Chicagoland Tails, Fall 2005
Falling for Fido
How one courageous dog
overcame obstacles and changed his guardians' lives.
People are inclined to feel sorry for our partially blind and paraplegic dog, Fido, when they first see him rolling down the street in his cart. Once they meet him, however, they see that there is no reason to pity him—he is a happy, sweet-natured dog who likes chasing birds and getting treats.
Fido was an unplanned addition to our family. Two weeks before our wedding, we visited a pet expo at Navy Pier in Chicago. Before entering, we promised ourselves that we were not, under ANY circumstances, adopting a dog that day because our lives were too busy. Besides, we wanted a black Cocker Spaniel so we thought we were safe. Then again, we also had no idea we were about to meet the dog of our dreams.
At the show, we played with some Shepherd puppies. The woman handling the pups asked if we were interested in adopting. We said that we were thinking about adopting in the near future, but that we wanted a black Cocker. “The fattest Cocker Spaniel I have ever seen is in a booth in the next aisle,” she said. We rounded the corner and met a very rotund and energetic pooch with a cataract in his right eye. They called him “Otto,” short for Ottoman because he was shaped very much like one. We played with Otto for a few minutes and fell in love. Despite our better intentions not to adopt a dog that afternoon, we just couldn’t resist. We filled out the paperwork and renamed him Fido.
Fido soon made himself at home, spending his first few days sniffing, snorting, sneezing, and passing gas (a nervous habit of his). We laughed, opened the windows, and enjoyed our chubby, one-eyed, flatulent family member. Over the next year-and-a half, Fido chased birds, stole cookies from the counter, ate our vegetable plants, visited Laura’s grandma in the nursing home, and secured his place in our hearts.
Our lives completely changed on June 28, 2004. Fido and Dave headed out for their morning walk. While crossing an empty street to avoid some sprinklers, a car suddenly tore out of an alley. The car struck Fido on his jaw and on his back (narrowly missing Dave). The driver looked back and watched Dave scoop Fido’s limp body off of the street. She did not stop. Dave rushed home and we raced to the emergency vet. Fido’s lower jaw was broken almost completely and was hanging from his snout. He was crying (as were we) and there was blood all over Laura’s shirt.
The doctors at the emergency vet told us that Fido’s spine was nearly broken and his back legs were paralyzed. They did not have the capacity to help him. From there we rushed over to the Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, where we learned that Fido’s spinal damage might be reversible. We decided to try surgery, but the doctors were unable to correct the damage to his spinal cord. We only had a few minutes to decide whether to wake him or let him go. There was only one option in our minds.
Fido woke up, confused and scared. He spent a long week recovering in intensive care. We visited him every night, and were so happy to see the flicker of joy in his eyes as we fed him small bits of bacon and filet mignon. The vet team suggested that we order a special wheeled cart to enable Fido to walk on his own, and consider rehabilitation. We will always be grateful to all of the doctors and staff we encountered for being so skilled and compassionate. They eased us through a very difficult time.
A company called K-9 Carts built Fido a remarkable, custom-made cart based on a dozen measurements of his body. As soon as we put Fido in the cart, he raced off down the sidewalk. At first, he kept veering toward the left (he is blind in his right eye), but he soon learned how to walk in a relatively straight line. Today, he is completely used to his little cart and has been racing around ever since.
We also spent a lot of time at TOPS Veterinary Rehab in Grayslake. Workers there taught us how to care for Fido and help maintain his front-leg strength and flexibility. They helped us develop a plan for keeping Fido clean and healthy, and they groomed Fido when no one else would. Thanks to TOPS, we have learned to care for Fido and to keep him comfortable, strong, and as independent as possible.
His personality has since returned to that of pre-accident Fido. He loves to chase birds and squirrels, sneezes when he wants attention, tries to tip over the garbage can, and runs around in a circle when he is excited. Meals are still the highlight of his day and we’ve since switched him from dry food to an all-natural, raw diet, which he loves. He has dropped an overwhelming amount of weight since the accident. Four-legged Fido weighed in at a hefty 33.8 pounds–he has since trimmed down to 22.5 pounds.
After our lives returned to normal, Fido seemed a little lonely, so we decided to adopt another dog. During a snowstorm last November, we drove to the Illinois Cocker Spaniel Rescue in Harvard, Illinois. We brought Fido along so that he and his potential new friend could choose each other. A tiny black Cocker ran out of the barn near the main house, yapping and wagging her tail. She followed Fido around, and Fido seemed to enjoy the attention. A few hours later, we became the proud guardians of Matilda, a small 3-year-old who thinks she’s a cat.
Fido became a celebrity in our old neighborhood– there are not too many partially blind, paraplegic dogs rolling around. We have recently moved so now Fido and his sidekick Matilda will have the chance to make new friends in our new Birmingham, Michigan, neighborhood. Fido has made our family stronger and has taught us much about the importance of strength, love, and perseverance. We are blessed to have him with us.