Ballad of Milo and Izzy

Published 10:31 am Friday, October 31, 2008

Chris and Christina Register and their female American pit bull Izzy sat viewing Helena’s 2006 Christmas parade when my 10-year-old son and I joined the crowd with our newly pound-adopted bull terrier mix. The two dogs gravitated to each other – unusual for them both, we commented.

Previously Milo had been very content to laze around at the feet of his humans. After meeting the irrepressible Izzy, the two became the doggie version of Bonnie and Clyde, each making dramatic and unexpected escapes from their fenced yards to roam together.

Understandably, Chris was motivated to fine-tune his large, fenced dog enclosure – blocking the escape tunnels the two would create. He was the one dispatched to nearby neighborhoods to bring the two adventurous scamps home, always panting and exhausted, but unrepentant.

Once the fence was secured, we agreed to let the dogs play together on a regular basis and, on occasion, Milo would sleep over, claiming Izzy’s dog bed for himself with complete aplomb.

One afternoon we found Milo lying all-too-still and upon examination, unable to walk. At the emergency animal clinic we were told he had a spinal injury, probably the result of too-rambunctious play, and short of expensive surgery and rehabilitation with no guarantees, euthanasia was offered.

My son and I lay on the floor with Milo crying and saying our goodbyes to his loving spirit. We said a prayer of thanks for his too-short doggie life and offered him to St. Francis’s care. Back at home, Chris and Christina were equally devastated.

Just at that moment, my cell phone rang. It was a friend of the family, who had arranged for Milo to see Dr. James Milton at the Acton Road Emergency and Specialty Animal Hospital. Milo, he clarified, had suffered a stroke in his lower spine. Surgery was not required and a specified plan for his rehabilitation was implemented.

Over the next 10 weeks, Milo regained full use of his back legs. The lesson, however, is that once an animal receives this type of injury, a recurrence is quite likely. This has proved too true for Milo, who is now mid-recovery for the third time. Frequent slow walks are necessary to encourage strengthening his weakened hindquarters. You may spot us hobbling along with Milo’s rear end supported by an old T-shirt, his legs through the arms and his tail still wagging, hopefully. He is able to walk all the way to Izzy’s yard where the best reward of all – visiting his second family – awaits.