Careful massage saves courageous Pekingese

During the late ’30s, I had a lovely Pekingese pup named Fuey Yon Yu. "Fuey" was a slang word that meant "I don’t agree with you" or the stronger "You’re full of baloney." Fuey chose to be an outdoor dog and was permitted in the house, but he loved being outdoors. Snow fell just for him! He’d run in a deep snowy truck track and turn his broad flat face to the side to let the snow cover him. Being Pekingese he had beautiful long fur and very short legs.

One October morning we woke to find Fuey, age 3, paralyzed in the hind parts. He couldn’t stand alone or wag his tail. Our first thought was that he had been run over or shot. However there was not a mark to indicate that anything had harmed him. I cuddled him and rubbed him and wouldn’t even think twice about euthanasia because he was apparently in no pain.

In my physical education training, I had studied anatomy, physiology and body mechanics — for people of course. At the time of Fuey’s paralysis, I was studying body mechanics and had completed the section on massage for rehabilitation.

Fuey liked being rubbed, and I began to do a more specific kind of massage to stimulate circulation in his hind parts, but I had to catch him to do it. He went gaily on as if nothing had happened! Nothing hurt him and he had cats to corral and mules to follow and other "chores" around the farm. He dragged those legs until the hair wore off, and we’d turn him over to drag on the other side. I felt that he didn’t even know I was doing massage, so I missed lots of days but not two in a row.

October passed, and he spent some time on our flat front porch, which was just a step high at one end and almost three feet above ground at the other. He’d be asleep and a hawk would circle in the sky. Bam! He’d fly off the tall porch with hind legs just dragging behind. It was the same in November; raw places on his legs became hard, thick calluses. During my long Christmas break from school and work, I gave him more attention.

One day when I was doing some two finger things to make the blood flow up his legs toward his heart, he suddenly tried to scratch with one hind leg! I called the family to come see the faint motion he could do. I redoubled the massage efforts and often balanced him on those limp legs. He’d balance a moment and fall over, but it was progress. Then he’d try to scratch with the other leg and finally he tried to wag his tail. I never missed another day of working with him at least once.

Some time in February, he actually walked alone. The progress was fast from there on. It was the end of the month before he could rise and walk a little on all four legs. He never lost a certain amount of limp. In the several remaining years of his life he limped a little, and people sometimes said, "I believe your dog has a sore foot."

It’s possible that this experience was the motive for my signing up, during World War II, for U.S. Army training as a physical therapist. I passed the written exam and was scheduled to go to White Springs, Ga., for the physical. However, my husband, Chub, was out of the country with the U.S. Coast Guard, and he was very much opposed to my getting into uniform. I canceled the appointment to please him.

Click here to return to the index
Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.