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Lt. Dan (front) and buddy Josh, race for the finish line

Lt. Dan: A dog rehabilitation story

Lt. Dan is a very special dog. Born in September 2015, the adorable pit puppy suffers from a congenital condition known clinically as hindlimb paraparesis, a form of partial paralysis and lack of muscle tone that severely limits his ability to use his hind legs. Fortunately for Lt. Dan (whose name, if you hadn’t guessed, derives from the character played by Gary Sinese in the film Forest Gump), he was rescued by Woof Gang Rescue volunteers and came to the attention of the Bialy’s Wellness Foundation.

Founded in 2012, Bialy’s mission is to help animals facing physical challenges such as paralysis, amputation, neurological or birth defects to get the care they need to live full happy lives. Since arriving at Bialy’s, Lt. Dan has received intensive physical therapy to help him gain strength and function id his rear limbs. He’s also made a lot of friends—both human and canine—along the way. His best dog pal, Josh, is also a special-needs rescue at Bialy’s, and the two have become true friends.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Francisco Maia, a certified canine rehabilitative therapist from Bialy’s, about Lt. Dan’s progress.

Q: What are the major physical challenges presented by his condition and how are they addressed?

A: Physically he is very mobile (and fast when chasing food that fell on the floor!) but he can't jump up on furniture or go up [or] down stairs very well. He also has urinary and fecal incontinence, so he is always wearing a diaper and belly band. At first it was a bit weird having to change his diaper/belly band so often, but now we are used to it and it’s just part of our routine. He also can't itch himself like other dogs can, so he loves when we itch his neck [and] ears for him!

Q: He seems to be very accustomed to his physical therapy routine—did he take to it right away?

A: He is, and always was, very treat-motivated, so that has helped his sessions. Since he started physical therapy at such a young age, he really developed a routine and got used to having weekly sessions.

Q: Can you describe Lt. Dan’s progress since he’s been at Bialy’s?

A: His progress has been amazing! He stopped using his wheelchair when he was about 5 months old, and his mobility kept improving as he got stronger. He walks to and from work every day (about 3 blocks). He wears shoes on his back feet to help him get traction and to protect his feet. Even at 1.5 years old, we still see progress with him.

Q: Is surgical intervention still being considered for Lt. Dan?

A: No, it is not. He progressed so well that he is very functional and will not need surgery. A few months ago, he had a follow-up consult with the neurologist. She originally saw him when he was about 2-3 months old and was very amazed at his current progress.

Q: What has caring for Lt. Dan taught you?

A: He has taught us so much about resilience and happiness. His disability never stopped him from doing anything he wanted and it doesn't affect his mood at all. It is a bit more work than caring for a healthy dog due to the diaper changes, but we can tell that he is very thankful for it.

Bialy's Wellness Foundation provides families and rescue organizations with special needs animals the equipment, medical care, rehabilitative therapy, training, resources and support necessary to optimize the quality of life of their wonderful animals. Our mission is only possible from the generosity of our supporters

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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