Living with a Maxwell here at the adorable house of misfits has been a whirlwind of emotions and overall trial and error on things to best help Maxwell thrive. After hearing from various veterinary professionals and pet parents alike on what Maxwell’s official diagnosis was I finally decided to end the debate and scheduled Maxwell to see the neurology department at Akron (Ohio) MedVet.
Being someone in the veterinary field who handles curbside appointments daily I can tell you that it was a very humbling experience and reminded me to be patient and compassionate and reminded myself that despite not being allowed to go inside with Maxwell the staff, technicians and doctor’s treated him with kindness, compassion and respect (and they absolutely did! I cannot thank Akron MedVet enough!).
The neurologist stated that (among other things) Maxwell has multiple limb deformities along with kyphosis of the thoracic limb region with potential hemivertebra but she reminded me that with the “right family ANY pet can thrive!” and she is absolutely right.
I am unsure why I so badly wanted an official title for what was up with Maxwell, maybe it was because I felt if “it” had a name then I would know better what to expect maybe — but much with life there is no true preparation and we just all have to “roll with the tide” whatever or where ever that may take us!
Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity similar to scoliosis the difference is that scoliosis is a lateral (side to side) curvature of the spine whereas kyphosis is a posterior (up and down) curvature of the spine, specifically in the upper, or cervical, portion of the spine.
This curvature can cause nerve damage, which is the reason behind many, if not all, of the symptoms presented.
In older dogs, the condition can be caused by trauma (like a spinal fracture) or wear-and-tear on the spine (which could lead to arthritis or osteoporosis).
In younger dogs (less than 1 year old), the condition is most likely congenital, meaning it was inherited by the individual at birth, as was the case for Olivia, so this is the type of kyphosis of focus throughout this website.
If you suspect your dog’s kyphosis was inherited, it is important to get in contact with his/her breeder (if possible) to let them know. They will want to make sure to not keep breeding your dog’s biological mother/father so as to stop these defective genes from passing on to any more offspring
Some of the signs/symptoms MAY include:
Atrophy (loss of muscle tone in affected areas)
Loss of sensation
Incontinence (loss of control over bladder/bowel )
weakness in the back legs
signs of muscle wastage in the back legs
an abnormally shaped back
Is the future scary? Absolutely it is! But I would feel the future as scary regardless if Maxwell was in our life or not! I am unsure what the future holds for Maxwell but I know one thing for sure: He is going to live a safe, happy & loving life with myself and the rest of the adorable house of misfits!
Can you imagine this sweet, genuine, affectionate, absolute pure face being returned to the cat shelter three separate times? THREE?!
Image him after return to the shelter #1 (the family was “going on vacation and did not want to be bothered with Bifford anymore, as per their surrender form) as he is placed back into the “general population” of other cats equally awaiting their forever homes as Bifford watches the doorway…patiently waiting for his “people” to return to get him. As the tock ticks by with each minute Bifford’s heart sinks just a little more as eventually he realizes they are not coming back for him. They tossed him away as if he was some disposable, inanimate object without a care in the world. Bifford perks up every single time the doorknob twists as he waits with anticipation for it to be “his people” only to be disappointed every single time.
Top that off with the fact that Bifford is not as fast nor nimble as the other cats so every time he attempts to bobble into the litter box and concentrate with all of his might, every time its “feeding time” and the large bowls of kibble are placed for a “come and get it” meal time, every time a prospective family enters the room he is promptly knocked over by the swarms of other eager cats, bullied by some of the “top dogs” of the room and becomes more reclusive — hiding in the corner of the room where he felt most safe with the wall to his back and his eyes always watching to ensure he is not randomly sought out by a room bully for a match that would be less than fair of a fight.
This is why I will forever stress to families to (if you are able to) volunteer to foster any prospective adoptive pets! Bifford would (sadly) not have stuck out in a room full of eager cats that maul you in affection as soon as you hit the shelter doorway, meowing and rubbing on your leg in an attempt to yell “pick me pick me! Couple this with the fact that he is a black cat (which sadly, statistically are not on the top favorites to adopt due to the reason they do not show up on “selfies” well — I will post this article reflecting this in an upcoming post).
Bifford came to me by chance. He was getting bullied at the shelter and was not really coming out from his hiding place. The shelter was concerned about him and felt he was simply not thriving in the shelter environment and felt a temporary foster home away from the shelter would do him some good and I am inclined to agree (look at the above photos of him at the shelter versus him at home — the results speak for themselves!).
I urge you to give those “not so eager” pets waiting for their forever homes in rescues, shelters and pounds a fair chance! Despite the fact that they are not mauling you in affection in a shelter setting does not mean they will not be a totally different pet once you get them into your home and give them an opportunity!
