Do dogs have an easy life? How my dog kept his will and strength even through the hardest times.

Mojo is a Survivor. He is, a now blind, 9-year-old Northern Inuit who has been through so much in his life. He has had everything thrown at him from severe life-threatening health issues to extreme emotional distress, but he always seems to bounce back stronger than ever. He is my best friend and we have such a bond together. People should take a leaf from his book and everyone’s lives would be better for it! He was born blind in one eye but thankfully still had sight in the other.

Mojo was born in March 2011, He was just a happy, content puppy full of life curiosity and wonder. You would never believe that even his being born, was a miracle. He was born lifeless, not breathing and with no heartbeat. The breeder worked on him for ages breathing life into him and stimulating his heart just begging for him to take his first breath into this world. When he took his first breath it was a huge sigh of relief and joy, my miracle boy. But he was not out of the woods yet, he spent a few weeks in the breeder’s house under close care of the breeder to assist him with any medical emergencies, but he astounded everyone with his will to live. This is when we all knew, he was a survivor.

In March 2013, Mojo was around 1-and-a-half-years-old, Mojo became extremely ill. He was dropping weight rapidly and no one knew why. He went, almost overnight, from a happy and active puppy to a dog who was listless, depressed, in pain and underweight but you could see he was still trying to fight it. We were back and forth at the vets for a few weeks trying to diagnose his issues, but he was deteriorating fast. The vet was not sure he would make it, by this point he had lost over 15kg of his body weight (over half his bodyweight!) and he couldn’t walk far, even walking a length of a room was too much for him to handle without collapsing. We had another dog, Max who was his big brother. He tried so hard to look after and comfort Mojo during this scary time. Max always knew what to do to help Mojo.

The vet decided to refer him as an emergency to the Glasgow vet school for a scan of his intestines and stomach. The prognosis did not look good, He was so weak already and looked so frail. He was so brave and tried to keep his spirits up, but he was losing his fight for life. The vet school were amazing and following many tests and ultrasounds they diagnosed him with severe Irritable Bowel Disease. This is a lifelong nutrition absorption issue, this meant that anything he ate, he was unable to process any significant amount of nutrition for him food. They put him on a specially designed diet, but he continued to decline. The vet school were now getting more concerned about his survival rates and quality of life.

At this point, as any dog owner would do, I started researching like mad, desperate to find a way to save my best friend! I found that some dogs had success with a raw fed diet. I suggested this to the vet school, however back then, it was a very novel concept with little supporting studies. What was I to do? I felt I did not have a choice, try the new diet or risk losing my best friend. It was awful seeing such a young dog, on his last legs. I took a chance and started him on a raw food diet. To my amazement, within a couple of weeks his energy started returning, the life started sparkling in his eyes again and thank goodness, he started putting weight on. It felt like a dream come true for both of us. He bounced back, so quick that, after a month he was back to a happy, healthy, and bouncy puppy. Despite his traumatic health issue, he did not let it define him. He was a fighter. 

Years after his recovery and thankfully very few flare ups with his condition, due to the new diet, He experienced a terrible and tragic loss of his big brother, Max.

Max, a collie x rottweiler was from a dog’s trust rescue centre who we had before Mojo came into our family. This meant they grew up together, Max took his younger brother under his wing and despite having a bad start in life himself, he helped Mojo to build his confidence and teach him about the world. They became inseparable, they looked after each other, they cared for each other, if they were scared , they looked out for each other, played together and generally had such a special bond. 

Sadly, In June 2016, when Max was 6 Years old, he became terribly ill and died quite suddenly. Mojo was absolutely devastated at the loss of his big brother. Mojo was there for his brother when he was put to sleep in the house, he kept Max calm and supported him. He even came with us when we took Max’s body to the crematorium. I have never heard a dog make such a heart wrenching noise, as Mojo made when we drove away from the crematorium and he knew, in his heart, that his brother was not coming home. It was screams of pure pain, heartbreak, and grief. After loosing Max ourselves too, this was something that we also felt and understood.

He became so depressed after the loss of his brother, that he would scream, cry and howl calling out for Max. He lost all confidence in himself without his big brother there to support him. He became scared of the world and went into an absolute panicked frenzy, if left alone for any length of time.  It was so heart-breaking to see him like this, but we understood his pain as we were grieving too.  Max’s old blanket, which was on Max the day he passed away, became a comfort blanket for Mojo, he would lie on it and just cry when he was having a bad day missing his brother.

