Rupert - 14 years and still happy despite DM
By Deb Reid, Canada

Rupert 14 years on 15th February 2016

The years between puppy and senior were full of all the things that a dog loves to do. Being with me, his "sister" Jemma, his cats, time at the lake, swimming, camping, road trips, friends both four-legged and two, good meals, quiet time, silly time, and lots of just being together. Those years went far too fast.

While Rupert had a few health bumps along the way - a broken toe, a couple of instances with disc disease (IVDD) that affected his ability to walk - he always bounced back to being my active and happy boy. Nothing stopped him.

It wasn't until he was 11 and I started to see that while he had healed from his disc issues, his mobility seemed to be getting worse, but he wasn't in pain as he was from the IVDD. After eliminating disc issues, and having his DNA tested for Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), I realized that's what it likely was. The DNA test does not give you a definitive diagnosis, but he came back as being "at risk" and combined with his age and everything else, this was a pretty good bet.

It's not what you want to hear as an owner. DM is a progressively degenerative fatal disease and it slowly paralyses the dog over time. How was I going to manage him? What would happen when he couldn't walk? What about going to the bathroom? How long will he live? All of these thoughts and fears were paralysing me. Rupert, on the other hand, just kept wobbling along and doing his best to do everything he usually did. He was happy.

He slowly got more and more unstable until he could only walk a few feet without falling down. I knew that a canine cart would help him, but there was a place in my brain that said if he went in the cart - that was it - nothing would be the same and the clock would start on the beginning of the end. I knew other dogs and people that had gone through this. I had read Bobbie Mayer's book "Corgis on Wheels" and consulted with Bobbie. I was in a special support group of Corgi owners, yet I felt like I just couldn't do it. Any major hurdle in life always looks shorter when you aren't the one expected to jump it.

I finally realized that by not being in the cart, he couldn't go anywhere, we couldn't go anywhere; my other Corgi, Jemma, too. So, I got the cart put together, put him in it in the living room and walked away from him. He looked a little perplexed, I asked him if he wanted a cookie and he flew to me. What a revelation that was to me. He didn't think twice, he wasn't caught up in all of the fears and what if's, he just moved. Nothing to it mum, geez what was the big deal?

From that day forward, I decided to not think about tomorrow; to just think about today. What did I need to do for Rupert to make today a good day? I have purchased some of the things that might be needed in the future - the front wheels for his cart, belly bands for when he may not be able to control his bladder - but that's so when or if that day happens, I will be able to adapt. We have continued to do all of the things we always have - maybe a little slower, or not as fast or in a new way - but that's okay, it means he gets to keep being Rupert.

He has been to the ocean the past two years and I rented a beach cart to bring him down to the water's edge where it was hard packed and he could run. I bought him a stroller so that he can walk further at the lake and when he is tired still be out with us. These are just tools that are letting him be himself and be with us. He is happy, his spirit is still strong and I will keep doing whatever I need to keep him like that until he tells me I need to set him free.

This is not meant to be a sad story. Every single day when we are out in the neighbourhood someone will say "oh the poor dog". I tell them no, don't feel sorry for him, be happy for him. He is here, he is out with us, he is living his life and I will do everything I need to do to keep him that way as long as he wants. DM is a disease that he has - he is not disabled, he has a disability, and fortunately, he taught me to not be the barrier in his life.

Drawing by Billie Stahl

I have been inspired by the posts of others on Facebook who have gone through DM or IVDD with their Corgis: Amy Deisher and Llyr, Denby Dog, Cleo the Corgi, and Louie the Wonder Dog. I hope that my sharing Rupert and his abilities will help someone else know that with a little help, a Corgi can do more than just manage, he can thrive with a disability.

Rupert and Jemma

For information on degenerative myelopathy, IVDD or other mobility issues in Corgis, please come and join us at the Yahoo Corgis On Wheels group. I know I would not have been able to do what I have for Rupert without the knowledge and support of Bobbie Mayer, who runs this group, and the wonderful members there who are going through the same thing as I am with Rupert.

Reproduced from The Daily Corgi (15 February 2016) with kind permission by the author.