I would like to believe that I am not so cynical to not believe in signs from above but this one, this one was so blatantly obvious that one could not help but NOT ignore it.
I lost my best friend, my light of my life, my “reason” on Monday 01/25/2021 and to say that I was handling it poorly was an understatement. I was on “autopilot”, masking my utter sadness and heartbreak behind a false smile and felt so incomplete that I felt would be permanent and just simply “who I was” from now on.
Until Monday 03/08/2021.
I heard commotion in my veterinary clinic I work for with my name coming up several times (which peaked my interest) as I saw a small crowd circling something … something tiny. I as made my way into the small group of women I saw him… meet Maxwell Walker (Maxwell after The Beatle’s song “Maxwell Silver Hammer”) an eight week old pug puppy (though the doctors suspect he may be younger) who is a “swimmer puppy”.
Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is a developmental deformity that results in a puppy having a flattened thorax/chest. They may have mobility issues that with physical therapy can be (for the most part) corrected it just takes a lot of patience and humility.
Max will never replace Maggie ever and in fact he may be nothing like Maggie which I accept and understand also (I used to often joke that I wasn’t a “pug person” but I was an avid “Maggie person”) but I can only hope that somewhere tucked deep inside that tiny little pug puppy is a quality or two that Maggie had for so long – that patience, that calmness and most of all affection.
I know it will take time for Max to grow on me (frankly he’s creeping into my ❤️) and it will take even more time to work on getting him to use his back legs and be more mobile (without my assistance).
If you’ve been wondering why the site and our social media platforms went on a short, short sabbatical it’s because of this little dude. We’re working with him constantly as far as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, puzzles and exercise regularly (in addition to trying to potty train) as well as care for the other part of the crew has managed to occupy the rest of my day (happily of course!).
Please be patient with us as we work to find a happy medium between Maxwell and the rest of the day’s agendas — I promise we will return with gusto! Stay tuned folks!
Bifford was born in Chicago, Illinois after his mother was rescued off the streets by a compassionate and patient animal shelter volunteer. Being one of four kittens he was categorized by animal shelter volunteers as “the worst” out of the litter in regards to his cerebellar hypoplasia. When Bifford was a mere 10 days old his mother rejected him thus withholding care and nutrition he so desperately needed when a devoted foster mother assumed responsibility for his around the clock care. When Bifford was transported to Youngstown, Ohio by a local cat shelter a note was enclosed with him:
“Born October 09, 2011, mother rejected at 10 days old. Tipsy [my brother] and I are the largest of the four kittens in our litter and most affected with CH. He will use a litter box 99% o f the time, will cry beside the litter box if he cannot get in or is having trouble. Sometimes falls/flips right out of the litter box and also sometimes lays on side to go [to the bathroom] and I will help hold him up until he finishes. Sometimes will take a nose dive in litter and will need cleaned off/bathed. Sometimes he will accidentally step in his own mess because he is unable to bury his potty. Will eat some from plate but will eat best when fed canned food by hand while holding him up under his belly with my other hand. Will cry for a bedtime bottle around 9-10 PM and gets canned food 3x/day.”
Bifford was initially adopted in Fall 2012 but was returned after his family moved and could no longer take him with them. Upon being returned back to the shelter he was then adopted in Spring 2013 by a family who vowed to care for him but unfortunately bungled his care. When being returned (again) to the shelter in May 2014, Bifford’s former family admitted that they were unable to effectively care for Bifford and felt that he was “suffering” and wanted him to “die with dignity” to which they would contain him in an empty hot tub with the cover on it in order to “contain the mess”. Bifford was terrified and underweight but otherwise unscathed, though shelter life was no life for him. Living in such close proximity to other cats in a cage free shelter proved the theory of “survival of the fittest” in which Bifford was not as fast as the other cats and was often the subject of many bullies.
I agreed to foster Bifford on Mother’s Day, 2014 in which the situation was only to be “temporary” in order to spring him from the shelter and hopefully nurture him physically and emotionally. The first few nights were proving to be exhausting ones for both Bifford and myself — roaming the house and crying all hours of the night I can only speculate he was terrified being in a strange, new environment (again) and even more terrified that he was going to fall in love with a new family and ultimately get returned back to the shelter. Couple this with the fact that at that time I had no idea how to properly care for a “CH” cat (nor did I know much about them) I feared that I would not be able to arise to the labor of love that was Bifford.
