As an owner of an older dog who is beginning to have some problems with his hind end and has trouble walking some days, I was touched by Penny Zenglein’s story about her dog, Hannah.
“Hannah, our yellow Labrador retriever, spent the first five years of her life working as official store greeter at Beary Cute Bears in downtown San Luis Obispo.
“Life changed for her — and for my husband Jack and I — on July 27, 2008, after she played ball at the dog park at Laguna Lake. Within 24 hours she dropped to the ground, paralyzed in the hind end, and ended up at the pet ER.
“At first the vet thought she had a herniated disk in her spine and would need surgery. Upon further examination with dye and X-rays by the specialist, it was determined that she had suffered a fibrocartilaginous emboli, or spinal stroke.
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“Our beautiful, healthy, fit and trim Labrador was now paralyzed and could no longer walk.
“The options at this point were not great: (1) Putting her to sleep, which they said most people do; (2) Taking her home and trying to rehabilitate her, which is successful about 50 percent of the time but requires many long hours of hard work; or (3) Possibly making her a cart dog with a doggie wheelchair.
“My husband and I chose to keep this special dog in our lives. We spent the next six weeks working with her — rotating her body, stretching her, exercising her, massaging her, doing swim therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture and doggie chiropractic to help her heal.
“Our protocol paid off, and Hannah regained some of the use of one rear leg and could hop around again by herself on three legs. I made a special leather boot to keep her from tearing the fur and skin off her fourth paw as it buckled under when she tried to walk. As time progressed and we continued the healing protocol over the next eight months, she improved tiny little bits at a time.
“Hannah missed not working and being around people, so in the late spring of 2009 she was doing well enough to pass the Therapy Dogs International exam to become an official therapy dog. She was back on four legs again but with some neurological damage and a serious limp.
“Hannah currently enjoys working again and meeting people in her new position as a therapy dog. She visits The Manse on Marsh and the Villages at Garden Creek. She also participates in the Tail Waggin’ Tutors program (kids reading to dogs) at the Morro Bay and Oceano libraries and loves working with the children.
“Although she can’t play ball at the dog park any longer, she still enjoys going for a swim to fetch the ball or on an occasional slow, off-leash run on the beach where you can actually see her smiling! She is a very happy dog, and we are so very happy she is still a part of our lives.
She is an incredible and very soulful dog with a strong spirit to live and make people happy.”
If you have a story and/or photo of your animal companions please e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Pet Tales, c/o The Tribune, P.O. box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406.