BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Poodles are known for making a grand entrance with their elegant prance, but one poodle, Tootsie, lost her prance and had to learn how to strut her tail all over again.

Like most older dogs, Tootsie was diagnosed with arthritis, which slowed down her stroll, but in early 2023, she began to trip and fall. Her owner, Mary Jane Barrett from Roanoke, said Tootsie began to “belly flop” and her legs stopped working entirely.

During her visit to her doctor, Tootsie’s primary veterinarian determined that the problem was neurological and she was referred to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment.

The next day, Tootsie arrived at her appointment, unable to walk.

After a full examination and MRI scan, doctors diagnosed her with cervical spondylomyelopathy, also known as wobbler syndrome. According to Virginia Tech, this syndrome is mostly seen in large-breed dogs and happens when the spinal cord is compressed because of the narrowing of the spinal canal. Doctors then decided that in order to treat Tootsie’s wobbling syndrome she would need to have surgery.

“It’s scary. We were petrified to make the decision: surgery or medicine,” said Barrett.

After surgery, Tootsie couldn’t raise her head for six days and doctors believed that it could take months for her to get back up and walk again.

But, with physical therapy, and her mom by her side, Tootsie began exceeding expectations.

“She has had cheerleaders on her side through and through. Some days have been harder than others, but it’s been great to encourage her and say ‘Come on, Tootsie, you got it,’” said Kimberly Winck, a veterinary assistant in the neurology department. 

A certified canine rehabilitation practitioner Flori Bliss began working with Tootsie on her recovery, and after two weeks, Tootsie was laying on her side and giving ‘paw shakes.’ As their physical therapy journey continued, Bliss began laser therapy along with physical therapy and soon Tootsie learned to sit, stand, and even walk again.

“There have been lots of tears. The first day that she just got up on her own and walked to her water bowl, I cried. Watching her walk from the car to therapy has just fulfilled every kind of emotion,” said Barrett. “My daughter said it best: ‘Mom, it’s like watching your kid take their first step.'”

(Photo courtesy: Virginia Tech)