Monday, November 1, 2010

Our Story

Our Story

My pug, Walter got hit by a car over a year ago and wasn't expected to live.

In those first crucial hours, as he remained unconscious in an oxygen tent with a bruised heart, punctured lungs, and his entire pelvis crushed, I posted an entry on my blog while still at the emergency room, asking the world to pray for us, or send white light or good energy - or whatever they could, and they did. A wave of concerned strangers rushed to our aid...which got us through the night.

Walter lived.

He was still bad shape. His lower body was paralyzed at first. Couldn't stand. He slept in a crib with pee pads under him and we had to give him water with an eyedropper. Once he was able to sit up, we would cart him around in a laundry tub.We were told he probably wouldn't walk again. I began researching wheelchairs. Then they thought they might have to amputate the one leg that was particularly bad. Nothing doing. I told them he needed that leg, because he was going to walk again if I had anything to do with it.

 We had three miracles going for us. The first miracle was Dr. Scott Hammel, a small animal veterinary surgeon with Veterinary Surgical Specialists who had to operate twice on Wally AND deal with me - who was, in a word...hysterical. Second miracle, a wonderful Physical Therapist, Dr. Julia at TCARC.  She put him on the underwater treadmill (video here) and gave me vitamin and mineral supplements. Third Miracle was my mom, who helped me every step of the way, tirelessly.  Lastly, most spectacularly, were the strangers from all over the globe who sent us care packages and prayers and messages of hope on his blog. 

So now, a year later, Walter is alive and well. He can walk, with the aid of a shoe.The nerves were severed there and he can no longer feel his foot, so he "knuckles," walking on the dorsal side rather than on his pads.

The vet said it was important to keep his foot in the correct position, in hopes the nerves would keep growing and reconnect. So he had to wear a shoe. She gave me several shoes to try, all hand made for Walter by various dog shoe companies...but they all hurt his foot. Ground it up like hamburger. They held his foot correctly, but were made with hard leather and metal grommets. I tried bigger, shoes, different brands - but they all hurt him. Every night his foot would be bloody and swollen, until I couldn't take it anymore.

The vet said all the shoes available were very much alike in the materials they used. So, I began building a shoe for him. I knew it had to be ultra-soft and stay on without chafing him. I went through many variations of absurd trials and errors. I cut up raincoats, hot-glued fleece and human baby shoes, it was ridiculous. Nothing I made would stay on, and everything had "hot spots" or points that would rub his foot raw. Arghh.

Finally I was up north at a cabin, when I asked an old-timer, a trail guide with"McGyver"type know-how named Harry, what the heck he would try. He looked at Walter's shoe and said, "What you need, is a moccasin."

That's when I remembered my beloved pair of Uggs. Soft, fleecey and no hard spots. Brilliant! A trip to a local trappers establishment and I learned if I made my pug ugg out of a water animal, like otter, beaver or mink, it would stay soft when it got wet. Also, if I used deer hide for the sole, instead of cow, it would also be pliable.

Then I remembered there was a nearby reservation, and I actually found a woman who made Ojibwa moccasins - the REAL ones. She spoke no English but showed me how to cut the pelts and stitch them. (I don't know what she thought of me or my project...she never asked (nor could she due to language barrier) why I was making a single, tiny shoe.) I learned that otter, the pelt I'd chosen because it was thick, but with short hair, was "big medicine" in native culture and should be respected immensely, which I did and still do.

My first otter pelt Pug Ugg was a simplistic hackneyed attempt, but I noticed the improvement in Walters foot immediately. The swelling went down and the hot spots went away. No more epsom salt soaks, or bacitracin!! After that, I was a shoe-machine. Making a new prototype every week until I perfected (relative) the technique.

Finally his foot went back to a somewhat normal size. It suffered so many abrasions and damage from the vets shoe, that it has permanent scarring. I don't care though, Walter isn't in pain anymore! And we found a new shoe to introduce to the world.  I share the template for my beloved Pug Ugg with you here, in the hopes it will help other dogs. (and cats? Rabbits maybe...) If ANY good can come out of Walters ordeal, it would be a blessing.


  1. Heather, I came here by way of looking up shoes for my Melvino (also a pug) and am sitting here in tears because of the unbelievable love and tenacity that you've given to Walter to take the best care of him. You love Walter how I love my Melvino and I feel as though I've found a kindred spirit through your post.

    I thank you for being who you are and sharing your (and Walter's) story here, for all of us. I so appreciate you.

    Melvino and I send love, behind-the-ear-skritches and snorgles to you and Walter.

    Jen and Melvino

  2. Thank you for posting this. Not wanting to waste materials I tried making a practice one with duct tape, moleskin (like you use for blisters)buttons and rubberbands for my cat. She is pretty ill (she may have spinal cancer) and has not liked having anything on her leg she has walked worse with other types of bracing. She has lost too much muscle for this to work. I was hoping perhaps it might give her a few more weeks of mobility. In observing her initial steps I think it would work for a healthier cat that has muscle built up. My cat has nearly none. Cats with CRF tend to have knuckling I passed this site on to CRF group someone may be able to use it.

  3. You are super awesome! Amazing shoe! You have done so much for Walter it is incredible. I am inspired by you and your story and Walter.

  4. so here I sit, so happy to find something that will help me with my foster pug, Chaplin. He was severely abused and neglected, and suffers from the type of trouble with the rolling of his back feet. He is doing so good now, getting stronger and more active, that he is wearing out his feet! I recieved my beaver pelt, and am ready to get started on these amazing little pug uggs!
    I am the seamstress for DFW Pug Rescue Club in Texas, and we have quite a few of the pugs that have the same problems. I need to get that pelt cut up into small pieces and get going! Thank you for sharing your awesome story about Walter. Your love for Walter has helped so many, thank you!
    Irene Walker

  5. Irene! Chaplin! My wonderful friends! I'm so happy you found us. Thank you you for sending such a lovely message...and you sent it on my birthday! thank you. Knowing wallys strange little pug ugg might help some tiny paws down in Texas...well, its just about the best present i could've asked for. Let me know how I can help! (Seriously, let me know!) A BIG MINNESOTA HUG TO ALL YOU DARLIN TEXAN PUGS!