Long Tongue, Big Heart: The Story of Mochi the Dog
By Cara Meglio for PetPlan.com
Mochi the dog has made it big — she holds the Guinness World Record for world’s longest dog tongue, she stars in a series of children’s books, and she’s been touring North America, spreading the message that all creatures are special! But before Mochi stepped into the limelight, this pup had to overcome plenty of adversity along the way.
When Carla and Craig Rickert rescued Mochi in 2010, they never expected that the abused and neglected St. Bernard would one day become famous. They just loved her soulful face, big fluffy body, and happy-go-lucky personality. By becoming part of their family, Mochi brought joy and laughter to the Rickerts every day. They adored Mochi and she loved them right back.
“’Mo’ is resilient, comical, loving, and eternally grateful and loyal to us — her forever family,” Carla says.
But finding her forever home wasn’t the end of Mochi’s troubles. Just a few years into the Rickerts’ life with the St. Bernard, they almost lost her to a terrifying health crisis.
Mochi was out for a walk near her home when she suddenly let out a yelp and turned her head slightly to the side. Carla rubbed her neck and they continued walking back to their home, but when Mochi went to step into the foyer, she yelped again and dropped her head. Carla massaged her again, and the big pup settled in for her daily nap.
That evening, Mochi appeared to have a stiff neck and was walking with slow, deliberate steps. When she refused to eat or go outside, Carla and Craig called the mobile vet. After examining Mochi, the vet recommended visiting a veterinary neurology specialist the next day. But that night, Mochi’s condition went from bad to worse.
When Mochi took her final outside break before bedtime, she suddenly lay down and refused to walk. Her parents noticed that her front paws were turned in and curled under. She weighed about 180 pounds, so getting her back to the house was no easy task. Between encouraging her to walk short distances and carrying her the rest of the way, it took half an hour to make it two blocks back home.
Though Mochi slept soundly through the night, she was nearly paralyzed by morning. Mochi’s family called the mobile vet again, who put her on a human-sized gurney for transport to the veterinary neurology specialist’s clinic an hour’s drive away.
At the clinic, the veterinarian ran tests and took X-rays. As soon as the vet came back into the room with the results, the grim look on his face spoke a thousand words.
The vet and his assistant explained that Mochi had ruptured a disc in her spine and that the disc was impinging on the spinal cord, causing paralysis. They said that she would require surgery, and as Mochi was the largest dog they had ever performed the procedure on, it would cost approximately $12,000. It was their only option, the vet said — in fact, with each passing hour that the spinal cord was pinched, the chances of Mochi’s recovery shrank.
The reality of the situation sank in when the vet said, matter-of-factly, “If you opt not to do the surgery, the only humane option is to euthanize her today.” The Rickerts were horrified at the thought that the surgery’s cost could force them to euthanize this beautiful spirit, a loyal member of the family. Mochi lay on the gurney, wagging her tail and looking at her parents with pleading eyes.
The vet told Carla to take as much time as she needed with Mochi, and left the room. While cuddling Mochi, crying and apologizing for having to say goodbye, Carla suddenly remembered their pet insurance policy.
When the Rickerts adopted Mochi, they already had a 2-year-old Newfoundland, and knew that big dogs can be costly to care for — so they enrolled both gentle giants in Petplan pet insurance policies. Neither dog experienced any significant medical issues over the next few years, so their pet insurance wasn’t top of mind. They’d considered canceling it the year prior, but ultimately opted to keep it just in case.
Now, that decision was about to save Mochi’s life. Carla called Petplan’s customer service line, who confirmed that despite the staggering cost of the surgery, it would be covered.
Just like that, the whole situation changed. Carla hugged Mochi and called down the hallway for their veterinarian. She announced that their pet insurance policy would cover the surgery, and gave them the go-ahead to perform the procedure. The neurology team was delighted, having fallen in love with this sweet pup during the two hours she’d been in the clinic.
A whirlwind of cardiology tests and even an MRI at a human hospital was followed by over eight hours of emergency surgery that lasted through the night. Even after pulling out all the stops to save Mochi, the team said she only had a 40 percent chance of recovery.
Mochi’s brave spirit helped her persevere — in fact, she surprised everyone by trying to walk the very first day after surgery. She improved daily and was able to walk unassisted after three weeks of water treadmill therapy and other intensive physical therapy work at the specialty vet hospital. Petplan came through for the family once again by covering all of her rehabilitative care.
The Rickerts knew that Mochi was a special dog, but they were even more amazed after witnessing her incredible recovery. Recognizing that Mochi was bound for great things, they reached out to the Guinness World Records, who informed them that the St. Bernard’s tongue wasn’t just long — it was the longest tongue of any living dog in the world!
Naturally, gentle-hearted Mochi put her fame to good use. She began touring the country with her mom to spread the message that being different isn’t a bad thing, and anyone can overcome hardship to achieve greatness.
“There are a lot of people who get teased or bullied or don’t feel like they are accepted,” Carla says. “I feel like some people use Mochi as their inspiration — it’s okay, pick yourself up, keep going no matter what you go through. It’s going to be okay.”
Carla even began writing books with Mochi as the star. Her debut, The Adventures of Mochi the Dog, carries an anti-bullying theme. In it, Mochi and friends set examples of compassion for one another through acceptance, forgiveness, and resiliency. Readers are encouraged to celebrate differences and go after their dreams.
The odds were stacked against Mochi, but she’s been able to achieve amazing things thanks to her loving and supportive family — and the pet insurance policy that saved her life.
Dr. Jennifer Maniet, Petplan’s staff veterinarian, comments that Mochi was lucky to have such conscientious parents. “Usually, people don’t think about pet insurance until it’s too late,” she says. “Pet insurance is now becoming a popular discussion when introducing a new cat or dog into the family. That way unexpected situations, like Mochi’s, may be easier to bear knowing that pet insurance is there when you need it to cover the cost of your pet’s care.”
Mochi’s feeling much better now. Should she run into future health problems, her Petplan pet insurance policy will be there — allowing her to continue bringing joy to people around the world with her sweet face, beautiful personality, and of course, her lovably large tongue!
To follow all of Mochi’s adventures, visit @adventuresofmochithedog on Instagram. To learn more about pet insurance, download your free guide here.