Our beautiful Spenser was born January 6th, 2017 in Sutton on the outskirts of London. He was a smooth haired red miniature dachshund from a reputable Kennel Club breeder. The breeder assured us that there was absolutely no history of IVDD in Spenser’s family. This was a huge relief, as we had read enough about IVDD to realise that it’s hereditary. We also thought that being registered with the Kennel Club meant that IVDD Screening was a given. We were wrong.
Spenser grew up in London, where we were working at the time, and came everywhere with us. Everyone loved him wherever he went, right from he was a tiny puppy and he was especially good with children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Emma worked in the West End and Spenser quickly became a treasured theatre mascot. He also came with me when I painted murals in schools and clinics for homeless people, where he had a knack for breaking the ice and getting those who needed a bit more encouragement to join in. He was a great mixture of loving and cheeky, which meant nobody could resist his charms. For the next four years he lived a happy life as a London boy.
Then the pandemic hit and we moved to Norway to be close to family during a difficult time. Spenser supervised the move, enthusiastically checking boxes and coped well with the flight over in his special carry case in the cabin. He threw himself into life as a Norwegian dachshund, where he charged happily through the woods, found friends of all sizes, and experienced snow and wearing socks for the first time.
Everything seemed to be going so well, but then suddenly one Saturday night he was struck down with a herniated disc. After consulting our local vet, we drove through a blizzard to get to the nearest animal hospital in the middle of the night. Their diagnosis was IVDD Stage 5, no deep pain sensation. He underwent surgery Sunday afternoon and the operation was successful. The surgeon was confident that he had 90% chance of regaining his ability to walk. We were hopeful, and Spenser fought, he wanted to live. We visited him in hospital every day. He made friends with all the staff and started sitting on their desks while they worked.
But Spenser never regained feeling in his back legs and his condition deteriorated as the week went by. Friday morning the neurologist confirmed that progressive myelomalacia had set in and his spinal cord was dying bit by bit. The vet in charge advised swift euthanasia, as he was suffering badly at this point. Spenser was moved into the intensive care unit and it was only a matter of time until his lungs and heart failed. He couldn’t move at all anymore, all he managed was to lie on his side, barely lifting his head. It was obvious that he was in a great deal of pain, even with high level pain management. He looked us deep in the eyes and there was no mistaking his meaning, he’d had enough.
January 29th, 2021 at 3 pm, Spenser went quietly to sleep in our arms with his favourite toy, a little plush owl, under his chin. We held his tiny body until it was cold and were able to stay there and cry with the vet for a good while. He’d only just had his fourth birthday.
In the weeks that followed, we were heartbroken, in shock, and blamed ourselves for what happened. How could we have prevented this? We were sure we’d done everything wrong: too many walks, not enough walks, we should have had more ramps, fewer stairs, maybe he should have been slimmer, stronger, we should have realised earlier that something was wrong. We had read about IVDD before getting a dachshund, but when it struck we were completely unprepared.
We got in touch with the breeder and were told that Spenser’s dad died in 2019 due to IVDD. This is when it became clear that the parents hadn’t been screened for IVDD before breeding. We hadn’t realised that we should have asked about back scores and this is where we failed as sausagedog parents. Of course, we don’t regret getting Spenser for a second and we’re grateful for the four years we had with him. But if there’s one thing we can do as puppy buyers, it’s to ask about back scores before getting a puppy. Our beloved and loyal four legged family members give us so much—it’s the least we can do in return.