Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lulu, 2000-2011

We first met Cori and Lu at our 2008 CenCal Corgi Picnic when Merlin was just learning to use his cart and Lu was still just wobbling. Later we met at the beach in Santa Cruz with another friend and her dog in a cart due to DM, Cori and Lulu, Merlin and I, and my IVDD dog Candy.

Cori Troiani wrote the following story about her corgi, Lulu.

In the Spring of 2000, I was beginning to look for a Corgi puppy—our first after decades of having “full size” dogs. One day I was only planning to practice interviewing a breeder, having heard he only had a litter of male pups. I arrived to find 2 sixteen week old sisters and one, who became my Lulu, locked eye contact with me and never let go. It was love at first sight and over eleven years has grown into a mutual devotion filled with intimacy, joy, playfulness and, in her later years even a spiritual connection.

Soon after joining our family we took Lulu to a pond, where she observed a dog swimming and paddled out, entirely on her own, to join him. She has loved water her entire life and this has been a saving grace when she developed DM and could use her passion therapeutically, swimming every other day to maintain strength, coordination and flexibility. Her vet and I have no doubt that her swimming through the DM years slowed the advance of the disease process, as she maintained muscle tone, coordination and flexibility. Her rear feet paddled purposefully long after she could place them when in her cart.

Lu participated in an “agility for fun” group for a few years when she was young and was always the clown of the group; Her favorite encore would be an unprompted run through the tunnel with a grinning play to her audience for applause. She developed strength and endurance early on accompanying me on a daily 3 mile walk, as well as regular outings to the beach. Her greatest athletic joy, though, were the vacations in the high Sierra mountains every Summer and Fall. Camping together, we shared activities all day and evening—what could be better! She hiked all day, swimming in every body of water and enjoying the lean air and different smells. Her last camping trip was in July 2007, but we adapted to her developing DM by renting cabins from that point on. In August 2010 she played fetch at Lake Tahoe in her Eddies' Wheels cart and swam in a smaller, warmer lake. Bliss was written all over her face. Three months later the spinal degeneration was moving toward the front and since than our lives changed dramatically: less activity, more rest, more care.

Lu's lifelong passion for any kind of fetch game sustained her through her years with DM. As we entered the final months before she couldn't use even her front wheel extension cart, she played fetch a couple of times a day on our cement terrace. As she became less enthusiastic about sniffing walks, stroller excursions and even her people friends near the end, these few moments a day continued to bring joy and enthusiasm to an otherwise very limited daily routine. It helped that the fetch object squeeked!

Living with DM brought Lu and me even closer together and she adapted to every stage of deterioration with a great attitude: enthusiasm in the beginning and acceptance as we neared the end. Nothing has been so precious and rewarding as sharing these years with my beloved girl, and I know she felt the same.

Lulu's DM timetable: starting at age 8, summer of 2007: 1 year of subtle rear leg/gait changes—as this progressed we got her a Ruff Wear harness with a rear leash attachment and a big stroller, but she still was mobile on her own most of the time with increasing malfunction—lots of hippity-hop running and later the Corgi drunken sailor walk. In February 2009 we got an Eddies' Wheels cart that she occasionally practiced in but didn't use regularly until May. While I don't think all Corgis need 12” nubby wheels, they enabled Lu maintain her rough and tumble vigorous activities on a wide variety of rugged grounds
She pushed off with her rear feet for a long time, which meant lots of boot repair but also kept up muscle strength and coordination. In October, 2010 she moved to a front wheel extension cart from CorgiAid, which she used for 7 months. Throughout this tine she swam in her own heated hot tub every other day until January 2011, when she became too weak. Throughout her time with DM she received care from a holistic vet (acupuncture, gentle chiropractic, massage) at least monthly and I massaged her and did a variety of physical therapy techniques throughout these years. I haven't charted them, but I think Lulu held on to the plateaus of the progression of DM quite well.

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