Amazing Ella and Her Many Lives
By Johanna Flinck, Big-Wood's Cardigan Corgis, Finland

Nearly 11 year old Ella (Kilvroch My Romance) is an amazing little Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Her life has been at stake so many times, so we need to tell her story to all of you.

Ella's 1st life
Ella was born in the UK on 7 November 2003. Unfortunately her mom Musette died because of sudden complications just after her C-section. Ella and her nine siblings were orphans. The sorrowful situation didn't look good. The ten newly born puppies needed help quickly. But guess what... they all survived! Kate Kingston started the phone and e-mail chain asking for volunteers to help Eileen Eby with her litter. For that first night, two vet nurses each took five puppies home to care for, while Eileen frantically searched for help.

The next morning, while Eileen was sitting in the waiting room at the vet, preparing to collect the pups, a phone call came from a total stranger who had heard of their plight. Bev Foreman, of Tanglebriar Flat Coated Retrievers, had a bitch with a phantom pregnancy and lots of milk. She volunteered to help. Bev converted her dining room into a whelping room and foster mum "Rowan'' was nursing the pups within five minutes of their arrival. Bev and Rowan did a super job caring for the orphans for the next five weeks. All the pups survived and thrived.

Ella's foster mom Rowan

Ella's 2nd life
Ella travelled to Finland at 10 weeks old and started her active life here in Northern Finland. She was shown some times, was BISS-puppy and CC winner, trained agility and became the mother of two litters. Just before her second litter, she got symptoms of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. We didn't know 100% what it was, all we knew was that those puppies needed to get out immediately. Ella's situation was definitely critical. The puppies were big and looked more like one week old rather than newly born ones. I decided that this would be Ella's last litter, but the vet couldn't spay her at once because Ella's condition. I agreed. We could always do it later on if Ella survived. And guess what? She did survive.

Ella's 3rd life
When Ella had totally recovered from her operation and second motherhood, she went to her first official agility trials. Ella was very talented and qualified to the highest level quickly. She was not only fast but also obedient and that's why she was so easy to handle. Ella was an important member of our agility team and prepared for her first individual Championships during summer 2009, but fate decided otherwise. During the winter break from agility trainings, Ella came down with a slipped disk. Her hind legs didn't know what her head asked them to do. We buried all agility dreams and focused on Ella's physiotherapy. And guess what? Ella started to walk and run. She survived again!

Ella loved agility

Ella's 4th life
Ella became our full time pet without dog shows or agility trainings. Her movements were almost back to normal. She had some motoric problems which could be noticed by experienced dog people. For two years all went well. Ella was her fast, active and happy self until November 2011 when this situation suddenly changed. Ella's back problems came back and were much worse than the last time. We lost all hopes and thought that it was better to let Ella go over the bridge. Johanna even called the vet, who was familiar with Ella's situation, and left a message on his answering machine: "Could you put her to sleep? The time has come." 15 minutes later Johanna left another message for him: "Forget my first phone call. We won't come." What caused that? Well, Ella showed what kind of a fighter she is. She pulled her legs together and ran to the gate. She tried to catch a couple of teenagers on their noisy moped. We decided to try again and instead of a sorrowful visit to the vet, we booked a meeting with the dog physiotherapist. And yes, Ella survived!

Ella's 5th life
It seemed that there were good reasons for Ella's recovering - bigger than life. One year after Ella's second back problems and recovery, our friend suddenly lost her German shepherd bitch "Nanni" after a C-section. Six orphan puppies needed a mom to keep them clean and warm and to give them love and care. Johanna went to help her friend Miia with milk bottles and decided to take Ella (with a minor false pregnancy) with her. We decided that Ella could be a first aid to those puppies while we searched a bigger foster mum, but Ella decided otherwise. Just a couple of hours before taking the puppies to a GSD bitch with only one puppy, Miia and Johanna decided that Ella could keep the puppies. People could feed them and Ella could give them love and we all trusted Ella.

Ella with her six foster babies

Yes, we all knew that Ella was over 9 years old and that it all was risky, but we couldn't take the puppies from Ella anymore. Never say never, this was Ella's third litter. So Ella moved to Miia's place for couple of months, took care of those little GSDs and against all fears and prejudices, she kept all those little monsters in loving discipline until they moved to their own homes.

Video of Ella playing with her foster puppies

The story of Ella, the little lifesaver, and the puppies touched many people and this sad story with a happy ending spread quickly. It was a front page story in our local newspaper and one nationwide dog magazine wrote an article on Ella and the puppies. Johanna's internet blog got hundreds of new followers and the story was shared many times on Facebook and other internet forums. Those puppies are big and brave German Shepherds now, just starting their working dog careers. A couple of them live near us and yes, they still recognize Ella as their mom. It looks funny but it's of course normal behaviour for dogs.

Ella with three of her foster dogs and their sire Peiko (right).

All went well with Ella until this summer. We even planned to enter her for some shows just for fun because there are plenty of shows with free entry for dogs over 10 years and Ella likes showing and trotting nicely. But again our lesson was "don't make plans". Ella became sick and 15 minutes later our own diagnosis was confirmed as pyometra after ultrasound at the veterinary clinic. We decided to first try with antibiotics only because Ella's cervix was open and pus was flowing. We decided that surgery was not an option for Ella because of her back problems and age (over 10.5 years). Well, when Ella's situation suddenly changed for the worse and her cervix closed on a Sunday night, we forgot about the previous decision. Surgery? Yes, please, quickly! Try to save her life, please. Only trouble was that our older vets were on their summer vacation and we had a young vet, actually still a student, as our local vet and we needed to use the old clinic without special anaesthesia machines. But the young vet and Ella were both fighters and after three hours, the risky operation was over. Ella's uterus was full of cysts outside and full of pus inside, but the vet got it all out. We drove home and the first night was a nightmare. Ella was so queasy because of all the medicine. After that awful night Ella's recovery speed was amazing. Again she survived!

Ella's 6th life

Ella three weeks after her operation

Three weeks after her pyometra surgery she's back on track again. She is full of joy and she behaves like a puppy with all her toys. We took her with us to the beach and she had fun with our old Cardigan boys Esko (12 years) and Esko's father Totti (nearly 14 years). They swam in the sea, played and ran like puppies.

Ella (r) playing with Esko

It seems that Ella's zest for life and mental strength have helped her trough all difficulties. We are so grateful to Eileen Eby who nearly 11 years ago let Ella come in our life. Ella has given so much to so many people, not only to us. After all what has happened to Ella we have decided to live from day to day with her and will let her tell us when she wants to give up. But for now she has other plans. She wants to live again. After all it's only the sixth time so far.

August 2014

Reproduced with kind permission of the author.