LIFE ISN’T ABOUT WHAT YOU NO LONGER HAVE; IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT.

Modern Dog - - INSPIRE - Fol­low Judy and Mango on their Face­book page, “Mango on a Mis­sion”. If you’d like to do­nate to their Free­dom Wheels web­site and help them pur­chase wheel­chairs for dis­abled an­i­mals, go to man­gos­free­domwheels.com.

Q: What drew you to Mango? Did your ex­pe­ri­ences as a veteran have any­thing to do with your de­ci­sion to adopt her?

I had be­come dis­abled my­self from a car wreck a year be­fore adopt­ing Mango. I had worked full time in a pro­fes­sional ca­reer. The wreck left me with a bro­ken back and par­tial loss of my right leg; I never could re­turn back to my ca­reer and was clas­si­fied as per­ma­nently dis­abled. I suf­fered men­tally from de­pres­sion after the ac­ci­dent and my phys­i­cal re­cov­ery was just as painful. I saw Mango posted on the res­cue’s web­site and made the de­ci­sion that I could adopt her and it would give me a pur­pose in life again. I felt I could heal her but I soon found after bring­ing her in my life that she healed me. I didn’t re­al­ize un­til after get­ting Mango how much more bro­ken I was than her. She healed me phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally, and men­tally. We bonded im­me­di­ately upon her ar­rival and after get­ting her cer­ti­fied as a Ther­apy dog, we take our mis­sion on the road, help­ing oth­ers, from vet­er­ans to the dis­abled. Life isn’t about what you no longer have; it’s what you do with what you have left.

Q: What did it mean to you to win the 2016 Hero Dog Award for Ther­apy Dog work?

It was a Cin­derella mo­ment for a lit­tle dog that had been home­less, left for dead in a ditch, was hours from be­ing eu­th­a­nized, and now win­ner of the 2016 Amer­i­can Hu­mane Hero Ther­apy Dog of 2016. I couldn’t have been more proud of her! She made be­liev­ers of ev­ery­one that voted for her and for ev­ery dis­abled Veteran and animal that didn’t have a voice. She in­spired all of us that we should never stop be­liev­ing in our­selves.

Q: What do Mango’s phys­i­cal chal­lenges mean for her and for her care?

She will never walk. She will never potty like a nor­mal dog as her life con­sists of full time di­a­pers and one­sies. She doesn’t con­sider her­self dif­fer­ent and she adapted very quickly to the di­a­per rou­tine. I, on the other hand, never had chil­dren, so it took me many at­tempts to learn how to put a di­a­per on her. When I went to the store to buy her one­sies I had to ask the clerk what an “one­sie” was as I had never pur­chased one be­fore. We are for­tu­nate that now her fol­low­ers keep her in one­sies be­cause they just love buy­ing her the cutest out­fits. I learned how to carry a di­a­per bag and what I need to pack in­side it for trips. I carry her through air­ports with a di­a­per bag over one shoul­der and her wheel­chair strapped to my back. Peo­ple ask many ques­tions and al­ways feel sorry for her un­til I ex­plain that she doesn’t view her­self as hand­i­capped. She con­sid­ers her­self for­tu­nate, healthy and very spoiled and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Q: How did Mango’s Free­dom Wheels get started?

Mango al­ready had a Face­book page when I adopted her from the res­cue in 2014. We posted daily and peo­ple read her story about her wheel­chair. One day we were con­tacted by a woman with a small Chi­huahua named Cindy. Cindy had re­cently lost mo­bil­ity in her rear legs and her hu­man Mom wanted to know the cost of her wheel­chair. When I told her the price she said

they could never af­ford the cost. Mango and I de­cided to ask our fol­low­ers if they could find it in their hearts to help us col­lect enough funds to pur­chase Cindy a chair. I con­tacted Sierra at Ruff Rollin’ Wheel­chairs in Mon­tana and asked her if she could take credit card do­na­tions over the phone if peo­ple wanted to call in do­na­tions for Cindy’s wheel­chair. She agreed and I said let’s give it five days to col­lect the $400 and what­ever the bal­ance was I would pay the dif­fer­ence. I posted the an­nounce­ment on Mango’s Face­book page on a Mon­day morn­ing and four hours later Sierra called me and stated the funds were col­lected and her phone wouldn’t stop ring­ing! When peo­ple found out we had enough funds they wanted to know if there were other dogs that needed wheel­chairs. Mango’s Free­dom Wheels was born that day and to date we have pur­chased over 640 wheel­chairs for dogs, cats, goats, pigs, and a mini horse. If there is a need, we will at­tempt to build them a chair and cover the cost.

Q: Would you rec­om­mend other peo­ple out there con­sider adopt­ing a dog with a so-called dis­abil­ity? If so, why?

I get this ques­tion a lot and for some peo­ple, yes, a dis­abled pet will give back over 100 per­cent what you give them but they also are not for ev­ery­one. They re­quire more work and they are a life­time com­mit­ment. Mango is only five and she will never out­grow di­a­pers like a hu­man child. She will never walk and will bat­tle uri­nary tract in­fec­tions the rest of her life be­cause of her paral­y­sis but when I look in her eyes I see a kind soul that ap­pre­ci­ates ev­ery­thing I do for her no mat­ter how small. Our con­nec­tion is so deep that she never has to ver­bally com­mu­ni­cate with me when she needs any­thing, I just know. She shows me ev­ery­day with her hugs and wet kisses how much she ap­pre­ci­ates and loves me. Dis­abled pets al­ways de­serve a sec­ond chance and they make the most loyal pets and this “Mom” wouldn’t hes­i­tate to adopt another.

Q: What does hav­ing Mango in your life bring you?

She brings me hope and hap­pi­ness. I was in a dark place after I went from work­ing to dis­abled and Mango brought me back to the light. She taught me not to feel sorry for my­self, to pull my­self back up, and re­al­ize that I too can still con­tribute as a dis­abled per­son. Be­cause of Mango I no longer con­sider my­self hand­i­capped. I can walk and she can’t. That’s rea­son enough to never feel sorry for my­self. She healed me just as she does oth­ers ev­ery­day. I feel blessed to share her with her 37,000 Face­book fol­low­ers that tell me how she in­spires them to be a bet­ter per­son. God chose me to be her keeper and in re­turn we spend ev­ery­day mak­ing it our Mis­sion to be thank­ful and give back.

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