Thu, Oct 14, 2021 6:00 AM

Skylar defies death to walk again

Olivia Small and Skylar at one of their favourite walking spots, Neale Park. Photo: Kate Russell.

Kate Russell

When Olivia Small got a call last year to say her dog Skylar had been hit by a car, she thought it was a prank.

Furthermore, when she was told her beloved pup might not survive the risky spinal surgery that would give her a chance to live, she refused to believe it.

Now, 15 months later, Skylar the two-year-old catahoula cross is not only walking again - she’s thriving.

“I had a gut feeling she would pull through - I had to give her a chance to try,” Olivia says.

Olivia adopted Skylar as a puppy in 2019 from an Auckland pound.

“I fell in love with her straight away - it happened quite seamlessly.”

Olivia and Skylar were soon enjoying a new life in Nelson, but their world came to a standstill one day in July 2020.

“I had dropped her off at my mum’s house in Wakapuaka, but she managed to jump the fence, escape down to the Boulder Bank and was hit by a car.”

The driver left after a few minutes but a family who was nearby stayed with Skylar until Olivia arrived.

“I was in hysterics. She couldn’t move or anything. We think the car only hit her back - she had no visible injuries, except under her tail was completely skinned off and there were a few scratches on her head.”

She was rushed to Halifax Vets for pain medication and x-rays, which showed that she had crushed her L1 vertebrae.

The only hope for Skylar was surgery, and with no options for this in Nelson, they prepared themselves for the long drive down to Christchurch to get it done.

“It was one of the worst drives of my life, she was just crying - it was so sad.”

Seeing Skylar in so much pain, Olivia began to ask herself if she had made the right decision.

“I thought, ‘should I be doing this? Is this good for her?’ I felt like I was being quite selfish. The surgeon said there was a 50/50 chance of it working - and that was being generous.”

But Olivia’s decision was the right one, with the surgery being a success.

“It took half a day. The surgeon said he had to pull the bones in her vertebral column out carefully in little bits. Then they put pins in her back to help stabalise her spine.”

Skylar recovering post-surgery. Photo: Supplied. 
Skylar recovering post-surgery. Photo: Supplied. 

Surgery was followed by five months of “lots and lots” of rehabilitation.

“Lots of physio, acupuncture and laser therapy - as much as we could.”

But Skylar was a trooper through it all.

“She was amazing. She never once growled or tried to bite - she was just so good to everyone.”

Once Skylar showed signs of wanting to move around more, Olivia ordered her some custom-made wheels to help her become more mobile.

“At first she was like ‘what do I do?’ but once we took her down to the park and started cheering her on, she just started running. It was awesome,” she recalls.

“As soon as she got the hang of it, it was amazing. It gave me a glimpse of hope that she was going to be okay.”

Altogether, Skylar’s recovery has cost around $20,000, but pet insurance has covered a portion of the cost.

Currently, Skylar’s favourite places to visit are the beach and the Maitai. Olivia also hopes to soon return to their much-loved bush walks.

She says Skylar also loves meeting other dogs - although some aren’t so sure about her wheels.

Skylar has now taken her recovery a step further and has started walking on her own.

She is now “unstoppable”  and is “always” up for a walk.

“The hardest part is learning how to stand up on her own again as she’s still got no muscle in her back, but we’re working on building that back up,” Olivia says.

“At home, she doesn’t wear wheels anymore. She’s got a bit of a sway, but she’s quite coordinated. If she starts to tip, she will correct herself.

“She just doesn’t want to stop.”

Follow Skylar’s journey on Instagram: ‘skylarthecatax’