Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Power of a Dog in a Wheelchair

The idea of a dog in a wheelchair is nothing new to me. One of my 2 first dogs had a wheelchair, and although he never got to the point where he actually needed to use it, I had "met" many others online whose dogs were wheelchair-assisted.

But it's no surprise that Popeye in his wheelchair gets a lot of notice. It's kind of nice to know I can wear any old thing and look like a total slob and nobody's going to take notice because they'll be so focused on Popeye. He's actually literally stopped traffic. Good thing we live in the suburbs.

Tyler says there are generally 3 reactions people have when they see Popeye. The first is, "Aw, what a cute dog." Second, "Aw, poor dog." And third is just plain jaw dropping. Mostly it's the jaw dropping.

A few times people have approached me and asked me about the wheels. One time a group of young women ran after us to ask where I got it. Another time I came across a woman walking her 3 dogs--2 were walking, the 3rd was in a baby stroller (where have I seen that before?). In both cases, they said they didn't know such things existed, and it made me feel very good to spread that knowledge. I have no doubt that lives would be spared and quality of living vastly improved if more pet owners knew about the existence of doggie wheelchairs.

Sometimes we walk past the local elementary school while the kids are at recess and they see us through the fence. Lots of "aw, poor doggie" and "I'm sorry, doggie" there. A little part of me huffs whenever I hear pity towards Popeye. Yes, a bit of poor doggie, but he's gotten beyond that. He's amazing doggie now. To see just the poor doggie part doesn't give Popeye his due. It just boxes him up as a victim, when in reality, he's a conquerer. Can't really explain that to elementary kids though.

There's one other reaction that I get every once in a while. It's the same reaction I would have if I saw another dog in a wheelchair (aside from, "Hey, another dog in a wheelchair!"). It is a hodgepodge of things, gratitude, love, and hope among them, that begins to well up inside you. Commonly it's expressed as "Thank you for doing this for him" or "He's lucky to have someone to care for him," but it's more than that really.

It's a realization that you are witnessing something special and kind of rare. Not just a dog in a wheelchair, not even just somebody devoted enough to get him to that point or a dog who has overcome a disability that many people would assume he'd have to die for. It's all those things and more. It's a breaking of stereotypes, a lesson in the power of love and friendship and opportunity, an inspiration, a zest for life, a glimpse of hope and a better place. On so many different levels, it's a wonderful sight and a blessing to the seer for having been lucky enough to witness it.

I have been lucky enough to experience it.

Maybe one day somebody else will be as lucky as I have been and guide Popeye farther down his journey to teach people, to touch them in some intangible way, and to change them just a little for the better.


GiGwriter said...

Very touching post. I have to tell you that you and Popeye are heroes. A beautiful pair who do move the heart and give hope to a jaded soul.