Years have passed since those first few days and I still joke with Bifford that he is a “foster” though I can say without reservation that he is a “foster fail” because he took over my heart in so many ways. Come October 09, 2018 Bifford will be turning 10 years old to which he has a happy, healthy and spoiled lifestyle (what cat do you know that has their own bedroom and TV?!) and ultimately planted the seed of special needs animals advocacy and education due to all of the misconceptions and ill-information circulating about special needs animals.
Please enjoy the website, Bifford’s photos and overall shenanigans and information 🙂
When I brought Bifford home for the very first time as a “foster” I remember the moment very clearly — it was Tuesday May 13, 2014 and I had NO idea what to expect! I had NEVER had a “special needs” animal let alone a cerebellar hypoplasia cat I was asked by a local cat shelter to take him home for a bit because he was not thriving well getting bullied and beat up on at the shelter after being surrendered for the THIRD time (the first time the “family” was going on vacation and simply did not want to be bothered any longer, the second time was because he successfully used the litterbox but did not want to “cover it up” and the third and final time before he permanently adopted me was a couple who would lock him in an empty hot tub to “contain the mess” and allow him to “die with dignity” as documented on the surrender intake forms).
To say that I wanted to wrap the boy in bubble wrap and coddle him beyond belief would be an understatement. He wandered my one story, ranch style home aimlessly and cried all hours of the night. I was at my wits end and honestly felt like I was letting him down because he seemed so… displaced? Scared? Alone? I remember calling the cat shelter crying because I felt like I was letting him down and that maybe the shelter was a better environment for him then my home was.
At the insistence and pep-talk of the shelter they asked me to be patient and give it time and stressed to join some local CH forums for guidance and advice. Blogs and forums such as Kitty Cat Chronicles became my saving grace and honestly the gift that both Bifford and I needed to better understand one another.
Today I am that “cool mom” (well, I would like to THINK of myself as the cool mom. But who that is cool calls themselves “cool”) – do you remember those diaper commercials that document “mom of one child” (the stressed out, type “A” personality who looks overwhelmed) versus “mom of two kids” and the latter is always more calm, cool and collected in the face of chaos & adversity? It took some time but now I let Bifford BE Bifford. There truly is knowledge in letting kids (furry or otherwise!) fall, wipe out, crash and burn and allow them to get back up on their own without the coddling of their helicopter “smother” (smother + mother = “smother”) and I promise it will get better!
When I adopted Bifford (which occurred about five minutes after I took him home to foster him and instantly fell in love with the boy) I was navigating uncharted territories, attempting to haphazardly steer a storm I was unaware of all around.
If I could instill wisdom for new “CH pet parents” it would be this:
If you notice your new special baby stressed or overly anxious try to utilize the Feliway spray as well as try to get your baby into a “routine”. I noticed that Bifford enjoyed having a semi-structured routine (we woke him up from his “big boy room” and fed him breakfast, then we would let him play the day away with his brother and sisters then “mommy” would be home from work so he got snuggle time then it was dinnertime and then lounging with “mom and dad” before bedtime). I found that if anything derailed his routine in such a dramatic way he would freak out (and eventually that turned into stress cystitis, but that is a topic for another post!
Schedule regular dental cleanings/examinations! I cannot tell you how many times when I first brought Bifford home would he sneeze a little too aggressively or be playing and “biff” it a little to hard and hurt his mouth or even chip a tooth! By having regular dental cleanings done I was able to address any injured teeth (injured= extremely painful).
Construct a first aid kit for cats! This will come in handy if your little angel stumbles and falls or gets a “booboo” that may need a little attention when your veterinarian is closed (or you need to address and stabilize while en route to the veterinarian!)
Invest in a low lip litter box! We actually made “BHOP” (Bifford’s House of Poop” which was a 13 gallon Rubbermaid container that Bifford’s “dad” cut a hole out on the bottom of one side (always use caution when using power/sharp tools!) This way Bifford could easily bobble into BHOP and do his absolute worse inside and there was no spillage or issue! He could also fall in it (or sometimes, play) without him knocking the entire thing over or causing any damage/injury!
COMMUNICATION! When you adopt one of these special babies call your regular veterinarian right away (or send them a letter/postcard!) letting them know you adopted a specially abled pet (e-mail us if you would like our informational packet for veterinarians/veterinary staff) and if they have any questions (or maybe concerns) about these special babies. (Check out our map of veterinarians that are aware and understand these special kiddos here)
What are some useful tips/tricks that you were given (or found yourself while on your personal adventure!) that you would like to pass onto future specially-abled pet parents? Comment below!
A very special “THANK YOU” to Catster Magazine & Susan Willett for such an amazing and insightful article about Bifford & his efforts! Make sure you pick up your JAN/FEB 2021 edition of Catster today!!