bills. Having our first rehab session reimbursed would be incredibly helpful for us and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to submit our story.
~ Reese and Akeela (aka: akeelaisthecutest)