This is the first in a series of blog posts about other corgis that have been lost to DM. Long before I had ever heard of degenerative myelopathy, Shelby was dealing with it with her corgi Casey. It is fitting that his story should be first in this blog.
Casey's story as written by Shelby Geisler:
I got my first pem in 1960, his name was Pageant. He was with me for 16 years. I was 6 years dogless when I found Brandy Buck. A 2 year old his Daddy wouldn't let him eat so the lady decided to give him away. I was insurance adjusting, she drove a school bus. While I took pictures of the damaged bus 3 corgi's, seemed like more were running around barking at me curious of this visitor. I remember asking her, oh my gosh where did you get them. As I went into her house I said you even have a corgi dog door mat. Her reply was "you even know what they are, do you want one". Oh my goodness did I ever want one!
I took 13 pictures of the bus, took a 3 page hand written statement with all the kids names and addresses and left there in 45 minutes with a dog. I pulled up in front of the house, looked at Brandy and said "I've got 5 hours to explain how this happened".
Pageant passed from a heart condition, Brandy Buck kidneys. They both went on their own at their own time.
I didn't want to go through the hurt of losing them anymore it was too painful but it was also so lonely. Then one day the yellow pages lady called. I no longer had a corgi at my feet and we spoke about dogs. She called back a few days later "I found some corgi pups, they are in NJ and here's the number". I looked at that number laying on the desk all day and about 4pm I placed the first call. While I didn't reach them immediately I did speak with them only to learn they were all gone. Now I was on a mission. I got the kennel club book and started calling breeders.
Weeks turned into months, and I have since learned from Casey's breeder she only gave me a pup because I pestered her so much. Boy did she grill me before letting him go. I later learned the litter I was to get a pup from that day was sick. Casey was from a former litter and one she had kept to show herself. Ohhhh he was so beautiful, a sable.
When she finally let him go I think I ran with him as fast as I could to the van. I wanted to get out of there before she changed her mind. Going down the road I looked at him saying "don't you get any birthdays, oh yes please get lots of them". He was 13 weeks old. We were inseparable 24/7. The back seat was his and we had contests who could see the cows in the fields first. The first day he was with me we put over 200 miles on the van, ate at Arby's he got the beef I got the two rolls.
He always maintained his weight at 23#. In the summer of 2004 he lost 2# all in the rear. I gave him milk shakes. He was sleeping more and he had always asked for a companion/friend. I finally gave in and got Lucy, a 4 year old female on labor day. He followed her around like a puppy dog. So thrilled to have her join our family. Just two weeks later we were out back just off the porch which is nearly flat even with the terrain. Casey was sitting aside me, he stood up went to take a step and it was as though his left rear leg was nailed to the turf. He looked up at me puzzled and/or as if I was doing something to hold his foot. That was the beginning. He was 13.10 months old.
Off to the vet. She said he had arthritis. He was given shots like allergy shots and then it dwindled off to pills which she said he'd be on for life. Somewhere along the way I had taken him along to dog school as I was bonding with Lucy. The minute the dog trainer saw him she said he has DM. Back to the vet, I didn't know what DM was nor the full name. Apparently this vet didn't know either. When I asked if there was a possibility what was happening with my boy was DM, she quickly scooped him up, took him in the back x-rayed him and brought the picture out to show me.
The next 3 vets said he had a bit of arthritis but only normal for his age and certainly not sufficient to cause this. Some vets (there were several) did suggest neurologist. By that time I had learned/found/whatever an MRI is not a good idea as it can hasten the progress of the disease. Since there was no cure - only an idea by process of elimination I decided against the MRI. I searched out a chiropractor. He had two treatments which I thought helped a bit. She backed off saying she was in over her head. While she attempted to contact an associate she was never able to. I located a holistic vet. She came once. I recall the Chinese Meds which Casey could not take. Gesh he couldn't raise his head off the pillow. I have pictures. Once again he rebounded.
I couldn't stand to see this boy struggle to drag himself around. Fortunately I had seen a dog on a cart at one of the events. My first contact was to Foster Smith. They referred me on to Handicapped Pets. I did order him butt lifts (most don't fit a corgi), booties, etc. I don't recall any of them fit then there was the frustration of sending them back in an attempt to get credits. I was so excited when I thought I had found something to help him only to be disappointed when it didn't work out. The EW cart was mis-sized. I actually wound up purchasing a second cart from Dewey's but not before we took a trip to Delaware in the hopes of a loaner cart. The trip was like 8 hours. It was hot. I had a cargo van but it did have an air conditioner. Little did I know the a/c only cooled the front of the van. Something started rattling about 35 miles into the trip. I stopped twice and could not find it. I was nervous as a cat.
The lady with the loaner cart expected Casey to come out of the van and run in it. Didn't happen and we left there with me crying "Casey no one wants to help us". I got lost somewhere around Philadelphia. When I we finally got home Casey was limp like a wet towel. I thought I killed him. He rebounded once again and that's when I decided to order the Dewey's cart on my own.
I had read water therapy. I couldn't find a place for him to swim. When I did it was a horse tank and that year the horses were sick with the potential to spread it to dogs. For every crack of light I thought I found yet another door slammed on my nose.
I knew absolutely nothing about caring for a handicapped dog, with an old limping computer I did the best I could to care for him. Caught between 4 walls, alone watching a vibrant dog deteriorate when it seemed I could do nothing to help him was overwhelming to say the least. Casey was never sick a day in his life and now when he needed someone there was none. He never thought anyone would hurt him. He'd find a baby bird or a turtle and come running for me. Mom, Mom look, look.
I stayed with him 24/7. He continued to want to travel with me to the bank, to job sites, etc. I carried him outdoors to relieve himself every 3 hours round the clock. He preferred we do wheelbarrow, I was his back legs, good thing I'm only 5'1" tall. He could take me at light speed across the yard. He soon learned the command "whoa". I sat on the floor with him twice a day hip to hip and finger fed him. He especially enjoyed cooked carrots. Those were some of the most enjoyable times when he'd look up at me in want of more food.
That last winter we did go to diapers not because he was incontinent because I didn't think it a wise choice for me to slip on the ice while carrying him. I used the old time gauze diapers with a Always sanitary napkin tucked inside. I wrapped it around him and pinned it on top with a diaper pin. I put a rubberized sheet on the car seat and he moved up front to the passengers seat aside of me. The washer was getting a work out.
Via the net I located a vet who did therapy/swimming about 2 hours away. Scheduled an appt only to have them call back asking if I read the U of Tennessee report. From the conversation it was evident they didn't want to see my dog.
I then purchased a huge galvanized tub at the farm store to swim him. Got a life vest but didn't know what temperature the water was to be or how long he was to swim. I stacked pillows around him to sleep and put a motion detector on him so I knew when he wanted to move. This finally gave me a minute to grab a sandwich from upstairs. I bathed and slept downstairs on the recliner to stay with him. Would I want to go through this again, no way. Would I do it for Casey, you betcha.
Casey passed 12-09-05 just a few months before the DNA test came out. I was so excited to learn finally they have a way to eliminate this horrible disease. I had thought everyone would be as excited about the test as I was. When there was reluctance from some of the breeders and/or excuses they weren't going to comply I'm the one who said the Pembroke Welsh Corgi will be known as "oh those cart dogs". Fortunately there are breeders who do care enough to save the breed.
It's been 5 years and it seems like yesterday. His companion Lucy is still with me. I adopted another 2 year old rescue who was on death row and I got a sable pup in August 2009. I've surrounded myself with 3 corgi's I'm so lucky to be able to share my life with them. I pray they will lead healthy happy lives.