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How Many Legs Does it Take to Earn a Rally Championship? (Skye's Story)

For Tecla Walton and her Belgian Malinois, Skye, only three! By Brenna Fender


Tecla Walton and her Belgian Malinois, Skye, were longtime dog sport enthusiasts when Skye, who is now seven, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in October, 2013. Walton, who is a dog trainer at Tecla's K-9 Academy in Ellicott City, Maryland, decided that the amputation that saved Skye's life wouldn't end the pair's competitive career, which they both enjoyed.  "It was heartbreaking on so many levels," Walton says, but there was still an opportunity for the two to compete. "Thanks to [World] Cynosport Rally allowing handicapped dogs to continue to show, she has been able to continue working, which she loves." And not only has the pair been competing, they also have been winning. They've racked up the first places and perfect scores, finishing the World Cynosport Rally ARCH (APDT Rally Champion) title in March.

How do they do it? We asked Tecla Walton to share her experiences on this wonderful journey with Skye. 

Tecla Walton and Skye. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wolfe.

Brenna Fender (BF): How much training and competition did you do with Skye before she got osteosarcoma? 

Tecla Walton (TW): She earned her BH (a Schuzthund temperament test that is obedience based), her CD [a first-level obedience title, Companion Dog], and up to the first leg of her ARCH. She was the number 16 dog in the US for RL3 last year.

BF: Did she do other sports besides rally? Does she do them now as well?

TW: Yes, schutzhund, AKC obedience, rally, and nosework. A partially torn ACL ended her schutzhund career. Losing her leg to osteosarcoma ended her AKC career. She still does rally and nosework. In rally, she earned the last four legs of her ARCH after losing her leg. And, she just earned her NW1 [a nosework title] with a Pronounced designation.

BF: What led to Skye's cancer diagnosis in October of 2013? 

TW: Sudden and extreme lameness. Even with her partial tear, she would weight-bear on the affected leg. The day before the diagnosis, she would not.

BF: She obviously had surgery. Did she have other treatment for the cancer?   

TW: We had to remove her leg. I opted against chemotherapy as I believe in a holistic approach to battling cancer. Her treatment includes: weekly acupuncture, chiropractic, holistic/organic diet including a "green" shake that I make her that goes on her meals (kale, blueberries, goji berries, sweet red, orange, and yellow peppers, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach), and many immune boosting supplements and Chinese herbs.
  
BF: What is her prognosis?  

TW: Originally the doctors gave her about six months if I did not do chemotherapy. We just passed our seven-month mark.

BF: How long did it take between her surgery and returning to the rally ring?  

RW: Just over three months.

BF: What challenges has she experienced post-surgery, both in and out of the ring?  

TW: She was so amazingly resilient; there were some minor balance issues, but she has done very well with them. Her remaining rear leg is the one with the partial ACL tear so we are very careful about jumping, torqueing, and twisting (I got a brace for that leg for when we play ball). Perhaps her greatest challenge is she that is now concerned/cautious about surfaces - wood floors, floors that are a little slippery.

BF: Did you have to retrain any exercises?  

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