Corgis on Wheels
By Bobbie Mayer PhD, Fresno, California
I've always enjoyed writing, and had done a few articles for Corgi newsletters. For a few years I had a book in the back of my mind. They always say "Write about what you know," so when I thought about a book, what I know includes chemistry, and that's not as much fun to write about -- besides which there are plenty of books -- and wheelcorgis. I knew about wheelcorgis, so I wrote my book about them. In fact, the working title was "Everything Wheelcorgi", a takeoff on CorgiAid's Everything Corgi book. It changed to Corgis on Wheels for publication because not everyone is familiar with "wheelcorgi", a term I made up! When I started the Corgis on Wheels Yahoo group in 2006, I used "wheelcorgi" as part of the Yahoo address, and the term took off. Millie put it in print in her Watching books (also published by CorgiAid.)
In the book I address questions we commonly see on the Yahoo list. "Is this DM? What kind of cart should I get? What do I do, my Corgi won't use the cart? What kind of boots work? How do you handle incontinence? How do you know when it's time to let go?" I also included a chapter on activities for wheelcorgis; our dogs are often not content to be couch potatoes, and people will be surprised at how many things they can still do and enjoy. In the "How-to" appendices there are practical things like making boots and belly bands, and fun ones on how to make skis and para-agility equipment.
Oliver, Jack and Danny
I didn't write the book alone. The writing is mine, but Cindy Read edited it and did a ton of work to make it happen. Kay Daniels did the layout, and Julia deBeauclair, whose black-headed tri-color wheelcorgi Cardi Terrance is on the title page, did the cover. But more than that, a lot of other people contributed. They took photos and sent them to me, read drafts or chapters, wrote up how-to's and so on.
In January I sent out a call to the Wheelcorgis group for a picture of a bunny butt in a cart (to illustrate proper fit as seen from the back) and Zelda's famous tushie ended up in the book.
Last fall, my camping friend Teresa's Corgi Zhoie had a ruptured disk, and when Teresa called me from the ER on Labor Day, I told her to take a picture of Zhoie sitting there. I'd been wanting a picture that showed a Corgi hunched over and shaking in pain from a back injury, and of course that's impossible to stage.
Illustration: Nancy Eckert
Teresa took the picture, then artist Nancy Eckert drew a sketch from it to exaggerate the features that are harder to see in a photo -- Zhoie's obvious distress and hunched appearance. If you see your Corgi sitting like that and shaking, get to a vet quickly. I'm happy to say Zhoie had surgery and is walking again, thanks to the CorgiPals fund.
In the book I deliberately put a chapter on the stages of DM much later than the initial DM chapter. It may sound like a contradiction when I say in chapter three that life isn't over with DM, and then later on describe the final stage of DM, but that's the truth; many dogs with DM do not die of it, as Corgis tend to be older when they get it. And they often have a few good years left.
Bobbie, Candy and Oliver - Photo: Shannon Willson
One of the things that upsets me terribly is when someone elects euthanasia either when surgery for a disk rupture doesn't result in walking immediately, or when they can't afford surgery.
Oliver didn't have surgery, and three years later he's doing great in a cart. He swims, he hikes, he chases his ball (his favorite thing in the entire world), he even skis! Candy had surgery that wasn't successful (he has less function than Oliver, who can stand up) but went on to get a TDI and an APDT ARCH (Rally championship) and have a long, healthy life.
I want people to know that dogs in carts can be very happy. I also want them to know that caring for dogs like Candy and Oliver is not that hard. They wear belly bands in the house for incontinence, I express their bladders, and I put them in and out of carts. Otherwise they are just dogs. Oh, and because I have two, I also untangle carts! Both of my dogs understand that the other dog takes up space but not so much that the other wheels do too.
Ironically, while DM is much harder to deal with, because it is degenerative and terminal, most owners of DM Corgis would not think of immediate euthanasia. Sometimes they think, "we can't do a cart" or "we can't do incontinence", but usually, by the time those things come, they've adjusted. DM involves constant adjustments to each new challenge. With IVDD, your dog is stable or gets better, but you have to adjust overnight. With DM, your Corgi only gets worse. It takes a few years, and a lot of owners get much quality time.
The Corgis on the book cover are Oliver (Cardigan) and Candy (Pembroke). Candy is now thirteen and has been nine years in a cart! When their Corgi goes down, some people are told that being a cart dog is not a good quality of life, but I think Candy could argue with that. He's spent about 70% of his life as a cart dog and is a pretty happy guy. Oliver is almost eight and on his second year in a cart. It hasn't slowed him down a bit. When I take Oliver and Jack, my able-bodied Pem, also eight, for a walk, Oliver is the one out front pulling me and Jack along. Candy is a lot slower now due to a sore shoulder and I don't walk him much when we are in Fresno, as the cement sidewalks are very hard on him.
Before these two wheelcorgis I had Merlin, who had DM, and Wesley, who had what was probably a traumatic disk injury. There is a lot about Merlin in the book because he is the dog I saw through DM. He was very photogenic but the truth is, before DM I didn't have a lot of good pictures of him because he'd come running to the camera when I tried.
One of my favorites has him emerging from an agility tunnel with a little leap of joy as he saw me again. He hated taking his eyes off of me to go through a tunnel.
The book has a very short dedication to Merlin and Merlin's Friends. Merlin's Friends is a blog I started for stories about other Corgis who died with DM. I kept wanting to write a longer dedication but it was too hard. Merlin was one of my heart dogs (Oliver is another, and the first was my Labrador Mandy.)
I think "Corgis on Wheels" is a good book for any Corgi owner. There is useful information to have if your Corgi goes down or shows any signs of DM or disk disease. The chapter "When is it time?" is applicable to any pet owner. And maybe seeing what dogs in carts can do will help other Corgi owners realize that they too could adopt a wheelcorgi. Proceeds go to CorgiAid. And besides, it has a lot of cute pictures of Corgis!
Corgis on Wheels: Understanding and Caring for the Special Needs of Corgis with Degenerative Myelopathy or Disk Disease is available from CorgiAid. The price is $25.00 (plus shipping).
Original source: The Daily Corgi
Candy doing agility on wheels
Oliver in his cart swimming after a ball