Corgi-L’s Heidi Braveheart
by Carol Leibich
A friend of mine went to the home of a woman who breeds several different breeds of dogs to rescue two sheltie pups. While she was there she spotted an eight-week-old Pembroke bitch. This little bitch had no use of her rear legs. When she tried to walk, both of her rear legs went out to either side of her body. She moved around by paddling like a seal.
Bobbie (my friend) asked about the pup. The woman was very forthcoming with information about Heidi. She said that the litter of three was fine until they reached the age of three weeks. At this point the pups were moved on to the slick kitchen floor. The first born pup (a boy) had no problem. The second pup (girl) couldn’t get up on her rear legs. She looked like a swimmer pup. The third pup (Heidi) was the same as her sister.
The boy was placed at age six weeks with no contract and full registration privileges. The second girl and Heidi supposedly were taken to a very reputable vet in Little Rock at five weeks of age. The woman told my friend that this vet said that whatever was wrong with the two girls “didn’t come from the mother.” Later it was found out that the vet had never seen either of the pups. Let me state that this vet is one of the best in the area for taking x-rays of corgi hips for OFA readings. There is no way this man could have seen these pups and not recognized the rarity of their condition. At seven weeks, Heidi’s sister got up on her paws and was promptly sold, also with no contract and full registration privileges. It was when Heidi was eight weeks old that my friend saw this pup. My friend asked the woman just what she was going to do with the pup. The woman said that she was going to put the pup down. At this point my friend told her she’d like to take the pup and see if she could get her up on her feet. If she did, she’d breed her and the two of them could sell the litter and split the profits.
The woman said “Sure. Here is her blue slip.” Needless to say, Bobbie had no intention of breeding her. Bobbie took the pup home and later brought her to her vet to be examined and get her first shot. This vet had never seen anything like Heidi before and didn’t know what to do with her. It was then that Bobbie called me.
I went over and got the pup and took her to my vet. By this time I had gotten on the Corgi-L (a mailing list on the Internet) to see if anyone there had ever heard of anything like Heidi. At first I was calling her condition the “non-swimmer swimmer”. It was the only way I could think of to describe this seal-like walk of Heidi’s. The hearts of all Corgi-L members went out to Heidi right away. Everyone had to be kept informed of all that went on as far as Heidi’s condition went.
Heidi went to see Dr. Amy Sukman. The first thing she spotted during the initial examination was a one-inch space in both of her kneecaps. It was at this point that we were told to take her home and work with her daily on both physical and water therapy. We did this for two weeks. When we took Heidi back to the vet we could tell them that Heidi was now able to stand for a second or two once in a great while. Heidi was re-examined by Dr Chris Gentry. X-rays showed that both hips and the patellas were fully luxated. We went back again to the therapy until we could get a local orthopedic vet to look at her. This case was so rare that no one here had ever seen anything like it. It was at this point that my vet decided to send Heidi down to LSU to be examined by Dr. Fitch, who I understand is the head of the orthopedic department. Dr. Gentry’s wife personally took Heidi down there at no expense to us and stayed with her. Dr.Fitch’s conclusion was that the only chance Heidi had was to have a femur head osdectomy on both of her rear legs. The worst prognosis was that she would be on a cart the rest of her life.
We were hoping that because this case was so rare, and Heidi was a rescue, that LSU would be more than glad to do the surgery pro bono. They didn’t make the offer and we were told that the operation would cost $1200.00 on top of the $350.00 for the consultation.
It was about this time that the administration team (who oversees the Corgi-L list) came to me to see if the members of the list could help pay some of Heidi’s medical expenses. They would set up a Heidi Fund for anyone who wanted to contribute. A special account was set up and Corgi-L members all over the U.S. came to the rescue. At about this same time my vet told his wife to bring Heidi back. He and Dr. Amy would do the operation. Heidi got her first surgery about two weeks later. She stayed at the clinic for two weeks. Then she came back to my house for intense physical and water therapy every day. Dr. Gentry’s wife only charged us for basic things. We just about got this done for cost, but we didn’t know that at the time. So the Corgi-L continued to raise the money for the full amount.
Heidi went with me to the National Specialty and was met and greeted by not only the Corgi-L members who wanted to meet this delightful girl, but also by most of the general membership. To say all were charmed by her or stunned by her progress is an understatement. By this time, she was bunny-hopping around the entire show grounds. At times she was racing to keep up with new furkid friends. She was also invited to attend the rescue meeting at the National. She was passed around and cuddled by most of the attendees, that is, if they could catch her. She and her story were also presented at the general meeting by Millie Williams. I had to sneak her in and out of the meeting because dogs were not allowed.
Because of the love and devotion of the Corgi-L members to this pup, a rescue fund has been established in her name to help the next pup needing assistance. Her DNA was requested to help do research of hip dysplasia. This one little pup has done a lot for the breed. She has brought people together and made people more aware of who they sell their pups to. She has established a rescue fund to help other unfortunates, and will contribute to the betterment of the breed.
Heidi’s picture and story were put on Nancy Moncrieff’s corgi adoption site. It produced many applications for Heidi. Only a few were suitable homes for Heidi because of her special needs. Quite a few other animals were able to be placed in loving homes because of the original interest in Heidi.
Heidi has had both her operations. The recovery period between each leg was ten weeks. She is up on her paws and is doing fine. She has been spayed.
Heidi lives in Weatherford, Tx., with her big brother, PWC Emmet. She has a huge backyard to run and play in, which she does endlessly. I was told later that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. She has to navigate two steps to go into the house, but she hops up them lightning fast. The house is, of course, one story. Heidi loves Emmet, and he is fond of her. He was not so sure at first if he really wanted a little sister. Especially one as active and bossy as Heidi. Heidi’s mom took Heidi to the vet, and the vet was amazed at all the work that had been done to this little dog. Heidi’s mom and dad are big sports fans, and the dogs tag along on family outings as much as possible.
Corgi-L members suggested many names for our girl. The final vote was almost unanimous. Her registered name is officially Corgi-L’s Heidi Braveheart. A very fitting name for our brave-hearted little Heidi.
As I close this, let me leave you with the thought that if you ever have the opportunity, go the extra mile and help one of these guys. What you give out in time and love, you will get back one hundred fold. I did.