I have long been an admirer of furs who have special talents or abilities. I thought it might be a good idea to woof with one such illustrious dog who has overcome some difficulties and now is an example of courage, strength, fortitude and overall doggedness. I don’t think Winston will mind if I woof that I suspect these attributes also apply to Winston’s mum (Mumz) who had the never say no attitude to try and give Winston the best life possible.
This is Winston’s story.
Winston, hi. Can you tell us how did it all begin? Have you been with your mum since you were a small puppy? When did you find out that something wasn’t quite right with your legs?
Ok well Mumz didn’t meet me until I was 6 and Bruv was 9, at least we think he was 9. I was ok at that point regarding my walking. I’d had my cyst removed 3 years before that, so I was young when I got it, however it was removed successfully. But then I started scuffing my toes on my back legs, so she took me back to specialist centre who did lots of tests and found scar tissue at operation site. The scar tissue was attached to my spinal cord. There was no choice but to attempt to remove the scar tissue but it was risky. The day before I went in Mumz made sure I had THE best day at the seaside. The operation released scar tissue but damage had been done. Mumz was told I’d be completely paralysed within the year and would be “easier” to put me to sleep. She was so shocked because she didn’t expect that response or recommendation. Through her tears she asked if I’d be viable for a set of wheels or hot rod to support my back legs and thus allow me to get around much easier. They reluctantly confirmed it was possible and Mumz was still really upset when she took me away.
However she then got cross and I mean really cross. She started doing research and hopefully try to get a second opinion. This proved to be quite hard as people in the profession don’t like to step on each other’s toes. Eventually she found somewhere in Birmingham who would see me. It’s a 3 hour drive but we did it. They were brilliant. They explained exactly what was happening inside me, and they even drew Mumz an “idiot proof” picture to demonstrate what was going on. They explained the spinal cord has no pain receptors so I wouldn’t be in pain. The only pain I would get would be muscular as my front end would be working so hard. They even recommended the best hot rod wheels for me. She was elated as they also recommended I find a physio and hydrotherapist. We took action straight away. As a result I stayed upright for 5 years. I didn’t walk normally but I walked. I needed my hot rod wheels after a year or so when we went out but I could still get round the house and garden. Of course I had my man mobile or chariot. It’s been hard work, I have physio once a week and hydro every couple of weeks and a lot of work at home as directed by physio but it is worth it. She has to massage my front end every day as I get muscle fatigue through pulling myself along on the wheels. As a result, my front muscles are larger than they ordinarily would be. She also researched mobility aids, my special “help em up” harness (I think that’s what it’s called) and then also an off roader hot rod wheels. She’s made good contacts with people in the know – in fact the hot rod people are the ones who got me the Alan Titchmarsh show a while ago on the television.
I took to everything without complaint. It took a couple of goes before I realised my hot rod was a good thing but once I realised it meant I could run in it, I was fine! I’ve done all my physio without any complaint, however I think this was probably because food was involved. I’ve adjusted with each step of this journey. It’s Mumz who found it all upsetting and has cried buckets over the years but I’ve not dwelled on how I used to be. As long as I can get where I wanna go, I don’t care how I get there. I don’t mind saying I have been an inspiration to Mumz and everyone in the family. I’ve not changed one bit from the waist up. My zest for life has always been strong and I’m always wanting to be up and at them. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not cheap to look after but I’m worth every single penny and I’ve got a really close bond with Mumz because I rely on her so much. I’m quite fond of her despite her being a bit needy. I can’t walk at all now but we knew this would happen and it’s now 8 years since they told Mumz to put me to sleep and I’ve had a great time! I have had lots of fun, holibobs, trips to seaside and so on. I’m 14 and a half now so I’ve done brilliantly. Me being disabled hasn’t made me any the less of a great pet and friend – if anything the opposite because I so enjoy life it makes it all worth while. Every owner has a special bond with their pet but I think the bond you develop with a disabled pet is a very special one, and who wouldn’t want that.
Thanks Mr Winston sir for the clear and extensive answer. May I ask where you were before you picked Mum to look after you?
We came from a somewhat broken home. Bruv and I had been living together so Mumz got to adopt us both. Bruv and I were the best of buddies, we always knocked along together and were a strong unit.
Did the hot wheels make you and Mum feel that, actually, dogs with disabilities can be super powered and inspiring to others?
Mumz was shocked almost beyond words at how easily I was dismissed as a lost cause by the people who did me op. In the very same meeting when she was told that it would “easier” if I was put to sleep, the specialist asked if we were doing anything nice for fireworks night! I mean, talk about priorities. She now understands better how other places didn’t want to step on their toes but she wasn’t looking for that. She just wanted to see if anyone had any other ideas except euthanasia, but they wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t quite believe how some people who make a living out of caring for animals could be so uncaring. She also changed vets cos my vet wasn’t great in time of crisis too. I think that’s a very important point. If you’re not happy with what you’re being told, try your hardest to get more info and a second opinion. The internet has taught Mumz so much in respect of stuff like this. For instance, like how to help with me toilets as sadly the nerves dealing with that area were affected but it’s all very manageable when you know how. My vet didn’t know how and wasn’t interested. It’s very important to get the right team around you when you have a dog like me with very different needs. They are out there, the experts, you just need to find them.
So, Zombiesquad was a direct result of your combined thought that pets with disabilities can be super powered and inspirational?
Yes, exactly. This is why I’ve taken on hunting zombies cos I knew I was the best candidate. The whole point of starting zombiesquad was exactly that, to inspire others and to let them see my journey, and how brave I was (I can hunt zombies after all) and the fun people can still have with a disabled pet. We wanted to make my twitter page fun. She wanted everyone to see how happy I am. Obviously she had no idea it would grow so big but she’s thrilled she’s got such a large audience who can see how good my life is. People have approached her for advice with a newly disabled pet or on behalf of friends with a newly disabled pet which has made her very happy because without Twitter / ZS they wouldn’t have known me. She was able to reassure and offer advice and point people in the right direction at a very scary and daunting time.
Thanks. I think everyone agrees that the twitter page is indeed fun and inspirational. May I turn to something a little sadder. When Bruv went to the Rainbow Bridge, this was clearly a very large loss. Did you and Mum have an idea to get you another friend or apprentice soon after.
She didn’t want another dog after Bruv. We loved him so much, still do, the thought of someone else and going through that again was not something she was prepared to do. It felt very disloyal to him. But then I got depressed. Very depressed. Mumz did her best to cheer me up and even spoke to an animal behaviouralist but I missed him so badly nothing helped. So her solution was to allow the Kid to move in. We’re not best pals like I was with Bruv but he’s a companion and someone to do things with. He cheered me up.
Mr Winston, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I think everyone can see that being a pet with disabilities isn’t something to hold you back. The zest for life, for fun and for chasing zombies clearly allows you to live as full a life as possible. Thank you also to Mumz for pursuing the alternative option, for not taking the first advice as final and wanting the best in life for you.