by Robert Hudson
In 2014 Gabi Gutierrez’s life took an unexpected turn. She pulled dogs from shelters to rescue and one day while at a shelter to pull a dog, the animal control officer came to her and told her there was a little dog he wanted her to see. She was surprised to see this tiny dog’s face which was deformed and he had trouble walking and did not like to bend his head to the floor to eat. “Of course I will take him”, she told the officer.
This little dog named Walter she discovered had a very rare genetic disease called Mucopolysacchodosis also known as MPS type 6. It is a rare lysosomal storage disorder.
“It is caused when there is an absence or malfunction of a certain enzyme that is used by the body to break down long chains of sugar. It’s a rare and progressive storage disorder which causes their short stature, muscle and bone abnormalities, enlarged tongues, organ enlargement, unique looks and many and I mean many health problems as well as a SHORTENED LIFE EXPECTANCY. This disorder is usually caused when two parents are carriers of the gene defect and are bred. The disease is constantly changing their bodies”, Gabi told me.
The disorder is so new and so rare, most people and most vets have never heard of it. It is a progressive disease that is terminal. Many only reach the age of six months, but some will live 2 to 4 years.
It was a learning curve for Gabi on her own to figure out how to make Walter the most comfortable and have as normal a life experience as possible. Through physical exercise in a kiddy pool he was able to walk more normally. He loved to play and shower affection. He brought a smile and touched Gabi’s heart every day.
Walter passed away in 2016. Not too long after that Gabi discovered another dog that had the same disorder- one of her followers on social media told her there was a dog at a shelter due to be euthanized that appeared to have the same disorder. Gabi went to the shelter and picked up this tiny 2 pound dog that had the same deformities but no trouble walking and running. Little Winslow became part of the family pretty quick.
After three years of love little Winslow crossed over the bridge to join his big brother he never met earlier.
Then came Benjamin, an adorable little dog that is just the king of cute. His face will bring a smile to anyone with the grumpies. Having a bad day? Just take a look at this little guy! His abnormalities prevent him from walking, but he is happy scooting across the floor! Benji is her current MPS rescue.
“With Benjamin now my day starts with getting up at 5 AM giving him his medication then feeding him breakfast followed by a clean up bath. Benji has never been able to walk since I’ve had him so he goes potty on pee pads. He is able to plank so that he holds himself up a bit while he does but often requires us to give him a little clean up bath after. Benjamin has adapted to crawling around quite well but due to the delicate nature of his body we try to keep him on soft bedding at all times. We also have a little bassinet for him with all of his toys and supplies can we push him around in that so that he can be everywhere we are and be up high to look around. We repeat our morning process in the afternoon and the evening. Benjamin over the past few months has developed multiple health issues so he does require us to feed him multiple small meals a day and keep a very close on him.
All three boys never met. Each one came into my life as the other one had passed a few months after. Walter was a very talkative feisty little miniature pincher. He loved to sit on my lap and have conversations with everybody around him. Lol. What’s interesting is that all three boys have a very interesting park there’s often seen in dogs with MPS. It sounds like a duck mixed with a dog bark. It is quite cute to hear especially when it came out of Winslow. Winslow was the smallest out of the boys at only 2 pounds but he did have the biggest personality and was very bossy but extremely sweet at the same time. We called him the big boss of the house. Benji is a very mellow sweet boy who loves to be at the center of anything we do. He is a very strong willed little pup and doesn’t let his disease slow him down.”
“The biggest challenge that I faced with caring with all three boys was just managing the multiple health issues that came along with the disease and the anticipatory grief of knowing that they will
not live a long life. With Walter I struggled with that for many months before I realized that I need to start looking at life like he does. He enjoyed every single day and lived life to its fullest so I needed to stop worrying about the future and just live in the present. Even to this day I still struggle with it but I try very hard for them.”
“There has to be a reason why dogs with this disorder keep coming into my life. Walter has brought attention to this unknown disorder that has helped people to diagnose this disease around the world. This is my calling”