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Willie’s wheels

There really is no better therapy than spending time with a dog.

I once had a news director tell me that he loved it when people would stop by the newsroom with their pets. He said there was always so much stress and craziness with reporters and producers running every which way, but when a dog was brought into the mix he could just see the tension melt away from everyone’s faces.

So true.

And when a neighbor of mine broke his back a few years ago, he realized just how therapeutic a pup can be.

Mike Bowie fell 12 ½ feet while on the job as an electrician.

Doctors and physical therapists were sure his only option would be accepting disability.

Mike, who can’t stand sitting still, refused. He’s a Mr. Fix it and enjoys working with wood and metal. He always has a project on the go.

“He piddles,” said his wife Amy.

“I create,” corrected Mike.

Mike’s favorite workshop companion is his beloved Dachshund Willie who they got as a gift 9 years ago.

“We bonded right from the beginning,” said Mike. “Every time I’m working, he’s right there. He’s really intent on helping me.”

And when Mike got hurt, Willie wouldn’t let him out of his sight.

“Willie was right by his side,” said Amy. “He was watching out for Mike all the time.”

Each night as Mike muscled through the pain, Willie would gingerly climb up onto his back and lie down.

“Willie was like Mike’s own little heating pad,” said Amy.

Mike had to have surgery to fuse his vertebrae and shortly thereafter he told his physical therapist he was determined to ditch his walker. His ultimate goal, despite having two metal rods in his back, was to get back to work.

It meant intense physical therapy EVERY DAY for weeks – assisted walking, weight lifting and eventually they had him practicing climbing ladders to get him back into shape for his job.

Grueling, but the whole horrible experience was tolerable thanks to his sidekick Willie.

“He was as much of my therapy as anything else,” said Mike, who is now working full-time again.

Now the tables are turned.

Willie recently ruptured a disk after slipping on their hardwood floor.

“The doctor said he’d probably already hurt himself and this exacerbated it,” said Mike.

This normally very active dog had to be sedated for two weeks and he was forced to stay in a crate. He was on pain meds and steroids.

Depression set in.

“It broke my heart,” said Mike, who went to the one place where he knew he might be able to make a difference for Willie – his workshop.

After Googling wheelchairs for pets, Mike drew up the plans for a specialized cart.

He didn’t want Willie to totally rely on it though, he wanted it to be a tool in his little buddy’s recovery.

“I designed this one so he has to use all four legs, he has to exercise his legs to move,” said Mike. “It’s like physical therapy for him. But, when his back legs are tired he can rest on it and it keeps him from falling over.”
Shortly after getting Willie properly fitted for his new device, that little pep in his step returned.

“He likes it!” said Amy. “He can even go up and down the front step with it on. Without it, he can’t go up and down the steps at all.”

Willie’s vet told Mike and Amy that he’s not sure he’ll ever regain full use of his back right leg, but they have already seen improvements in him.

There’s no doubt that Willie’s wheels have played a big role in helping him move forward.

That and the care with which they were made.

There’s really no better therapy than the love between a man and his dog.

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