Maggie – Aquatic Therapy Helps Rehabilitate FCE Dog

A Broken Angel Heals – Maggie’s Story

In the last 2 1/2 years I have become the caregiver of a beautiful, partially paralyzed, yellow lab girl named Maggie. While she was previously owned by my neighbors she had been struck with a condition called Fibro cartilaginous Embolism (FCE) – pretty much a stroke in the spine.

My neighbors did their best in caring for her for 6 months however it became more demanding for them with a baby on the way. Without much hope on Maggie’s prognosis and not really being very adoptable considering her medical needs, incontinence issues involving daily bladder expressing etc., euthanasia seemed like the only option.


My neighbor came to me with tears in her eyes to tell me she did not know what else to do and that’s when I asked her if she was ok in allowing me to seek out another option. With me working full time then for the school district I knew I would not have the time to devote to Maggie’s needs but since school was to be out for the summer I thought I would try until I could find a place for her. I just felt strongly in my heart and soul it was not her time yet.

I searched the web for some kind of animal rescue program or shelter that may take her in but no such luck.

With a somewhat reluctant approval from my hubby I had to see about giving Maggie another chance in our home. Having had experience with my own paralyzed cat years before made me realize that it was not a coincidence that Maggie was now in my life. She requires the same kind of care I gave my beloved Casper (cat) however the difference there is that Maggie is 60 lbs and her mobility was very limited.

She developed pressure sores from dragging her hind end over gravel when she used to come visit us – that’s when a suggestion to get her a wheel cart from Peninsula Friends of Animals was suggested. Lucky for Maggie, PFOA found one they could donate for her. This allowed giving her some needed exercise and strength to where we noticed improvement in her ability to stand and walk some on her own.

I found ways to accommodate Maggie’s needs through trial and error and even had our front yard fenced so that she would no longer travel over gravel and give her sores a chance to heal. It took time for the sores to completely heal. In fact one on her back heel was so bad and infected that the vet thought amputation may have to be considered or even euthanasia was the other option. I was told the leg would not get better.

Once again something told me it was not her time yet and then a noticeable amount of healing took place to where I canceled the amputation surgery.

During the course of this I learned that there was a canine warm water therapy pool right in my area. I researched it and got on the La Paw website. I felt like this might be something that Maggie might benefit from. Realizing that we were 2 1/2 years into her handicap and being told by professionals that her window of time was up for any further improvements I thought that if anything maybe a session now and then might just give her some quality; I was not expecting more than that.

I contacted Cindy Horsfall and told her Maggie’s story and learned about her own beloved dog Ava who inspired her into what she is doing today. In learning about Ava’s miraculous turn around I thought that there must be something to this. I also realized that my “Maggie Fund” was limited for only a couple visits and that’s when Cindy informed me that a generous person (a client) wanted to sponsor Maggie’s sessions in the pool so this way she could get more visits. She was blessed by her own dog being healed that she wanted to share the gift of spa for another dog in need.

Cindy and I both felt a confirmation that this was all meant to be.

After 2 1/2 years I never thought there would not be any more improvements for Maggie but she has proven us all differently. She is now standing stronger on all four and can even get up on her own from a sitting position. She can even walk and run at times too – without wheels!

The vet who thought Maggie would need her leg amputated was amazed last time she saw her and will agree that she is a miracle dog. She feels that the pool helped keep her sore leg clean and offered some healing while in the pool. This is the leg that she once felt would never get better.

I am forever grateful and feel so blessed by Maggie having yet another chance at life. She is so worth it.

If there is anything I learned from my experience with these special “broken angels” in my life it’s that we don’t have to give up hope. I understand in some individual circumstances that euthanasia is the only means or that it is too difficult to care for handicap pets but that is when one can seek out other options or people that can help. I am grateful my neighbors came to me and that things had a way of working out even when I wasn’t sure. I am grateful for the
support I get from my husband and children in doing this and now meeting people like Cindy and other animal loving supporting people who really understand make a big difference too. In addition to Maggie I have since taken in a crippled kitty from PFOA who has similar needs. I no longer work for the school district and find it possible to stay home to care for these angels. I am learning always about all the things out there to make it more manageable for me to care
for them. We no longer live in a day where we have to take our beloved pets “behind the shed” and put them down because of injuries or handicaps. I discovered also that in taking care of these sweet souls I have been taken care of too – in more ways than one.

Linda Kemp