Real Life

Cassie’s fight to save her dachshund Minnie’s life

''We’d do anything to get our girl back on her feet.''
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Cassie Barker, 34, from Wellington, NZ shares her touching story with Take 5.

Our youngest dachshund Mila barked in distress.

“It’s okay,” I soothed. “Minnie needs to get better.”

It was 2016, and Minnie, the five-year-old dachshund my husband, Andy, and I adopted two years earlier, had been experiencing difficulty walking.

At the vets, we learned she had intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), a common condition for the breed due to their long spines.

Luckily, the vet assured us Minnie’s case was mild and advised crate rest.

It meant she’d stay in a crate apart from when it was time to eat or go to the toilet.

Cassie and Andy with their beloved dogs, Minnie (left) and Mila.

(Image: supplied)

For poor Mila, two, it was heartbreaking.

They were so close and used to sleeping together each night.

“Let’s put Mila in a crate right next to Minnie,” Andy said.

But after a week, Minnie couldn’t walk at all, so we went back to the vet who gave us two options: more crate rest or taking her to Massey University vet, in Palmerston North, a two-hour drive away, where there was a vet department which specialised in doing back surgery on dogs.

For Andy and me, the decision was obvious.

I’d loved dachshunds my whole life.

Cassie picks up Minnie from the vet.

(Image: supplied)

When I was a kid, my grandmother, May, had one called Chum and I’d fallen in love with the breed.

Both Minnie and Mila meant the world to me and I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing my oldest in pain – she was family, after all.

“We can do the surgery, but there’s only a 50 per cent chance Minnie will walk again,” a vet warned, though this didn’t deter us.

For two weeks after the operation, she had almost no movement at all… until we brought Mila in to see her.

Suddenly, she ran across the room and the two began wagging their tails and licking one another.

“I can’t believe it… she’s walking again!” I gasped, misty-eyed.

Mila watching Minnie at hydrotherapy.

(Image: supplied)

Back home, Minnie went through hydrotherapy which helped her regain strength and movement.

We were glad the ordeal was behind us.

Until, in 2021, she began limping badly and then lost the use of both front legs.

Back at the vet, we were told it was likely bone cancer, but I requested more tests to confirm it.

“Is she worth it?” the vet sighed, annoyed.

I wanted to punch him there and then, angered that he thought euthanasia was the easy option.

“That’s our dog’s life!” I vented to Andy later.

Cassie and Minnie paddle boarding together on their holiday.

(Image: supplied)

Back at the uni vet, Minnie was diagnosed with immune-mediated bilateral carpal polyarthritis, which would require steroids to keep under control.

She’s no longer as mobile but Minnie, now 12, is still able to lead an active life.

In fact, we recently went on a holiday to Marlborough Sound on the South Island.

Donning life jackets, Minnie and Mila joined us on the paddle board and kayaks… and loved every second!

I’d do anything for my dogs and encourage other pet owners to always trust their instincts.

If I hadn’t fought for her, Minnie might not still be here, and I couldn’t imagine life without my beloved dachshund in it.

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