- Posted December 6, 2011 by
Dog in Wheelchair Runs An Agility Course
- jmsaba, CNN iReport producer
Zip came to be part of our family at the age of two when her first family’s situation did not work out. She would fill her unoccupied time by escaping their yard to “herd” golf carts, mowers, and traffic. In her new family Zip found a job she truly loved through the sport of dog agility. Zip is a multiple champion. She competed in three different agility disciplines (AKC, USDAA, and NADAC) and achieved the championship title of Master Agility Dog Champion (MACH) four times in AKC, the championship title of Agility Dog Champion (ADCH) in USDAA, and was very close to her championship title in NADAC. Most recently, after four days of competition at the International Cynosport World Games in October, 2010, Zip’s team placed 13th in the Dog Agility Masters Team Championships. The classes tested versatility and endurance and the competitors were among the best in the world. She has qualified many times for invitations to national events. She also loved to herd sheep and she has titled in competition herding. Her travels for competitions and family vacations have taken her all over the country.
But on January 8, 2011, everything suddenly changed. Zip was fetching sticks with a group of children at a Saints’ playoff party when she became the victim of a “hit and run” reckless speeder. Her very active lifestyle came to an abrupt halt.
Emergency surgery was performed that night to repair her broken back (technically, a T-13, L1 dorsal vertebral subluxation) and the tear in her lungs from broken ribs. She also had a left ischium (hip) fracture. She was in ICU for two weeks with intense physical therapy that continued after her release from the hospital. As she was weaned off the morphine/lidocaine/ketamine drip to keep her sedated, her spark began to slowly reappear. I started bringing toys to play with her. She loved the water treadmill because she could play ball. However, after a time the luster was leaving her eyes. I was told that she may walk again but it could take a long time. Longer than Zip could tolerate without an active lifestyle. The Rehab Vet ordered a customized wheelchair for Zip, one with all-terrain wheels. I have a Golden Retriever who’d just begun showing in agility but I still could not endure heartache that Zip would feel if she were around agility equipment. After being away from agility for 7 months, we went to a trial far from home to see how Zip would react to being at a trial but not entered. She played tug ringside and barked at her brother when he ran. That part hadn’t changed. Then one day I brought her to agility practice. It was too hot to leave her in the car so my husband put her on a mat near the field. Suddenly Zip appeared at the base of the AF. She’d crawled 60 feet from her mat; she wanted to play agility. A friend and my husband decided to put the bars down on the course and I was handed a leash attached to Zip’s wheelchair. They said, “Run her.” I had reservations but Zip was gleefully barking by this time. We ran and she did great. She now practices all the time. The Five Flags Dog Training Club in Pensacola held a Glory Run for Retired Agility Dogs on December 3, 2011. The small entry fee was donated to the “Chase Away Canine Cancer” organization. Connie Fleming, the trial secretary, made beautiful certificates for the participants of the Glory Run. Over $500 was raised. All of these things bring home the real reason we compete with our dogs. It’s not about the points or the titles. It is about the tug toy, the joy of running that bursts out in barks as they run, the glee in their eyes. What are important are the celebrations and the teamwork.
Zip is happy and still a very big part and active part of our family.