He became so distressed, grief-stricken, and panicked that he would have seizures. He was in so much emotional pain; I always knew dogs had special bonds with people and other animals, but I was amazed just how strong that bond was. The effects of trauma and stress on his little body was so substantial.

We could not bear to see him like this. As a dog trainer myself, I helped him to come to terms with the loss of his brother and to build his self-confidence and trust in the world again. It took a long time and it was extremely hard for him. The last time he was ill and struggling with his mental health, he had his brother by his side as well as me. After about 5 to 6 months he started to recover from his traumatic loss.  He was almost back to where he was before the incident. He longed for a new companion, a friend, I started taking him back to work with me as a dog walker. He was so happy and started making new dog friends. He loved being with me all day for support and the added support of his dog friends. He became so well known in our area that I made him mascot for my company.

Mojo became a dog with so much care, drive, dedication, and love for life. It was like a new lease of life again for him after he recovered from his grief. He was back to him self again, a joyful and somewhat cheeky adolescent dog! For anyone with the breed you know how strong their personalities are!

A year went by with Mojo just enjoying living life to the fullest, going on dog friendly holidays with us, camping, exploring dog friendly venues, going on long hikes in the countryside, doing trick work (which he loves!). He came everywhere with us and we would not dream of going anywhere without him.

*Then suddenly he acquired an ulcer on the only working eye he had! We worked alongside the vets trying to save his eye and the sight he had left but sadly it could not be saved. The eye was removed to save his life, leaving him completely blind. What more can happen to this dog in his life? How much more can his body and mind take?

He was 7 years old when he lost his sight completely, no one was sure how he would cope, he was classed as a senior at this time in his life.

Would he just shut down? Would be become despondent?
Could he handle anymore trauma in his short life? 

Again, his confidence did take a knock, but not anywhere near as much as anyone expected it would! His world was suddenly dark, loud, and unpredictable. His other senses were heightened but he did not know how to use them.  Un-believably even from the first day he went blind he was determined to learn how to get around in this new world, how to be confident and how to put his trust in us to keep him safe.  He was so brave and determined to adapt and just love life again.

Mojo and I worked so hard together, teaching him how to mind map locations, how to safely navigate areas, how to search and find (i.e. track the person he is walking with) and learning navigational cues. I taught him many different new cues such as “Right”, “Left”, “go around”, “Stop”, “Step up”, “step down” and much more. The new cues allowed him to finally run free again off the lead. My fiancé, Dave, also had a huge part in helping Mojo adapt and grow in confidence. He even used to take Mojo to the local Greggs bakery while he was recovering from surgery for his favourite treat of all, a sausage roll, it always made him so happy! This routine still carries on to this day, “Sausage roll Saturday”!

You could see his spirit brighten with this new sense of freedom again. He adapted very quickly, he took it all in his stride and did not let it get him down. He was on a mission for life!

*In August 2018, we decided to get Mojo another canine companion. Cookie, a rough coated jack Russell, bounded into his life. They have become inseparable, in fact Cookie has learnt to tell if or when he will have a seizure, then come and tell us so we can care for him! She stays with him during his seizure, offering what support she can then refuses to leave his side for days afterwards. They utterly understand each other. When they are out walks, Cookie will always make sure Mojo does not get lost or confused off the lead. She protects him from harm and even tells him if a cat is coming! (Mojos worst fear is cats lol!) If either of them is unwell or unsure they just know and will comfort each other.  They truly are soul mates and best friends.

He is now 9 years old; you would never know looking at him, just how much he has been through in his short life. He is a “normal” and happy dog with still so much life and determination.  He continues to come everywhere with us and Cookie, as a family, to do friendly accommodations, venues, holidays, long walks and more. For a dog to have gone through so much in his life, yet still have such a strong spirit and sheer determination, is admirable. Mojo should be an inspiration to not only other dogs but also people. If he can pull through all that pain and trauma and come out the other side with such courage, then we can too. He is the strongest dog I know and such a fighter, a survivor, my special boy.

Written by Deborah O’Neill at Mizz Pawz

Published by mizzpawz

I'm a professional dog trainer and Canine coach. With an interest in article writing from the dog training aspect of dog ownership

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