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Paralyzed dog finds new home, way to travel
sad dog pic
Daphne, who was paralyzed in an accident a year ago, is able to walk again thanks to her custom-built wheelchair. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN/ The Journal

Daphne the Chihuahua does not seem to notice that she is not like other dogs. She runs with the other dogs, she plays in the grass, and she occasionally disobeys her owner. Daphne doesn’t seem to notice that she only walks with the help of a special wheelchair, she only plays where the grass is not too long to stop her wheels, and she relies on her owner for full time care.  She is a happy dog, and for the first time in over a year she is able to wag her tail to show it.

Daphne was paralyzed in an accident in 2009. She was taken to the Turlock Animal Shelter with a broken back after part of a fence fell on her. She lost the ability to move her back legs and tail, and lost all bladder control.  Brenda Southerland of HOPE Small Animal Rescue took in the paraplegic dog to care for her until a forever home could be found.

Brenda’s mission was to get a wheelchair for Daphne, who at the time got around by scooting her body along with her two good legs. When she first came to HOPE she had open sores on her back legs from dragging them on the ground. She improved under Brenda’s care, but she still needed a chair to help her regain muscle control in the back half of her body. She also needed an owner to care for her full time.

Daphne found her new home when she met Angie Flores, who works at Abby’s Dog and Cat spa in Modesto. Although she initially was just a temporary caretaker for Daphne, Flores fell in love with the little dog and decided to adopt her.

“It just felt right. She fits in with the other animals and is doing wonderfully,” Flores said.

Community members who knew about Daphne’s disability donated money to a wheelchair fund. Flores also received a donation from Judy Moreno of Abby’s Dog and Cat Spa, and used some of her own money to purchase a custom wheelchair for Daphne.

The chair supports Daphne’s back legs but still allows them to touch the ground. She is able to run around with the aid of the chair and is regaining some control of her legs. When her chair gets stuck on the grass or carpet she is able to push with her back legs to get moving again. In August Flores noticed that Daphne could wag her tail in little jerking motions when she was very excited.

“The most exciting thing she has done so far is try to scratch her ear. She looked at her foot for a very long time, like she was concentrating on it. Then she finally got that foot to touch the back of her ear. I don’t think she knew why I was so excited. She was just doing a very normal dog thing by scratching her ear,” Flores said.

Even though Daphne is making progress, Flores said that she is realistic about what to expect for the future. Daphne might never walk again, and she will probably never regain control of her bladder. She needs to be washed three times a day because of her incontinence, and she will always be plagued by bladder infections. But that doesn’t bother Flores because it doesn’t bother Daphne.

“When people see her I say ‘don’t feel sorry for her, because she’s happy,’” Flores said.

Daphne’s new wheels do draw a lot of attention in public. Children especially like to ask questions about Daphne, and even some adults will stop Flores to ask about the wheelchair. Flores decided that Daphne’s appeal would make her a good therapy dog, and that she would be well suited to visit people in the hospital and in nursing homes.

“There are a few extra steps for us because she is paraplegic, but we’re in the process of getting her approved as a therapy dog,” Flores said.

Daphne is taking full advantage of her second chance at life. She is energetic, happy, and finally healthy enough to live a comfortable dog life.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.