Domino, Simi Valley, California
Sometimes our lives take twists and turns we could never have imagined, but in the end we find ourselves exactly where we were meant to be. While working as the Adoption and Foster Coordinator for the Jason Heigl Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Nancy and Katherine Heigl dedicated to animal welfare, Heather Mahoney met Domino, an 8 week old Pit Bull-Cross puppy who was unable to walk. He was rescued from a backyard breeder in Taft, California who was also involved in dog fighting. He had a hole in his chest which was caused by dragging his tiny little body and that had become infected. Initially they thought that his issues were injury related or caused by neglect and given that he was still just a puppy they believed they could help him get well, regain his mobility and then find him a forever home. Domino became Heather's foster dog and they began the healing process.
As part of his recovery Domino did treadmill water therapy 3 times a week with a holistic vet to try and help him walk again, but when after 2 months he was not improving Heather knew something was wrong. To help diagnose the cause of Domino's paralysis she had him undergo an MRI and it was determined by the neurologist that he had a horrible congenital birth defect for which no cure exists. Domino has roughly 10% of a working spinal cord because of a disease called Syringohdromyelia which is basically a fluid filled cyst that goes from the base of his skull all the way down to the tip of his tail crushing the spinal cord in the process. He was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus and scoliosis.
As so often is the case when dealing with doctors you are given statistical answers and these can leave little room for hope. Heather heard the experts tell her that this condition is progressive and that Domino would remain paralyzed, most likely not live to see his first birthday and on top of this he would require very expensive medicine for the rest of his life. They suggested euthanasia.
Hearing his diagnosis, Heather's first thought was to ensure he was not in any pain. When the doctors confirmed he was pain free and because she could see how truly happy this little boy was she decided to give him a chance at life and would dedicate herself to managing his condition rather than saying good-bye. Domino would became a permanent part of Heather's family and they would face his challenges together.
Domino not only had Heather and her partner Roy as his new parents, but he would also now have several siblings; Jimmy (Mastiff-Pit Bull Mix), Joey (Shepherd-Akita-Wolf Mix) and Stella (American Pit Bull Terrier), all fellow rescues, as his family.
Fortunately for Domino his new mother believed in the power of possibility and did not give into the worst case scenario laid out by the medical experts who looked at Domino.
"If you are putting out really good, positive energy it is going to affect your surroundings. I have the belief that there is nothing wrong with Domino, he's perfect the way he is. He's not disabled he's just differently-abled. "
The strength of her belief in Domino and his future meant that Heather never treated him any differently than her other dogs. Domino and Heather both had an unfaltering spirit which powered a healing no one could have ever predicted. A true miracle.
Domino recently celebrated his second birthday. Not only has he surpassed their life expectancy predictions by a mile, but he is also walking and is not on any medication. In fact, if you asked Domino about his condition he wouldn't even know what you were talking about. All he knows is that he has the best life anyone could ask for and that he is part of an amazing family.
In fact Heather believes that her four-legged family has a lot to do with Domino's improvement, especially Stella (now 7 yrs) who took to Domino the minute she set her eyes on him as a puppy. She would not let the other dogs near him and constantly played with Domino which helped develop the muscles in his back legs. Even today Stella and Domino have their 'crazy time' twice a day and Domino is thriving as a result.
Domino continues to be the most happy, joyful 'puppy' Heather has ever met in her life. And while his mobility may not be perfect, he takes everything in stride and never lets it get in the way of being happy.
"You cannot have a bad day when you are hanging out with Domino. He has trouble walking, he falls down a lot, he trips easily and he gets right back up, shakes himself off and keeps on going. There is no stopping him."
Due to his spinal issues Heather was constantly on a quest to find something that works for Domino to help manage his bowel and bladder incontinence, especially since he sleeps with them, so Heather turned to Dog Quality and the Washable Wonders dog belly bands and diapers.
Heather uses the male diaper on Domino at night to protect against any bowel accidents. Domino sleeps in-between her and Roy so having everything contained inside the diaper means not waking up to surprises in her bed. During the day Domino wears a creative combination of Dog Quality's belly band and washable pads overtop of a preemi baby diaper.
"Domino's brain just doesn't tell his bladder or bowels what to do so when they release, they really release. And for his bladder it doesn't happen until it's completely full so the volume is significant."
In addition to the peace of mind that comes with protecting against unwanted accidents, Heather no longer has to wash bedding everyday helping her regain an hour and half of her time back which is priceless. Domino also happens to look quite dashing in his new wardrobe - just because it's for incontinence does not mean he can't look incredibly handsome.
"These (diapers) are some of the finest made garments I have come across and I have tried a lot of things and by far these are some of the best. And boy does he ever look cute wearing them. Green is his color!"
Because of the richness of life Domino and her dogs have given Heather she has sworn to always have a physically challenged dog and a senior dog in her life. Not only has she found her calling in helping dogs with specials needs, but she has also fallen in love with Pit Bulls and now helps to spread the word and educate others on how wonderful these dogs, especially rescues, can be.
Heather and her family continue to help Domino live life to its fullest. She has given him the home she hoped he would have when he first came to the rescue; she has helped him gain strength and walk again. She believed when others did not and thanks to Heather's perseverance and Domino's undying spirit, they have defied the odds. Domino truly is a miracle, reminding us all that there is hope even at our darkest moments. That there is power in family, in love and in ourselves that can allow us and our dogs to accomplish great things in life. Domino is living proof that happiness, joy and determination can take us so far. Thank you Domino, you have inspired us all.