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Reserve Mines dog gets second chance to walk after being paralyzed

Larry Vaters kneels down to pet his dog Mac at his home in Reserve Mines, Saturday. Mac has been paralyzed in the back since October and Friday received a donated wheelchair from Gunnar’s Wheels, a foundation based in Osseo, WI., that assists owners in providing mobility options for their pets. Jeremy Fraser/Cape Breton Post - Jeremy Fraser
Larry Vaters kneels down to pet his dog Mac at his home in Reserve Mines, Saturday. Mac has been paralyzed in the back since October and Friday received a donated wheelchair from Gunnar’s Wheels, a foundation based in Osseo, WI., that assists owners in providing mobility options for their pets. Jeremy Fraser/Cape Breton Post - Jeremy Fraser

RESERVE MINES, N.S. – Larry Vaters knew something wasn’t right when he noticed his beloved dog dragging his paw on the ground.

The Reserve Mines native, who lives down the road from an animal medical centre, immediately took his eight-year-old Bernese Mountain dog, Mac, to be checked by a veterinarian, where he learned the dog’s back leg had become paralyzed.

“They put him on painkillers and he came back and he was walking fine for two or three weeks and then it happened again,” said Vaters. “They tried to switch him over to something else, but it didn’t work.”

In October, the worst nightmare for any pet owner came true when Mac became fully paralyzed in the back, something Vaters hoped wouldn’t happen.

“They don’t know for sure what’s wrong with him, it’s either his spinal cord expanded or there’s a tumor,” said Vaters. “We can’t find out what’s wrong with him unless we go to P.E.I. and to go there it’s like a $5,000 trip, just to find out what happened.”
 

Not wanting to put the male dog down, the family was forced to carry him everywhere as well as help the animal do his business by squeezing his bladder.

“We were using a harness to hold him up and carry him around,” said Vaters. “He was still somewhat mobile because from his stomach up he was perfectly fine.”

“I figured if he was going to be in pain why are we going to prolong it, but once the vet gave him the needles and there wasn’t even a flinch – he had no feeling, he wasn’t in pain – we continued to try more medications.”

Veterinarians suggested the Vaters family take the dog to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, something the family was considering until Vaters’ brother, David, found new hope for the large dog, which weighed about 110-pounds.

“I found a Facebook page for owners of these types of dogs and a lady in Tennessee had the same dog and he went the same way as Mac,” said David Vaters. “She told me her dog had a wheelchair and sent me to Gunnar’s Wheels, to which I told them the deal and they put us on the list for a wheelchair.”

Gunnar’s Wheels is an American-based foundation in Osseo, WI, which assists owners in providing mobility options for their pets.

After sending numerous measurements of Mac to the foundation, the Vaters family received word just days before Christmas that a donated wheelchair from the foundation was on its way to Cape Breton, giving Mac a second chance to walk on his own.

“He gets to live longer now,” said Larry Vaters. “Before the wheelchair his quality wasn’t there - he was just laying there. With the wheelchair he can actually walk because his front half is fine – he’s not a small dog, he’s always been strong.”
 

The wheelchair, which holds the dogs back legs up, arrived in Reserve Mines on Friday, much to the pleasure of the Vaters family and Mac, who immediately liked it and later went for a walk with Vaters’ father, Basil.

“It gives him mobility again, it gives him independence and it lets him be him – he wants to be in the wheelchair,” said Vaters. “He’s getting a second chance to walk, where all he’s been doing the last three months has been going outside (just past the door) and back in the house.”
 

Vaters said the cost of a wheelchair for the dog would have been upwards of $1,000. He said if it weren’t for the family getting the chair for free, he would have tried to make one himself. 
 

Mac, who was seven and a half weeks old when Vaters purchased him, could be seen Saturday morning walking through the Vaters family back yard in the snow, even turning on his own.

Veterinarians, who were surprised how active the dog was for his first time in the chair, told the family there is a possibility the dog’s back legs could come back with using the wheelchair.

“It would be nice to see, but realistically I don’t think it would happen,” said Vaters, who works in the healthcare profession. “Even with the wheelchair it gives him his independence back and that’s what we want for him.”
 

The Vaters family, whose cat recently died, is thankful to Gunnar’s Wheels for giving their dog another chance.

“To be able to not have to tell my daughter (five-years-old) that I have to put Mac down is awesome,” said Vaters. “She grew up with him – she use to sleep with him in the back yard – they love each other.”

“He’s a family member, so we did everything we could do not to have to put him down – you have to do whatever you can not to put your dog down because everyone loves their pets as much as we do.”

For more information on the foundation, visit the Facebook page by searching Gunnar’s Wheels.

 

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