Updated: May 15
“Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.” – Audre Lorde
Though animals are sentient, they do not seem to pity themselves or wallow in the trial of their handicap as humans sometimes do. They adjust to their trials and new norms with no excuses, full steam ahead. They live the Yoda way, “There is no try. Only do.” However, animals do become forlorn if they do not receive the love and care they need. It is such a simple contribution for us to give. Every animal, as every human, has their unique way of being in the world, and a gift to give as we do.
The following are a couple of special stories we’ve encountered in our awareness of differently-abled dogs and the reciprocal gifts they and their humans share…
Derrick Campana, founder of Bionic Pets, lives by the tenet that “animals are born to run”. He travels all over the world to provide affordable prosthetics for those born with neurological issues, suffering from an accident, or with unknown origin paralysis. On a special farm in Lexington, NC, he’s lent a helping hand to a few animals. For this particular trip, he is met with a challenge in creating a method of movement for the animal pack leader, Lacie.
“Every morning, Lacie, a large black and white mixed-breed dog and the matriarch of the animal family, made her rounds on the farm to check on all of her crew. Yet one normal day in Lexington, NC, Lacie, suddenly found herself paralyzed, unable to use her back legs at all. The veterinary neurologist found five inches of her spine injured, which had caused degenerative disc disease. The doctor led the conversation to euthanasia, but that was not a consideration for the Whickers. Lacie’s humans consider her to be their child, and she inspires them to help those who cannot help themselves. So, first, they carted their still happy dog around in a wagon for a couple of months, while also personally doing physical therapy and massage on her to keep the blood flowing in her limp areas and slow the loss of muscle mass. They already knew Derrick, as he had helped their ponies, Thunder and Lightning, with prosthetics previously.
When he rolled up to the Whickers’ homestead, he had a big job on his hands in creating his first large animal cart. Carts are more difficult than prosthetics as casting comprises half of the animals’ body. If he did not get the fit precisely right, relieving pressure points while also allowing for mobility and balance, the patient could completely reject his work, or even make their condition worse. An extra consideration is ensuring the device is lightweight for the humans to manage. Derrick worked diligently and got everything fitted just right, as evidenced in Lacie’s buoyancy and her family’s emotion.
His successful fitting of Lacie lends itself to future success for many other animals. The Whickers’ hope is that when people see Derrick’s “win” with Lacie that other families will realize that there are options other than euthanasia and that dogs’ determination and will power affords them limitless feats and freedom - with a little help from family and friends. They aver that animals are our teachers.” See Derrick’s “show & tell” casting process along with a few of the more than 25,000 fixed animals and families he’s made whole again on The Wizard of Paws blog on BYUTV (it’s free).
In early April, The Unstoppables Project board visited Safe in Austin, a sanctuary that rescues all kinds of animals from all kinds of situations.
People volunteering there had begun as visitors, but recounted how they became more personally involved because these discarded animals brought them joy or helped a loved one overcome a monumental obstacle.
One woman talked glowingly about her autistic son who started to speak after spending unconditional quality time with a previously abused goat. This is the power of the human-animal bond.
Another example of this symbiotic bond is depicted with Domenick Scudera’s pack of two-legged therapy dogs. Domenick had Lucky, who is without rear limbs, and Cyrus, the littlest and quietest of the pack who has only his back legs, plus three other dogs and three cats.
Then came along Deuce, missing his limbs on his left side. He was a stray, found in a ditch in eastern Kentucky with two infected, broken legs that were unfixable. On the brink of euthanasia, someone reached out to Domenick about potential adopting him. Though hesitant at first due to his full household, he could not resist the unflappable spirit and survivability of Deuce.
Within three days of losing his limbs, Deuce was up and running. Deuce is friendly, happy, and simply unwilling to give up. All three dogs get around without devices, and in fact don’t use them most of the time. Though they do have them available to use when necessary, they are strong and capable without them.
“Dogs do not know what they don’t have; they make the best of what they do have.” This can-dog attitude inspires humans facing their own struggles to overcome them. And that’s exactly why Domenick had the idea to certify the dogs for therapy, visiting patients in facilities, like hospitals, senior care homes, etc. to bring them hope. Follow the antics of Deuce, Cyrus and Lucky on YouTube, handle 2legdogs.
Whether an animal is blind, deaf, or disabled in limbs or body, they still have all the traits any pet would have that would contribute to the reason one would want a pet in the first place. There is nothing “wrong” with them. As seen in just these stories, they often have special qualities as healers and motivators that take our existence to the next level, not only inspiring those who are suffering, but encouraging their families to do things they may have never done before.