Lady Bug isn’t your typical track star. For starters, she’s a Dachshund, with low-rider limbs not exactly suited to sprinting. And then there’s the fact that Lady Bug—who competed at the 2017 Weiner National Races—was nearly paralyzed three years ago.
Dumped at a California shelter in 2014 when she was just a puppy, Lady Bug was suffering from a severe, paralyzing back injury and her chances of leaving with a family looked grim. Despite her condition, the Dachshund Rescue of Los Angeles scooped the little dog up and began looking for someone who could give her a second chance at life.
After receiving a poor prognosis from a neurologist, Lady Bug was accepted for treatment at California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE). The intense physical therapy plan included everything from underwater treadmills to acupuncture—and, as fate would have it, some good old-fashioned love to speed up the healing process.
“I found that she performed better in her therapy sessions when she had motivation, so I would motivate her while the physical therapists would work with her,” says Dr. Deanna O’Neil, a veterinarian involved in Lady Bug’s months-long rehabilitation. “She started responding more to her treatments and became very attached to me. Then I started taking her home at night … and the rest is history.”
Within weeks, Lady Bug had gone from patient to pet, but she still had a long road ahead. It would be two months before she could stand on her own, four months before she was discharged from CARE and six before she could walk unassisted. Racing, to say the least, wasn’t a priority.
But last spring, O’Neil and Lady Bug began strength and conditioning training to prepare for the big day. Although Lady Bug was by no means favored to win, her team made sure she was ready to impress at the Los Alamitos Race Course. “We built her a starting gait—and worked on getting out of the gait fast!” says O’Neil.
Lady Bug finished the Weiner National Race in 45 seconds, crossing the finish line with a jaunty jog and enjoying a few celebratory Cheez-It treats. She didn’t make it to the podium—the winner, Baby Bo, covered the course’s 50 yards in an impressive 7 seconds—but it was a victory in her owner’s eyes.
“My goal was to get her walking,” says O’Neil. “Now not only can she walk, but she can run.”
Due to the severity of her back injury—a problem that is, unfortunately, common in Dachshunds—Lady Bug, now 4 years old, continues to face some challenges. Her hind limbs tire easily, and she can’t jump or use the stairs. But these limitations don’t get in the way of her favorite activities: playing fetch, tearing apart her plush toys and barking at the UPS man.
And as always, nothing can put a damper on little Lady’s spirit. Even during her difficult recovery, Lady Bug somehow seemed to know that brighter days were ahead with her new human—and she wasn’t shy about making her intentions known.
“It’s hard to ignore a cute little dog that gets so excited every time she sees you and is constantly looking for you,” says O’Neil. “Lady Bug picked me.”