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David's Web | How swimming, and lots of love, saved Harper the puppy’s life
 » How swimming, and lots of love, saved Harper the puppy’s life

How swimming, and lots of love, saved Harper the puppy’s life

How swimming, and lots of love, saved Harper the puppy’s life

A sad prognosis

On Aug. 31, 2011, a puppy was rescued from a garbage bag in Central Florida. She was afflicted by a condition dubbed “swimmer puppy syndrome,” formally, pectus excavatum. It’s rare in puppies, but when it happens it causes them to lie flat on their chests with their legs perpetually splayed out. It’s usually a symptom of serious neurological problems that most puppies cannot survive. Veterinarians recommended putting her to sleep.

Changed circumstances

Erica Daniel, who provides foster care to dogs in serious need, decided to take the puppy home for one full day of love and affection before she was to be put to sleep the next morning. After a few hours of being massaged and cuddled, Harper began to lift her head and move. Encouraged, Daniel contacted Bev McCartt, a therapist with Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy & Fitness in Winter Park, Fla. McCartt, pictured here, offered to treat the puppy free of charge.

A fish in water

At her first hydrotherapy session, the puppy – whom Erica Daniel named Harper – responded remarkably well. Hip Dog therapist Bev McCartt explained that swimming helped teach Harper what her natural gait should be. “Her brain kicked in and by the end of her first session, she was like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ ” McCartt said.

Getting going

“Hydrotherapy and massage actually build on that instinct for a dog to move,” Hip Dog therapist Bev McCartt said, adding that Harper is “a real testament to a dog’s determination to get up and just go.”

Just the right help

Erica Daniel, Harper’s foster mom and head of a dog-rescue organization called Dolly’s Foundation, said Harper has benefited from a mix of treatments: hydrotherapy, massage therapy and electric stimulation of her muscles.

Loosey-goosey

After one of her early massages, Harper got “all loosey-goosey, like we all are after a massage,” Bev McCartt said. “She just kind of melted into the pad.” Later that same day, she started to trot.

So much determination

“She has so much determination and grit,” Bev McCartt said. “She’s a miracle puppy. That’s how I see her. She’s a walking miracle.”

Relaxed and happy

Harper has thrived after receiving personalized attention and care. Her foster mom, Erica Daniel, plans to give her up for adoption in late October – if she can stand parting with her.

Unstoppable

Harper took her first actual steps on grass, then on carpet, then on concrete. “She still can’t walk on tile or hardwood floors,” Erica Daniel said on Sept. 20. “But she’s getting there.”

A whole new life

Harper has been holding her own and playing happily with the seven other dogs at Erica Daniel’s home. “My dogs really egg her on,” Daniel said.

Dogs need love

“Pit bulls are just dogs,” said Erica Daniel, noting the negative image of Harper’s breed. “Dogs need love, and they need homes.”

Help from new friends

Harper has benefited from an outpouring of support from a variety of Central Florida residents. Flyin Fur Pet Photography donated photography services when capturing these “day in the life” images of Harper. All money raised from sales of Harper’s photos will be directed toward Harper’s medical bills and the work of Dolly’s Foundation, Erica Daniel’s dog-rescue organization.

No worries

“The whole world was against her, but she’s such a fighter,” said Erica Daniel, Harper’s foster mom. “She’s a blessing. She’s awesome.”

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