In Dec. 2017, the Sacramento SPCA took in a special new pup. Duckie, a 5-week-old retriever/Labrador mix, had been surrendered by his owner, who couldn’t pay for his care after their dog had an accidental litter.
Duckie was born with a muscular disorder called Swimmer’s syndrome. The syndrome is characterized by a puppy being unable to stand on his own. Instead of walking, he “paddles” his legs on the ground.
The way Duckie moves is also how he got his affectionate name. If there was any hope for him to walk, it would require countless hours of therapy and treatment.
Sarah Varanini, public relations and social media specialist at the Sacramento SPCA, said she was hopeful for Duckie’s recovery.
“I would imagine in about two months we will have a better picture of what his new life will be like, whether that’s walking with assistance, a permanent cart or doing just fine on his own!” she said.
“We are optimistic, even though this is only our second ‘swimmer’ case!” she continued, referencing a dog named Bueller they’d previously cared for.
From there, Duckie was placed into a foster home — specifically the former home of Bueller — to begin his therapy.
When discussing his road to hopeful treatment, Varanini said, “The main goal is trying to find something that they enjoy doing, then turn that into therapy that will help them use their muscles and start to orient their bodies in the right formation.”
So Duckie’s foster family built him a custom baby bouncer, complete with wheels to help him learn to walk.
They also played his favorite game, tug-of-war, with him, and introduced him to new puppy friends.
“For Duckie, that [therapy] was a combination of playing ‘tug o war’ as well as using his love of other animals to get him up and moving.”
And after just two short weeks of playing games and being with other dogs in his foster home, Duckie defied the odds.
He began to walk! And he was improving so quickly that he wouldn’t even need water therapy like Bueller did.
Due to his condition, his front legs are still slightly bow-legged. But as Duckie has quickly started learning to run, the SPCA said his legs are catching up with the progress elsewhere.
Duckie has miraculously overcome Swimmer’s syndrome, but he may have complications in the future.
He was recently put up for adoption in hopes of finding him the perfect place to call home.
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