Emma McQuaid ‘A Mess’ As Her Dog was on Verge of Paralysis, Still Comes Second in Madrid

September 14, 2022 by
Photo Credit: @mcquaid175 (
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Emma McQuaid’s second place finish at the Madrid Championship seems near miraculous and is a mark of a deep well of resilience. She was in the middle of a sleep deprived emotional rollercoaster for her dog’s health. 

A week before Madrid, Ellie, a French Bulldog, had a bulged disc that had herniated her spinal cord. McQuaid wasn’t sure if her pet would recover, be paralysed, or even have to be put down.

“It was a lot of tears. Both me and my husband, we were a mess,” McQuaid, 32, said.  

Ellie underwent an operation. It was still unclear how she’d recover and McQuaid was getting up every 90 minutes to two hours to help Ellie go to the toilet.

It is unclear what caused the injury. McQuaid has a donkey, a horse and cattle, so the dog may have been kicked. But Ellie never had an obvious trauma. The couple took Ellie to the vet because she seemed to go quiet, not because she seemed to have been kicked. 

“She is mental. She is one of the most energetic French bulldogs there is,” McQuaid said. “So, maybe it’s just a combination of her being crazy.”

This would be stressful for anyone, but there was another layer for McQuaid and her husband, David. 

David suffered an accident 10 years ago that has left him paralysed and going through the episode with Ellie triggered a lot of old feelings. 

“It was probably a lot harder. It’s not just about Ellie,” McQuaid said. “We relived the year post-crash. It brought back a lot of memories we put in the past.”

After a week of uncertainty, emotional lows, worry and lack of sleep, McQuaid flew to Madrid to compete in the Championship. 

McQuaid was undecided whether to compete until the night before her flight. Her coach insisted. As long as McQuaid could sort the logistics for others to sit Ellie in her absence, she thought it best for her. 

“We all made a decision that it would be good to challenge myself and see what my body can do in extreme high stress. I don’t think I’ve ever come into a competition with a mental state like this weekend. If I can compete with this mental stress going on, any competition will be enjoyable after,” she said. 

“I didn’t feel like myself on the floor. Usually I don’t mind hurting. But this time, every time the hurt started, my body went ‘urrrggg’. My body was like ‘it is OK to slow down’. Usually there’s something in my mind that says it’s OK’ to hurt more. I certainly didn’t have that gear,” McQuaid said. 

Operating at this impaired level, McQuaid still finished second. For McQuaid, the fun of competitions is the social aspect. She likes meeting other athletes, chatting in the warm up area and after each event. 

In Madrid, she stuck to herself and headed back to the hotel between events. 

“I love having fun on the competition floor. And this weekend, I couldn’t find the fun in it and I came second. I couldn’t find the fire and I came second. That has to be amazing.”

McQuaid’s next competition is Rouge in six weeks time. She will be in a far better head space, and Ellie should be on the road to recovery. But six to 12 weeks after the dog’s operation is crucial. 

So, McQuaid is cutting back her training volume. Usually, she has defined sessions throughout the day for conditioning, skills, strength and gymnastics. Instead, she will have two sessions and merge all of the different aspects together. 

“If it works, it works. We’ll see,” McQuaid said. 

No doubt, McQuaid will be a force to be reckoned with at Rouge. 

“There is just a mental resilience there that we’ve built up in the last couple of weeks. I’m definitely excited to know my body can go through that and still perform,” McQuaid added.

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