Featured Story - Meet Vader
1. How did you find Vader?
I wanted a pup really bad and finally convinced my roommates to let me get one. I looked all over the internet for the perfect pet, and went through thousands of dogs on craigslist. I was looking specifically for a MinPin. After many days I came across a litter of Miniature Pinschers and one specifically caught my eye. In the photo he was sitting next to his sister who was a red coloring and he was black and tan. Instantly I knew that was the pup I wanted. He was so tiny compared to his sister and had the sweetest little face. I called the breeder and he said “I still have one left”. Not knowing if it was the girl or boy I quickly jumped in the car and headed out to Riverside, CA to pick up my new baby. On my way there I was so excited I forgot he needed a name. My roommate helped me go through a list of dog names and we came across one from a favorite movie, Vader. Little did I know that would end up being a more than perfect name for him as he later made Darth Vader breathing sounds. When I got there to pick up Vader I was surprised to find he was the only puppy left for adoption and he was the one I wanted all along. Vader seemed like a happy healthy puppy when we brought him home.
2. Was he already diagnosed with MPS-VI when you met him?
Vader was not diagnosed with MPS when I adopted him. He was so young you would have no idea he even had it. Vader started showing signs of MPS when he started growing at age 6 months, but I had no idea that is what it was. It wasn’t until Vader was 3 that we discovered his disorder and had him tested.
This is very unusual as my sister lived with MPS for 30 years, and now the signs seem so obvious that I should have known. However at the time I did not know MPS could be in animals as well.
3. What type of MPS did he have and what were his symptoms?
Vader had MPS-VI. This is the most common MPS found in dogs. We first noticed that Vader’s legs were causing him pain at 6 months and found he had floating hips. However we discovered that is common in this breed and not an MPS specific issue. Then we noticed he always had nose bubbles and hazy eyes. We guessed that is just because he is little and has calcium deposits. Then he didn’t grow much bigger and his chest was very large. After this we started noticing he didn’t look like a “typical” minpin. He stayed a puppy and had a short nose. His legs being deformed made him walk on his forearm and not his paws. After a while you just know your baby isn’t “normal”.
4. Do you know if any of his siblings have MPS as well?
Unfortunately by the time I discovered Vader had MPS I no longer had the contact for the breeder. It is a personal frustration I live with daily, and because of this Vader could be blood related to a few of the other MPS pups we have discovered.
5. Did you have any knowledge of MPS or its several types before Vader?
Yes. As mentioned above, my older sister lived with MPS for 30 years. Tiffany was one of the oldest children with MPS-III, most don’t make it to 10. Even before I was born my world was surrounded by MPS. I have never known a life without it. To me life with MPS was my “normal”. I did not have a typical relationship with my sibling. At a very young age I learned to care for her. Feed her through a tube in her stomach, change her, move her from her wheelchair, give her meds and breathing treatments, along with many other needs. It was my way of loving her.
It wasn’t until after Tiffany passed that we discovered Vader had MPS. It astonished me. I should have seen the signs. It also gave me a reaction most would not have. I was excited because it was my familiar. I knew his life would be short, but I also knew his life could be lived to the fullest. MPS does not need to stop anyone. Tiffany taught me that. She did everything. Disneyland, school, vacations, family events. We just learned to do it at her pace, and Vader had the same opportunities.
One thing I always found unusual was when I would take Vader to visit Tiffany. I would help mom with something and turn around and he would be gone. I always found him lying in her room. It always seemed unusual, but I figured it was because the sun came in there. He loved laying on her bed with her too. Now that I know they both had MPS I think it was more than the sun that he loved in that room.
If you would like to learn more about Tiffany please visit http://ladybugtiff.com
6. How did your life change with Vader?
Anyone that knew Vader would tell you he wasn’t a dog. He had so many human like tendencies. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought I gave birth to him. He was my child through and through.
Vader taught me so much about living no matter what obstacles, or curbs, life gives you. It is because of him that I ultimately decided we needed to start MPS Army Foundation. I knew he had a short life, but I also knew his death was only the beginning. He was brought into this world so I could connect with all these other amazing MPS pawrents and learn more about it. So I could join them in starting MPS Army in order to help future pups and families. Together all those affected by MPS have built the pathway to a different and better future. Vader was never brought into this world for me. He was here for all of us!
7. What kind of care goes into having an MPS Dog? Is there specific food and certain medications he absolutely needed?
Vader was easy. He walked to the beat of his own drum, and that usually was in the direction of the ladies. He loved being held by the girls.
Vader was never on any medications. One thing I learned watching my sister and others with MPS was that most medications do more harm than good for an MPS child, however there are some that can help with pain when needed.
Vader had a diet of dry puppy kibbles because it was easier to digest and the kibbles were better to keep his teeth strong.
We always encouraged him to walk as much as possible and climb over those big curbs. That kept his legs strong and he walked until the day he died.
Vader refused to potty outside as a baby so Vader was litterbox trained. He loved it. We would say “go potty” and he would waddle into the bathroom and into the litterbox and go. Sometimes he didn’t even have to go, but he loved it so much he would obey and out would come a tinkle or two. I believe his Facebook may have a video of it, and now all our small dogs are litterbox trained.
Vader also had to undergo a dental cleaning. This caused him to be placed under anesthesia. He did great and had no complications. The staff loved having him there, and when it was all done it actually improved his eating and he gained a little weight. I try to encourage others to not live in fear of “what if” but live in excitement of what could be! We fully believe the dental cleaning expanded his life expectancy.
8. What was his favorite activity?
Vader lived for car rides. He also loved to go to car meets and hang out with the guys. However Vader’s ultimate happy place was in the arms of an ogling lady. He just adored the attention. He thought he was all that and a bag of chips.
9. What advice would you give to those who are just starting out with an MPS pet?
Enjoy every moment. Even those without complications could die tomorrow so treat this like it was a normal life. Do everything and fear nothing! Connect with families that have or are experiencing it. They can help you and share what has worked for them. Above all love unconditionally. It will be what helps them live longer than any medication!
MPS Army Foundation has a great family network and lots of tools to help a new MPS pawrents along.
10. If there was anything to be done differently, what would it be and why?
Not a single thing. Vader knew what his life was created for. I was lucky enough to join the ride.
Fun Facts about Vader:
Vader has his own website: http://vadertheminpin.com
Vader didn't miss out on any opportunity life presented him. He went for amazing car rides, ate all sorts of gummy bears, got free French fries at drive throughs, helped a dog get her wheels, had an audition for a tv show, spent many beautiful hours cuddling with many of you, had some epic birthday parties, lived in an RV for a while, kept his sisters in check, and got to be the mascot of an entire website called bonepad.com.
We ultimately discovered Vader had MPS by seeing MPS dog Pan’s Facebook page through a search for disabled dogs. Thank you Pan for sharing your story so we could share ours!
What were Vader's favorite treats? Gummy Bears & French Fries
What are 3 things Vader enjoyed most? Sunshine, Car Rides, and Attention
If Vader went to high school what senior superlative would he have been? Ladies Man
What did you feed Vader? Vader ate dry puppy food. He did eat a lot but MPS made him look thin, and he was on puppy food because it's soft for his delicate teeth and digestive system.
Where did Vader love to go? Vader loved to go to car meets in So-Cal
Did Vader bark? Yes, but it sounded more like a tiny quack
Did Vader know any tricks? Yes, Vader could sit, shake, roll over, play dead, and balance treats on his nose.