Monday 20 October 2014

Not all pets are perfect but they still need to be loved

Published 02/08/2013 | 17:00

Heartwarming: Mick has become a YouTube sensation

Mick was born with 'Swimmer Puppy Syndrome'. This condition meant that he was unable to walk, stand or even sit because all four of his legs were splayed out. The poor thing could only lie on his stomach.

Thankfully for him, the Mia Foundation in Rochester, New York, took him in. It was this little puppy's lucky day when the foundation, which takes in animals with birth defects that might otherwise be put down, agreed to try to help him.

And so began his journey to recovery. To begin with, they propped him up to take the weight off his chest. They then placed him in a harness to put his legs, which were also taped, into the correct resting position.

Then he was taken to swim therapy where he was made to swim in a mini-pool to build up the muscles in his legs. The results were almost immediate. After a few days he was sleeping on his side and after only two weeks, he was able to sit up and walk. Granted he walks like a man with 10 pints on him, but it's a miracle that he's walking at all.

This little pup may never win any gold medals at the Crufts dog show, but I defy anyone to watch the YouTube video of him stumbling about, delighted with life, and not have a tear in their eye.

Mick's story reminded my of my own experience of growing up with a dog that was less than perfect. When I was 10, my blood turned cold as I heard a high-pitched shriek outside the front door.

I knew it was our dog, a golden Cocker Spaniel called Murph. I ran out to see her poor body lying on the side of the road and a distraught woman standing over her. The woman's car was askew and she just kept saying, "I'm so sorry, I didn't see her".

The woman's car had hit Murph and my poor dog was in a bad way. My mother came out and we gently carried the whimpering dog into the house and called the vet. Even at that age, I knew it didn't look good.

The vet called to the house and after examining her, he suggested gently that we put Murph out of her misery. He explained that she'd never be the same again. She'd never walk again, run again or have any quality of life. I was beside myself. Then I heard my mother say, "I think we'll give her a few days and see how she gets on".

And so we did. The poor thing could only drag herself around by her front legs. Murph's back legs and coccyx had been crushed in the crash. But my mother nursed her back to health and slowly began to put her up on her back legs to regain her balance and strengthen the muscles.

Over many weeks, with a lot of love, attention and patience, Murph began to regain her strength until one day she took a step unaided. Within two weeks she was running – granted she was running diagonally, but what did we care.

Like Mick, our dog was crooked, and walked with a limp. But she was alive, she was happy and she lived for another six years. I don't doubt the vet gave us what he thought was good advice, but pets aren't just animals, they're family members. And when it comes to family, you don't give up until you've explored every avenue.

The next time you decide to get a puppy, perhaps you should choose the one that looks 'different'. After all, they're the ones you'll love the most.

Irish Independent

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