By Linda Cole
No matter how hard we try to protect our pets, accidents happen. It’s how we respond to help a pet deal with devastating injuries that makes a difference in how they recover. A dog named Zip survived a horrible accident that changed her life forever. Sue Cohen, Zip’s owner, has had to deal with health concerns of her own. After seeing a You Tube video of Zip running an agility course in her wheelchair, I contacted Sue to learn more about her amazing dog. However, I discovered through our conversations that Sue is equally amazing and inspiring. She didn’t allow Zip to give up, and Zip returned the favor.
As I watched the video, I could see the smile on Zip’s face and her enjoyment was evident as she ran. Zip could no longer sail over bars, weave through poles or race through tunnels, but just being on the course made her happy. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched the brave Border Collie run. Her body may be disabled, but in her heart Zip is the same dog she has always been. Not even a wheelchair can keep her away from a sport she loves.
Sometimes a dog gets lucky and finds the right owner. This was the case with Zip. Her first home was with an owner who didn’t understand the needs of a Border Collie, and while Sue was fostering Zip, she fell in love with her and discovered Zip’s potential in agility. “When I got the papers from the previous owner, I saw that her grandfather had been imported from Scotland and there was a Great Britain Herding Champion (a highly coveted achievement) in her bloodline. I had already named her Zip and I found out she had an ancestor also named Zip.”
Sue lives with chronic pain and was diagnosed with genetic degenerative disc disease when she was 22 years old. The disease has made it difficult for her to do agility with her dogs, but agility is something she enjoys as much as her dogs. When Zip didn’t give up, her determination inspired Sue to keep going too.
A series of unfortunate events on January 8, 2011 allowed Zip to escape from the house and she was hit by a car. She was nine years old at the time of the accident. The driver didn’t stop and it appeared she was hit on purpose. It was touch and go the first few days, but she pulled through. She had multiple injuries and a broken back that left her back legs paralyzed. “Zip was allowed to go home 16 days after her accident,” said Sue. “She had a long rehab road in front of her. But, we did rehab like we did all our ‘work’ – we played.”
As Zip continued to recover, Sue made a decision to quit agility because of her chronic pain and Zip’s disability. “I couldn’t allow Zip to face the agility ring and not be able to run.” Zip had other ideas, however. “We were at practice one night. I put Zip near the training area to watch. My friends and I were setting up a course. All of a sudden, Zip appeared at the bottom of the A-frame. She’d crawled about 60 feet on her own. She wanted to play. I’d been thinking about taking the jump bars down and trying to run her, but wasn’t sure how Zip would deal with that. We took turns running our dogs. Then my husband and another friend took down the jump bars and said, ‘It’s Zip’s turn.’ I couldn’t think about it. Zip was already in her wheelchair. I ran the course.”
Running agility is what Zip loves to do. She was ready to get back on the course long before Sue was. “She’d been through so much. What if she failed? Was it worth putting her in a situation where she might fail and feel frustrated?” That night opened Sue’s eyes to how extraordinary Zip was, and she knew there was no looking back – it was time to move forward. “We went to the start line. I turned and looked at Zip and saw the hunger in her eyes as she looked forward; not at me, but at the line of jumps ahead of her.”
|Zip before her accident|
It’s not known if Zip will ever regain the use of her back legs, but she’s not waiting around or worrying about it. Together, Sue and Zip have worked to keep each other going and their inspiring story has touched those who have watched them run agility. One in a wheelchair and one working through physical pain to continue doing something they both love to do and binds their souls as one.
Zip’s You Tube video running agility in her wheelchair is inspiring and heartwarming. You may find some tears in your eyes, but you will also find a smile in your heart watching her run.
Photos by Michael Loftis
Read more articles by Linda Cole
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