Anything Can Happen!
I’ve written many times about our Papillon, Desi and the challenges he faced with his diagnosis of GME. I’ve written about his recovery and his nutritional needs to share our experiences with you, should you ever be faced with similar medical issues. Today I’d like to share a very happy experience, one we never thought would be possible after Desi’s illness.
Desi competed in agility before we adopted him at six. One of the reasons he was available for adoption was that he didn’t enjoy agility or being one of a group of dogs in the family. After adopting him I didn’t want him to lose his athleticism and general fitness, but I didn’t want to push him to do anything he didn’t enjoy. We walked every day and played – although Desi was never really big on playing with toys. He seemed to crave more activity so I got some practice agility jumps and tunnels to play with in the yard. To my surprise he LOVED it. I took some classes because while Desi had run agility, I hadn’t. I was the recipient of a good amount of criticism about Desi knowing more than I did and one teacher went as far as to say she was going to contact his previous owner to see how she felt about me running agility with Desi. Seriously. When classes were less than positive, I opted to practice at home and rent the ring once in a while to practice on the equipment I didn’t have. I’m all for doing things right, but this was supposed to be fun not cut throat competition about who was the most skilled team. We did trials casually and he was rewarded just for trying. Boy did he enjoy going! He’d wag and wiggle his way around the house whenever my agility sneakers came out and I started to pack up the car. It was an entirely different experience for him being with me the whole day rather than in a crate or pen with other dogs waiting his turn. I loved it too. A whole day with him away from the office was heaven. Unfortunately we were just getting good as a team when he became sick. At the worst of his GME he could barely walk, let alone run agility.
Fast forward to spring of 2009 and he was able to do a bit more than just take short walks. I was unsure about his safety jumping and running so we took things very slowly. I watched him carefully and knew he needed more activity both for mental stimulation (he needed a job) and to regain his physical strength. I set the jump bars on the ground and he practiced stepping over. We did just a few weave poles at a time and gradually increased from there. It’s unclear how much was recall and how much was retraining, but he did more and more each time. His ability to concentrate and his endurance were improving! Finally I entered a trial planning to just watch or take him home if he seemed nervous or uncomfortable. I would never push him beyond his comfort. There were some goofy mistakes on the first few runs – both his and mine – and he was exhausted after a full day away from home. Interestingly some of the things he wasn’t comfortable with before like the A frame and the weave poles – he never misses now. He does tire easily so we don’t do trials two days in a row any more, but he’s grown so much stronger.
So the big news is that Sunday, February 14th 2010 on Valentine’s Day our amazing little Desi earned his MACH (Master of Agility Champion) title. People who knew his story had tears in their eyes when he finished the run under time with no faults. One woman was so happy she kept saying ‘that’s his MACH…that’s his MACH’ almost in happy amazement that it could happen after everything he’d been through. My point here is not to brag about a MACH title, it’s that anything can happen. Desi’s recovery was hard work for him and for me. It was a commitment every day to work with him and pay very close attention to details with how he felt, reacted to meds, different situations etc. With good medicine, a fantastic neurologist, commitment and will, he is living a happy and active life. Sure there are compromises – we have to keep his schedule very consistent and plan around his needs. Isn’t that a small price to pay for the joy he brings to us every day? We think so and we are so very grateful he’s here with us.
When you are faced with an illness I think it’s wise to find a clinician who has dealt with that particular illness before. Advocate for your animal. Listen to the facts and give them information about your animal’s history and personality. Sometimes miracles can happen with some help.
You’ll note my blog posts are now closed for comments. I’ve closed them because there were literally hundreds of comments looking to direct traffic to questionable sites, sell things I would not ever endorse etc. Our reader’s ideas for posts and comments however are always welcome. Simply email us directly through the link on our website and we’ll read your comments and share them when appropriate.
And while we look forward to transitioning to spring, please do something great for a dog in need while treating your dog to something special. We have a special charitable giving campaign called Joy – spread it around. We have created an embroidered Perfect Fit Hoodie in our signature turquoise and all the profit from this particular hoodie will be donated to an animal organization. So treat your dog and help another dog.
All the best,
Patti and Desi