Ashcroft resident Val Freestone and her 11-year-old dog Peppi—a Chihuahua/terrier mix—have been competing in agility trials throughout southern B.C. since 2009, with Peppi racking up an impressive number of ribbons and medals along the way. However, disaster struck the pair last year, when Peppi was severely injured in a freak accident.
It happened at the Canadian Nationals in the Fraser Valley, where Peppi was in a holding pen, waiting to compete. She somehow got loose from the pen and went running off in search of Freestone, and a bystander stepped on her leash to stop her.
When Freestone came back to the pen someone was holding Peppi. “I offered her a drink, but she didn’t want it,” says Freestone. She put Peppi down on the ground and offered her a treat; but when Peppi tried to move toward it, she could only drag her back legs behind her.
“I took her to a vet on the site, and she said that when she squeezed Peppi’s legs there was no reaction,” says Freestone. “I was so scared she would never walk again.”
Peppi was taken to a nearby vet hospital, where she underwent a CT scan and an MRI. The report was not good: she had a herniated disc that had left her hind legs paralyzed. Peppi underwent an operation the next day, and Freestone was told her dog had a 95 per cent chance of walking again.
She knew that Peppi would need a lot of rehabilitation: a process complicated by the fact that Freestone was scheduled for knee surgery and would not be mobile for a time. She left Peppi with dog therapist Jen Panko for three weeks, and Peppi started the rehab process under Jen’s direction. “Jen can get Peppi to do things that I can’t!” laughs Freestone.
The pair had to take it easy when they returned to Ashcroft, and eventually Peppi was able to walk and run. In January 2016 Peppi was X-rayed by a vet, who said everything looked fine, and that Peppi could take part in agility trials again.
Freestone says that even though Peppi was given the all-clear, they did no real agility practice. They did, however, go to a few trials, and at the end of October found themselves competing in Abbotsford, more than a year after Peppi’s accident.
Peppi did well, and it all came down to one time trial that had to be completed in under 76 seconds. Freestone says that Peppi clocked in at 75.83 seconds; a good enough showing to win her the gold award of merit. It will go with the silver and bronze awards Peppi had previously won at the same event.
“Now that she has a gold, we won’t be doing any more events this year,” says Freestone. “I am so happy, and proud of my little girl.”