LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A retired La Crosse police department K-9 officer has regained mobility, thanks to an area nonprofit group.
Former K-9 Brutus had to call it quits after a number of health issues, including a disease that took away his mobility. After seven years on patrol with his partner Casey Rossman, Brutus officially retired earlier this year.
Brutus couldn’t use his back legs, but an Osseo-based organization made sure he didn’t spend his retirement stuck on a bed.
That organization is run by Jason Parker, whose dog Gunnar got in an accident three years ago, leaving him devastated.
“It’s a helpless feeling,” he said.
Now, 10-year-old Gunnar is paraplegic, but it was never a question that Parker would try everything to help his best friend regain mobility.
"It's a special relationship between a man and his dog, and I think mine and Gunnar is a little extra special,” he said.
Therapies and surgeries didn't work, but through donations, Parker was able to buy Gunnar a $600 wheelchair.
Parker then decided to pay it forward, and through a GoFundMe page and private donations, he helped set up Gunnar’s Wheels.
Social media connects Parker with owners of handicapped dogs, and he finds them a wheelchair from a manufacturer.
Requests for dog wheelchairs come in every day from across the world.
"There's never really a day I don't get a request,” Parker said.
Parker's said that as of this week, Gunnar's Wheels will have supplied 300 chairs loaned out to owners and their handicapped dogs.
They come at no cost to the owners. Parker just asks owners to ship the wheelchairs back when their dogs no longer need it, because the group will pass that chair along to another dog in need.
Earlier this year, Parker found a video Rossman's partner Brutus at his retirement party, where Rossman had to help Brutus eat his cake by hoisting him up with a sling.
“Don't get me wrong, I want to help all the animals, but Brutus was a little more special,” Parker said.
After seeing the video, Parker stopped what he was doing and made a phone call, and overnight shipped a custom wheelchair to Rossman for 10-year-old Brutus.
"We set him up and he took off like a mad man across the house,” Rossman said. “He was very excited to get his wheels!"
Now Rossman said he takes Brutus to the park to play fetch nearly every day. Even though Brutus is a quick learner, the cart takes some getting used to, and there are still a few bumps along the road.
"He doesn't know how wide he is!" Rossman said.
A few bumps, however, are nothing compared to the freedom Brutus is enjoying.
"These wheels from Gunnar’s Wheels have sure helped him enjoy the time he has left here,” Rossman said. “He moves better, he has more mobility and is more independent."
The degenerative disease that took his mobility is still running its course, and Rossman said it’s likely it will eventually take over his front legs, too.
The exercise his chair allows him, however, may help slow the disease down, and it's making his retirement days worth living.
"There he is -- happy, loving life,” Rossman said.
"To see him running free, it's not just the smile on Brutus's face, it's Casey's face as well,” Parker said. “That's pretty special.
For more information, you can visit Gunnar's Wheels facebook page.
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