Wednesday, December 9, 2015


My black lab, Ida, is what we call a foster failure. She is a Planned Pethood foster dog who never left, becoming instead a permanent member of the pack. That was more than four years ago and Ida, now 10 years old, and I have had lots of adventures together and, boy, do we have another one to add to the list!

The day began with Ida falling out of bed and it deteriorated from there. Ida is getting up there and she has the lab curse, stiff and arthritic hips. So I really didn’t think too much of her falling. But then she couldn’t get up on her own and kept falling over. Her eyes were twitching back and forth in an eerie manner, kind of like she was possessed. I thought OMG, she’s had a stroke and immediately called our vet, Dr. Bart. They told me it is unusual for dogs to have a stroke but to come on in and have her checked out. In the meantime, Ida could not walk on her own and kept circling and falling. I don’t have to tell my fellow animal lovers that it scared the crap out of me! I was in a panic that we would have to have Ida, my heart, my princess, put down.

Vestibular disease, that is what she had, vestibular disease. What the hell is that? It took our vet only a minute to diagnose Ida and he was quite surprised that I had never heard of it because it is fairly common in older dogs (who I foster on a regular basis). There is no cause nor is there any cure. They can only treat the symptoms and it goes away on its own. Dr. Bart has a colorful way of explaining things in addition to being incredibly talented. Bob, my semi-significant other, accompanied us to the vet’s office because Ida is too big for me to lift and she could not walk on her own. Plus I needed him for moral support if the news was dire. “Well”, Bart made the comparison, “you know how Bob looks after he has drunk a bottle of tequila and cannot walk straight? That is how Ida is feeling right now”. Vestibular disease, in the most basic terms, is a terrible case of vertigo. Armed with this knowledge and a prescription for her from the human pharmacy, we took Ida back home to wait out the duration of the disease.

Our first week was pretty awful. Ida couldn’t stand or walk on her own and I couldn’t carry her. We worked out a system that I took her out in the front yard to go potty because those steps were much less steep than out into the fenced back yard. I have no idea what the neighbors thought when they saw this drunken looking lab staggering around the yard. This worked pretty well until Maya, one of my former fosters, came to stay with us. She is only two and full speed ahead. So, as I am struggling to bring Ida inside, Maya door dashes and heads down the street. My handicapped lab is falling down and my charge for the week is sprinting away. Thankfully, my neighbor, Heather (also a PPI foster) was able to snag Maya before something bad happened.

I can totally relate to what Ida went through. I was diagnosed with an inner ear infection myself a couple of years ago. At one point I was standing there talking to a friend, and the next thing I know, I was, splat, on the ground. We took a trip to New Orleans about that time. We were in a “la de da” gallery in the French Quarter when I felt the spin outs begin. Bob warned me that I needed to let him know if I was going down so he could catch me because he could not afford to pay for the $15,000 picture of Winston Churchill I was admiring at the time. He would definitely need to intervene before that disaster could happen.

Thankfully, Ida has fully recovered, just like Dr. Bart said she would. It took about three weeks before she was totally back to her old self. I count my blessings that it was not something far worse and I still have my big black girl in my life. And now I am just a little better educated pet owner. Although, truth be told, I hope I never hear the term vestibular disease again as long as I live.

--Judy S.