How far would you go to save the animal you love? A freak accident at the park leaves Shawna Richer’s dog, Scout, paralyzed. She had to make a choice: would she put Scout down, or do whatever it took to save her, even if it meant tens of thousands of dollars in veterinary bills — and the possibility that she would never recover? In a story at the Globe and Mail, Richer questions whether she’s truly up for the struggle and shares the emotional, physical, and financial journey of Scout’s rehabilitation.

If she was going to walk again, intense rehabilitation therapy would have to start soon. The day Scout was discharged, Kim and I looped a towel under her back end and lugged her clumsily to the car. It was like carrying an octopus. Her back legs hung limp and dragged behind her. Her paws grazed the parking lot. Her tail drooped.

Once home, she slept. And slept. When the Tramadol and Gabapentin wore off, she panted and trembled. Twice a day, she fought each pill, refusing to swallow, pretending to swallow, chomping them to pieces and spitting powder in the air. Wrapping them in chicken skin did not fool her. I had to get the hang of tossing the capsules way back in her throat and massaging them down.

She hadn’t had a bowel movement in days. She couldn’t pee unless I massaged her lower belly. She wouldn’t eat and neither could I. In a week, she lost nine of her 40 pounds. I lost 10.

Suddenly, I didn’t recognize my life. I rotated from cumbersome trips outdoors to hours sitting by her bed as I tried to work, laptop on the floor. At night, I held each foot and slowly rotated her legs in wide circles, the way the exercise chart we’d been sent home with showed, even as she slept.

I watched her constantly. One time, I left her on the bed to go refill my coffee cup and she cannonballed over the side trying to follow me, landing on the floor with a thud, unhurt.

I felt alone and constantly fearful, afraid Scout wouldn’t improve, afraid insurance wouldn’t come through, afraid, inexplicably, that something else was going to happen. I ordered an expensive dog first-aid kit from LL Bean. I ordered her a seatbelt. I was nervous driving, even walking down the street. I was convinced another freak accident was around the corner.

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Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.