Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Starr Ladehoff wrote the following about her corgi, Rocky.
"We had Rocky for 4 1/2 years."
"My friend, who owned my female corgi, Lady’s sister, lived next door to the people who had Rocky. She told me the wife didn’t like the breed so she told her husband to keep Rocky in a crate (he was the husband’s dog) while her Akitas were allowed to have attention and freedom. The husband finally agreed to give him up and spoke to my friend about keeping him. My friend couldn’t keep him at the time so she asked me. I had always wanted a tri-color corgi so I was happy to get him. He cowered when I took the crate out of my friend’s car when they dropped him off. I showed the crate to him and told him he never had to go into it again and put it in storage. He has never been crated since. And by the way, he had no behavioral issues either – what an amazing dog."
"Rocky was diagnosed with DM at the age of 13. I did not do the DNA test. I researched DM vs. other spinal diseases and trauma, watched videos of dogs with DM who had the same walking behavior, spoke to and saw three veterinarians and people on the Wheelcorgi list to determine the diagnosis.
"Rocky was never involved in sports or games to my knowledge. He did not know how to play with other dogs, people or toys. Since we got him at age 10, we did not know what his life was like, other than being in a crate. However, he LOVED going on walks and simply just to be in the same room with me. It took me two nights of sleeping next to him on his new dog bed for him to feel that it was ok to be on something soft, instead of the hard surfaces in the house. All he cared about was being loved by people.
"I first noticed Rocky walking wobbly when he had just turned 13. He would list to the side – this was in January, 2010. Then, he started slipping on hard surfaces and within a couple of months, he started falling down in the hind end. By April, 2010, he was seal walking mostly but if he had traction, he could walk a little ways but very wobbly. By November, 2010, he could no longer walk at all other than seal walking. He could not stand at all and I used a sling to move him around. In December, 2010, we were fortunate to get a CorgiAid cart on loan. It instantly perked him up once he realized he could move again freely. We went for a walk that first day and he was actually faster than my other corgi who does not have any walking issues (as of this date). I still remember how much fun he had and explored all of the bushes again and was able to do something more than drag around the house and yard. I took him everywhere I could. Each time, he would look at me with the biggest smile on his face. It was the best Christmas present I could have gotten as it had been nearly a year since he actually went on a real walk.
"The cart was a Godsend! We made a nice ramp out of plywood for the stairs off of the porch into the yard and put mats on it for traction. We leveled the yard with the tractor so he didn’t have to struggle over the lumps and bumps. I had a male wrap for him but after we got the cart, we didn’t need it. I did not keep him in the cart, except for walks or going out to potty since he would get hung up on the furniture and if he was in it too long, he would bend too much in his spine so I was careful. Fortunately, we only had stairs from the porch to the yard as the entire house is on one level. I had beds in various parts of the house for him so wherever he dragged himself to, he had something comfortable. In the end stages, I propped him up as he seemed to be uncomfortable trying to lay down. I would massage him and work his muscles however they still atrophied quickly. After he started falling on his chin while in the cart, I would prop him up with a line attached to the front of the cart when he walked.
"Before his death, Rocky appeared to be in congestive heart failure. His cough was described to me as a “heart failure” cough which was increasing. He would start panting and trying to catch his breath as well. He was struggling with seal walking too and could hardly drag himself at all. I decided to put him to sleep mostly due to his heart but also felt that he was no longer comfortable physically with DM.
"How did his DM affect our lives? Where to begin??? I had no idea what this disease was. I thought he couldn’t walk well initially due to his living in a crate but realized it was for a very different reason. I’m sure the crate life didn’t help as his muscles were never strong in the back but he did walk until he was 13 so I consider myself lucky. I realized how hard it is to care for someone who is totally dependent on my timing and availability. I went through the gamut of emotions from sadness to anger to resolve to help make his quality of life better. Scheduling was stressful as I still work but I never felt bad caring for him. In other words, I never considered him to be a burden. The few times he had an accident due to my bad timing (gone too long), I only felt bad for him and mad at myself for not being home on time. Only a week before he died, I was gone too long. I came home and he had peed on himself. I looked around for the puddle but never found one in the house. I discovered he had dragged himself through the doggie door, peed on the porch, then dragged himself back in. He had never done that before. I was so impressed with his desire to go where he was supposed to go, despite his physical incapacity but angry at myself as he must have felt desperate. I was truly grateful he didn’t get high centered on the doggie door.
"My life, both personally and professionally ended up centering around what I needed to do for Rocky but one look from him, a stare actually, was all it took for me to know he was happy just to be with me. I didn’t take vacations and only left him with family who knew how to take care of him if I was gone all day. Now that I know so much about this disease, I feel I can help others. I also am so grateful for the support I’ve gotten through the Wheelcorgi’s online group. I’ve made some great new friends who all have the same desire I do, to honor and cherish our special dogs through thick and thin and give them the best life possible. I would read every post and try to help with some behavior issues when I felt I had something to offer. I learned and cried and supported and got support from those in the group. I learned about breeding for DM free dogs. Thankfully, there are breeders out there taking serious note and doing their best which is a big sigh of relief for me. I have had many dogs of various breeds throughout my life. All of them have been special. But Rocky was right up there with the best of them when it came to touching my soul. I’m so honored to have been able to know and care for him. I don’t think my life will ever be the same. God Bless you my sweet Rocky, I can hardly wait to see you again."