|"Take him back!"|
My daughter and I wanted to have a second dog, although my wife was not so sure about this. Our vet’s wife raved about the Hovawart breed and so we searched the internet for information before deciding that a Hovawart it would be. We preferred the black and tan markings and we definitely wanted a male. Finally we found a breeder in Saxony-Anhalt. There were two males still available – the strongest of the litter, a black one, and the slightly smaller blonde one, Cliff, who immediately pounced on my wife before she could even take her coat off. Who picked who? Four weeks later he moved in with us.
|Young Cliff at 2 years old|
In the summer of 2011 we noticed that Cliff’s rear right leg wasn’t quite right. His claws seemed to be dragging on the floor at times, and they were shorter than those on his left foot.
Our vet found nothing, but as a precaution, he took an x-ray – everything was okay – no hip dysplasia, no spondylosis, nothing obvious could be identified. Then we noticed the dragging was getting worse, and when standing still, he would stand on the toes of his right foot rather than on the pads. The vet now referred us to a clinic for a CAT-scan and further investigation. Again all seemed well, and in the recovery room the vet confirmed that they could find no hip dysplasia, no herniated disc, no spondylosis – we breathed a sigh of relief. Then, the bombshell.
Because he was showing these symptoms, with no obvious cause, there was a high probability that Cliff had degenerative myelopathy. The vet's description of this condition didn’t fill us with hope, and when we went home and researched the internet we could only reach one conclusion. Shit! Shortly after the CAT-scan, Cliff’s foot drag even caused a claw bleed – he was very sore, very sad and his eyes said “I’m not moving now”.
We found a company called SABRO and ordered their Toffler Paw Protection Shoes. Two days later, they arrived – Cliff gave the shoe a thorough examination while we told him he would be able to run better with it on. He looked at us and I swear he understood every word. We put the shoe on his right foot – he looked at it once and that was it – “Yippieyeah! I can walk again!“
It didn't last long. Seven or eight weeks later, he had problems getting up, he could walk a few steps, but then his right hip would collapse, his right foot would cross over to the left and he fell over. He could no longer lift his leg to pee and reverted back to a puppy position for that.
Behinderte Hunde Forum” which is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. All disabled dogs are represented – blind, deaf, three legged, dog in wheelchairs.
I found that the wheelchairs were expensive at 400-800 euros so I spoke with a friend, showed him some photographs and we decided to build a Dog Ferrari ourselves. Take a look at the photos and video to see the result.
Peeing and pooing whilst in the wheelchair is so easy for him too – he discovered he can just keep walking and his “trademark” is now a zigzag line on the road!!! Then in September /October 2012 his right rear let began to drag on the ground so we tied that leg up with a cord and he continued to walk in his cart with three legs. Then his left one also began to lose power and at the beginning of December 2012, we started to tie his left leg up too. Sadly, he is now unable to wag his tail...... We had reached the stage of needing to help him around the house.
Hartman’s Harness. He can wear this harness all day and it has a handle above the hips, rather like the handle of a suitcase. So, we can carry his back end while the front end is running – and I mean running!
He had to learn the meaning of the word “slowly“! Most of the weight of a dog is at the front, but the back end of a 40kg Hove is not exactly light – and 15 kg is a heavy load when it is moving forward at speed!
In summer 2012 I was looking for a second dog again, a while after Pepper passed due to old age. When I saw Cooper I fell in love. It took some persuasion to get my wife even just to go and see the puppies. It wasn’t that she didn’t want another dog or a puppy, but she was very worried that she would not be able to care properly for Cliff and also look after a new puppy, and make sure that neither were neglected in any way. It was a huge comittment and we had no guarantee that Cliff would be able to cope, either.
Two weeks later, we drove back down to see the breeder and Cooper came home with us. Looking back, the first six to eight weeks were certainly very hard, but we have all adapted and grown used to one another, and even Cooper is more sensible now! He is very different to Cliff and announced his arrival on the first day in his new home by standing on the stairs outside barking at some pedestrians passing our property.
I don’t think Cliff loves him much, but he does accept him. For now, Cliff seems content and he is happy when we tie on the Tofflers and go for a walk with his wheelchair. We all hope that his condition doesn’t get any worse.
Degenerative myelopathy is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord.