Hello, my name is Ziggy and I have ataxia. If you see me walk, you will think I’ve been hitting the Christmas egg nog. That’s because I have congenital cerebellar disease, which affects the balance and coordination part of my brain.


This turn of events has also affected the equilibrium in my owner’s brain. I’ve recently watched her tear at her hair and shout: “WTF! This is my first dog! I prepared for this puppy! I researched and googled! I choose a breed known for its good health!”

Instead, she got me. Diagnosed last week with this rare, untreatable neurological condition which may or may not get worse.

Now, I may have cerebellar disease but I’m still a supreme mood reader. I can feel hearts squeeze every time I fall. Although for me, stumbling, tripping over my feet and skidding on wooden floors seems perfectly normal, my charming puppy clumsiness is now a sign of a serious condition with an unknown prognosis. Ah, knowledge can be painful!

Personally, I think there’s a lesson here for my owner.  Life can sometimes be a bad Santa who brings crappy, unwanted gifts. So I’m here to teach her acceptance.  I’m here to remind her we can’t control everything.  After all, randomness is built into the very fabric of existence.

In other words, shit happens.

Sadly, my owner – being human with a tendency to over-think and let her imagination run off with the fairies – is still seeking an explanation for the cause of my illness.

Was it that time during renovations when I fleetingly chewed on an arsenic-infused chunk of wood?

Or was it that piece of really, really, smelly poop I once ate?

Then, there’s this doozey: Perhaps I’m a reincarnation of a Soldier of the Third Reich, my imperfect goose-stepping walk (characteristic of this illness) not only a reflection of the eternal life of the soul but also clear evidence  the universe, in all its wisdom, understands the transformative power of irony and poetic justice. Either that or there’s a deity out there with a warped sense of humour.

I prefer to simply see life as a balancing act. And if there is one thing that is certain in this world; it’s uncertainty.  May I add, all this unpredictability is no excuse to lie on our backs, expose our tummies for a rub and yield to complacency.  No. There are still some things we can change.  So.  A moment for practicalities, please.

We little dog-animals are bloody hard work. So no giving of puppies for Christmas.

I am also a glowing example of the importance of pet insurance. Diagnosing my condition ( X-rays, blood and fluid tests, an MRI scan and specialist consultations),  has cost a small fortune.

On the bright side, to compensate for my awkwardness, I’m strong. Really strong. Just try and pull me away from some fabulously interesting smell. I can still jump insanely high and when I run, I’m like someone with a speech impediment who sings like a star.

Plus, there’s one thing of which I am certain.  I know what makes the world turn, the oceans stir and the stars come out at night. I know I’m wildly loved. I know my family will be beside me on this journey and pick me up when I fall.  I know they will care for me, do all they can to make sure I live out a happy life, no matter how brief that life might be.

After all, who among us knows how long we have in this wonderful world?

So look into my eyes and succumb to the enchantment. Smile, poke out your tongue and drool. Happy Christmas. And I hope you like my hat.


  1. Dear ziggy
    Betty here from up the road. Im so sad to hear of your illness what a bugger! If you want to come over and chew the fat or indeed a bone just holler!
    I know your mum will look after you so well. ..
    Love Betty

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