From the Editor, Fall 2015

Wheels! For this special puppy, Wheels is both a name and an inspirational cheer.

Wheels is my current foster puppy. His owner contacted our rescue to relinquish this special-needs Springer after the vet suggested euthanasia. “No way,” the owner thought; “this dog deserves a chance at life.”

Wheels was born with a congenital defect of his spine, which causes weakness in his hind legs and an unsteady gait. A neurologist at the University of Minnesota diagnosed Wheels with spina bifida, a malformation of the spinal cord and vertebrae. In his case, several vertebrae have stacked up, leaving a visible bump in his back.

In all other ways, Wheels is a healthy, growing pup. He loves to play with my dogs, often instigating the game by barking and play-growling. He loves to eat, and he wastes no time in the morning letting us know that he’s hungry and it’s time for breakfast. Wheels knows his name and comes when he’s called. He loves exploring the yard, chewing on rawhides and snuggling at the end of the day. When he sleeps, he burrows his head into the crook of an arm or the fold of a blanket.

Of course, Wheels doesn’t know he has a disability. He is tenacious, happy, and proof that it’s hard to keep a good dog down.

Like many rescues, our rescue meets dogs at their levels, regardless of ages or histories. We do our best to understand them medically and behaviorally and to find their ideal homes. Thus, Wheels is no different from the 10-year-old ailing Springer we helped out of the pound after he’d been found as a stray. Or the healthy 2-year-old whose owner entered hospice care and could no longer keep her dog. There are many happy endings, but at any given moment, another dog’s story is in progress.

Our own animals can be unpredictable, too. On p. 18, we feature Todd, a Chiweenie whose spinal injury forced his owners to choose between treatment and euthanasia. I don’t want to give away the ending, but owner Nikki Peterson sums it up: “He’s not a burden; he’s a family member.”

This is why many pet owners consider health insurance for their pets. We explore that topic on p.28.

Sometimes we don’t even seek out the pets in our life. They find us and become a wonderful responsibility that we didn’t know we needed. Mary Kettl describes how she adopted her puppy, Ben, on p.32.

What is the prognosis for Wheels? Until he is skeletally mature, we don’t know. He will be challenged by his weak legs, that is certain. He may lose use of them altogether or lose continence. Or not. His future is simply unknown.

So until he’s adopted, Wheels will simply remain a family member and never a burden.