From pound puppy to powder hound

by Carol Bryant of FIDO Friendly Magazine

“There’s no sense in throwing a life away.”

When Zane and Val Henning of Wasilla, Alaska, see their Cocker Spaniel, Cody, trail-blazing through the snow, this thought resonates. Cody entered the couple’s lives in the fall of 2005. “He was in terrible shape with half a left ear, a huge scar over his head and part of his left eyelid missing,” said Zane Henning. “We adopted him, had his health problems addressed, cleaned him up and he was a completely different dog.”

With an uphill battle behind, the future looked bright. And then Cody ate. “Cody was so starved. He ate the same amount as our other two Cockers, but due to his emaciated condition, the onset of weight was rapid,” Zane remarked. Cody did more than tip the scales; the sudden accumulation of weight to his small proportion created an usual inward curving of the back and resulting herniated disk.

The couple received news every Fido-guardian dreads: that Cody’s condition made it best to put him down. With a 10 percent chance that Cody would ever walk again, the Hennings refused and sought options. “Although Cody spent a week in therapy, his back end was paralyzed. All we have to do is express his bladder for him,” Zane stated. How would an environmental coordinator and a stay-at-home Cocker mom manage trudging through the Alaskan snows with two able-bodied dogs and one with a physical limitation? Although wheelchairs for Fido facilitate dry ground mobility, the heavy snows of Alaska present challenges.

Not for Cody.

In the fall of 2009 while out on a walk, Zane noticed a skier pass by. He explained, “In the deep snow, ski poles create potholes, so Cody’s wheelchair got stuck. I purchased a set of used skis at a local thrift store for five dollars. I cut the tips off, made small wooden blocks so the wheels could sit into them, screwed the skis on and nailed everything together. I used bungee cords to set the wheels in and pinch them between. Everything stays in place.”

The only downhill in Cody’s life are the trails he takes on every day. Cody is a natural in his affectionately termed “ski-el-chair.” Zane beams, “The first time he started tearing around corners with no resistance, he was free to run.” Val reports the only downside is trying to keep up with Cody. They do a walk/run three miles a day, so sometimes she leashes him.

From pound puppy to powderhound, Cody houses an Olympic-style spirit in a Cocker-size body. No sense in throwing a life away, not when Cody has miles to go and slopes to conquer.

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