Cobb’s Purpose

A little more than two years ago, we first examined a friendly young miniature schnauzer named Cobb. He came to our clinic from the southern miniature schnauzer rescue group Schnauzer Love Rescue, who had been caring for him since he was found on South Cobb street in Marietta, Georgia. When we met him, we knew he was special, but we had no idea how truly remarkable he was.

Our team examined Cobb on a fact-finding mission for Schnauzer Love Rescue. They knew he was injured, because he had little use of his hind limbs. What they didn’t know were the details: What was his injury, what were the treatment options, and what was his prognosis? Would Cobb ever live a “normal” life?

Cobb’s prognosis
Dr. Akin didn’t have good news. While Cobb’s neurologic exam proved that the front of his body was perfect, his hind end, unfortunately, was not. He showed muscle loss in his back legs from lack of use, he was dribbling urine, and he had no deep pain on either hind limb. His X-ray revealed a narrowed space between two bones in his thoracic spine, indicating a probable rupture of his intervertebral disc.

Intervertebral discs cushion the vertebrae, or spinal bones. When discs herniate, they compress the spinal cord, causing spinal cord injury and, sometimes, permanent paralysis. We can perform surgery on some pets with intervertebral disc disease, but patients need surgery within 24 hours to have the best chance of walking again. We guessed that Cobb had less than a 50% chance of surgery returning him to normal function because of the time since the initial injury.

We sent Cobb “home” to the rescue organization with instructions on caring for a paralyzed dog. His new owner’s chores included physical therapy, massage, exercise restriction, medication, and because Cobb could not urinate, bladder expression. Cobb would likely be a special needs dog for the rest of his life, and we wondered if anyone was up to the challenge.

Cobb’s forever family
As it happens, two special people were following Cobb’s story on Schnauzer Love Rescue’s Facebook page. Joni and Paul Gommo had recently lost their beloved schnauzer, Misty, and had decided to forgo getting another dog and be content with their other two miniature schnauzers, Lily and Daisy. However, when Joni, who had suffered from spinal-cord compression herself, read Cobb’s story, she couldn’t resist meeting him.

What was meant to be a meet-and-greet turned into a part-time fostering situation, which led to the Gommos fostering Cobb full-time. Cobb wormed his way into Joni and Paul’s hearts, and they had the same worries we had after his discharge: If he was adopted, could his new owners handle a pet who demanded so much medical care?The Gommos quickly realized that the only solution that would set their minds at ease was to give Cobb their last name and formally adopt him. Although Cobb’s special needs take extra planning and time, the family of five enjoys life to the fullest.

Cobb’s condition has improved—he now has some motor function in his hind limbs, and he can get around on his own if need be. He also has a sweet set of wheels, and has taken in the sights all over the country from his wheelchair. The Gommos are RVers, but having a “handicapable” dog hasn’t stopped them from enjoying life on the road. Since Cobb’s adoption, he’s seen Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful, and the Grand Tetons, and has rolled along the coast of Maine.

Cobb’s love
Perhaps Cobb’s most important trip was to St. Augustine, Florida, to visit two of his biggest fans—that’s right, Cobb has fans—Greg and Nancy Moore, who had contributed to some of Cobb’s medical bills. The Gommos wanted to thank them face-to-face, and when they learned that Greg, a military veteran, was in hospice, they knew Cobb had to be with them.

When they arrived at the Moore’s home, Greg was lying in his bed, decked out in his #teamcobb shirt. As Joni describes it on Cobb’s Facebook page, Greg’s eyes lit up when his canine hero wheeled into the room. Then, Cobb calmly snuggled with the national hero and brought peace to the whole house. Lt. Colonel Moore passed away two weeks later, and the Gommos attended his service.

So far, Cobb’s life journey has been impressive for a dog the animal shelter had slated for euthanization due to his “poor quality of life.” Our team is so grateful that Schnauzer Love Rescue stepped in. When we first saw Cobb, we wondered if he’d ever have a normal life. His life has turned out to be far from normal—in the best possible way.