A little over a month ago Mia was ageing well. I mean, she's 12, she's a Rottweiler and she's had her health demons but she was doing well and still enjoying everything she always has, such as chasing a tennis ball, albeit in shorter spells.
But you know what they say about counting chickens before they hatch.
A few days after we had said how well we thought she was doing, something happened and one health problem led to another and about a month ago, Mia fell twice in a very short space of time and couldn't keep her balance or even walk a step without collapsing.
We still have no idea if what initially set the 'illness ball' rolling, IBD and medication for that is linked to what followed when she went off her legs. But in truth, everything else has faded into comparison while we've navigated our way through her mobility situation. Not knowing what her new normal would be or how long it might take to discover was quite a shock, to be honest.
A month on, we're quietly confident that we're on the road to recovery and where we are now is down to two things - Mia's 'I know best' attitude, determination and her willingness to take some guidance in the early days, and a Help'EmUp Harness (priced from £58.33 exc VAT) which we discovered online while searching for solutions to try and help us to help her get back on her feet.
The harness has truly been a gamechanger for Mia's rehabilitation. If your dog has mobility problems of any kind, from arthritis to more serious issues such as Degenerative Myelopathy, then I encourage you to investigate further.
After reading about the harness online, I contacted OrthoPets.co.uk and received some fantastic advice from Alison Hunt.
The harness is available in sizes x-small to x-large. Alison helped me to work out what size Mia might need based on her weight and breed and forewarned me that the Help'EmUp Harness looked quite complicated in real life but is in fact very intuitive to set up, and she was absolutely right.
The harness has two parts to it essentially and this is so that whether your dog needs extra help and support to their front or back-end or both, you're covered.
Mia needed a large size harness (£87.50 exc VAT) but she's a small large, so after we altered the strap sizes to fit (you can cut away the excess material, if you do this please remember to seal the end of the strap with a naked flame before putting on your dog, otherwise the material ends will fray).
There's a combination of fleece and meshed padding in all the areas you'd expect to have good padding to keep your dog comfortable when wearing and there are softer stockings dotted around to conceal any excess straps or provide extra comfort, so you can put it on and leave all day (although it's recommended you take off at night time).
We put it on when Mia needed it but took it off at all other times because, in the early weeks, she was spending her days confined to one or two sleeping zones to help her recoup and recover.
It's a very well made harness. The stitching is good quality and the plastic clip fastenings have all performed exactly as you might expect, I have no worries that they'll come undone.
The harness is also machine washable, so combined with the quality of stitching and fabrics, it's clearly been designed with longevity in mind.
Although we have the full Conventional Harness, as the days went on we discovered Mia's problems stemmed from her front legs, one specifically, so we now use the front end only.
We are quite lucky in that most of our home is carpeted, except the kitchen and one other room, and we have minimal stairs to climb, so except for going into the garden and heading to bed at night time, we have been able to protect her with the help of the harness over the last few weeks.
How the Help'EmUp Harness works
The harness helps us to hold her up using the handle on top, taking the pressure off her feet as she's placing them.
It has given her an enormous amount of confidence to know that she won't be immediately filled with pain when her feet hit the ground and so stops her thinking she has to pull a leg away, leading to all four legs giving way.
I am able to hold the handle without stooping but my husband would probably need to clip a lead to it for walks in the future after her rehab is finished.
The harness does have various accessories available, including its own specially designed lead though, for anyone who might need one and a washable bag, so you can pop it inside before machine washing.
How you put the harness on
Contrary to how it looks, it's very simple. With everything unclipped, you put the dog's head through the collar so it sits around their neck and then line up along the dog's back and do the clips up one by one once all of the padding is in the right place.
The harness goes in between the legs and comes up either side of the dog (similar to fitting a nappy, perhaps?) with thicker fleece padding towards the bottom of the chest, which sits underneath.
The harness clips securely on each side of the neck. There's extra padding to tuck the straps inside and keep your dog comfortable. The harness also has padding with a mesh lining for added comfort.
We chose the blue and black harness. It has grey piping to match the handles, a really nice little design touch.
There are two clip rings, one at the neck for the lead and one mid-way down, this is where you clip (or unclip) the bottom part of the harness.
Once you have the neck and chest areas of the harness in place, you attach the tummy part securely by clipping the harness in place at both sides, positioned near the handle.
The rear of the harness attaches by clipping the metal clip to the ring and it sits underneath, again with padding for comfort and soft covers along the two straps which sit either side of the dog's tail to make going to the toilet easy.
Over the last few weeks, Mia has been under 24/7 supervision, which as an independent girl has started to grate on her a little now.
In the last week we have tried to give her a little more freedom, so we've switched from walking with her side by side, us holding her harness handle, to treating her a bit like a curling stone, giving her a few steps on her own with us standing with our arm stretched out having let her go.
Whenever I look at the harness I really do wish I'd known about it years ago to help my old Labrador, Chloe, who had nine months of Degenerative Myelopathy to cope with before it became too much. It would have made such a difference to her quality of life.
Although Mia's harness might be considered pricey by some, for the sheer volume of use and lease of life it's given her, if you are debating whether the cost is worth the investment, I wholeheartedly say it is and I don't say that lightly.
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that this harness has given her the confidence to walk again and is giving us confidence, more and more each day, that taking it slowly, with the help of the Help'EmUp Harness she might get back to some type of normal that hopefully is not too far away from where she was a little over a month ago.
Although I'm not saying that out loud, for obvious reasons.
Help'EmUp Harness Review
Value for Money