Sweetie Stood on Her Own Feet

Sweetie was always so much more than a dog to us. All who met her enjoyed her, and those who knew her, loved her. She was a hit at the vet’s office. She had been part of a group of fifteen Bulldog puppies that got sick. Most of them recovered, but Sweetie suffered lasting effects on her back legs. At 13 weeks old, she wasn’t walking. My husband Grant had always wanted a Bulldog, so Sweetie’s owner – one of Grant’s co-workers – made him a deal. Grant could have Sweetie if he could get her to walk in two weeks. Grant’s experience in X-ray and my background as a biology teacher led us to develop a plan for her recovery. The first consultation was with our vet. He and Grant pored over the X-rays of Sweetie’s back legs and spine to see if there was any permanent damage. The vet determined that there was no reason she wouldn’t eventually be able to walk, and he recommended that we “give the little dog a chance.” She had weak hip flexor muscles, so they would need to be strengthened before she could even stand. We started by propping her legs up under her, working her up to longer standing times. She really made progress once we got her outside with our chocolate Lab, Willie. She saw him on a daily basis, and she watched and studied him. She kept getting stronger. One evening Grant was working in his shop, where Sweetie’s puppy pen was, and he could hear her grunting. He turned to see her struggling to get up on her own, and eventually she was standing there, looking at him! After this pivotal moment, walking was just a few days away. Sweetie took her first steps roughly six months after we got her. She was wobbly, but she was walking, working hard to do what normal dogs do every day. Running was next! We had to find a more permanent place for her now that she was up and mobile. But she could not navigate stairs, so relocating her from the workshop to the house was not possible because we had stairs in the front and back. So we bought a wooden outbuilding, installed a doggy door with a ramp, and put dog-pen panels around it so she could go outside as needed but still be safe from other animals. My dad offered a car floormat to be cut up for traction on the ramp. We put a tiny, window air-conditioning unit inside, and a heater for the winter months. She even had curtains. Her favorite thing was her ramp, and the freedom it gave her to go both inside and out, even when we were at work. As it had been with standing, walking and running, Sweetie’s next milestones came slowly. She learned to navigate stairs at age 3, and could get up our short front steps and into the house on her own. She learned to back up at age 5. This new skill, although seemingly small, presented a whole new world to her. She died at age 9, on December 30. She was a joy, she made others smile and she made us glad to be her owners every single day.

— Erica Cox, Halfway, Missouri