July 21, 2018

A dog in his very own wheelchair! What?!


Irvine, CA – I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a sunny shirtsleeves day here in southern California—what a relief from the cold and snow of Connecticut.

Milady Annabelle and I were heading back to her car, We had just finished a nice walk through the beautiful arboretum  of the University of California branch here–UC/Irvine, as they call it.

Then I saw them—a middle-aged couple strapping a dog into a strange contraption with two wheels. And then I got it: it was a wheelchair! Yes, for a severely handicapped dog!

I nudged Annabelle. “Look!”

Leo in his wheelchair and rarin' to go!    ~ Photos from his website

Leo in his wheelchair and rarin’ to go! He gets attention aplenty and wins hearts everywhere. That red kerchief is part of his persona.
~ Photos from his website

She did look—and her reaction was just like mine.

“My gosh!”  she said. Then quickly, “That dog is paralyzed! Its back legs!”

Never had we seen such a sight. And we’ve been around a long time.

We pivoted 90 degrees and walked right over to them.

The man and woman were in their 40s, I’d say. They were very busy, working to get the dog adjusted and strapped in. Their car was behind them, its back doors open.

This was a big dog—25 pounds or so. Friendly.He was wagging his tail. His front legs seemed fine. He was standing on them. But his back legs! They looked useless. Bent and atrophied. His rear end was hoisted up in this rig so that his back legs cleared the ground.

The woman gave us a smile. She saw we were curious and started right in.  “Our dog’s name is Leo,” she said and patted him.  “We love him. He’s part of our family. We brought him here so he can enjoy the arboretum, too.”

Her husband—I assumed he was her husband—was too busy fussing with the straps and buckles to pay attention to us.

Leo was more interested in us than what his owners were putting him through. Obviously he was used to this.He kept sniffing at me. I had to stand back.

His mistress put a gentle hand on him. “It’s okay, Leo. It’s okay.” She kept patting him. “These nice people just want to be friends with you.”

He was still trying to inch toward me. He wasn’t making things easy for her husband. Getting Leo ready was quite a job.

I thought he was a mongrel but his mistress cleared that up. “Leo is a Boxer and Lab mix. Such a nice dog! Leo is short for leopard—to me he has a leopard look, his fur, I mean. We use Leo because it sounds so nice.”

Then added, “We’re Kevin and Lourdes Doyle,” she said. “From Long Beach.” I knew that was about an hour’s ride from here.

Her name, Lourdes—that was strange for a woman, I thought. I know the name but only as a place of miracles in France.  I wish she had explained her name the way she had Leo’s.

She went on, “We’ve had Leo for nearly 11 years. He came to us as a

very young stray. Hungry. Looking for a home. Our hearts just went out to him and we  took him right in. He means everything to us!” And she patted him again.

“This happened to him when he was six. We’re lucky he’s alive!  The vets did a good job. They thought it was spinal cancer. They did an MRI!  Then a spinal tap! Other things! Finally they said it was a ruptured disk and operated.  He was at two hospitals!

“At home we took care of him night and day. And friends came and helped us.  We got physical therapy for him. Acupuncture. Anything we thought might help him. But gosh, we couldn’t keep that up!

“We gave him hot soaks. Massaged his legs. Then we found this wheelchair cart. It’s been wonderful. It’s given Leo a new life.”

Leo on an underwater treadmill during his long and difficult come-back.

Leo being readied on an underwater treadmill during his long and difficult come-back. Looks better there than when we saw him.

I spoke up. “I’ve never seen a wheelchair like this!”

“We got it from a special company. They have all kinds of wonderful things like this for dogs. It put us back $500. That’s a lot of  money for us. But we think of Leo as our son. Sounds strange. But that’s  how we feel. We thank the Lord we’ve got him!”

Now Kevin had Leo just about all set. I could see he let his wife do the talking, which she seemed to enjoy.  But once in a while, he’d say, “That’s right.”  Or, “Leo is our responsibility. We do everything we can for him.”  And, “For sure, this is work God wants us to do.”

He stood back and looked Leo over.  “He looks good!” And he patted Leo, too. Leo loved it.

Lourdes beamed. “Good job, Kevin! Now we’re  all set to give Leo a nice walk through the park.”

She turned to us,  “Kevin is a drummer. A percussionist! But he’s good at lots of other things, too. He’s a big, big help. He loves Leo as much as I do!

“I was a teacher, but I stay at home now. I love home decorating—have a degree in it, and people ask me to help them and I do that—their homes, businesses, whatever. But Leo requires a lot of love and care. And we have five cats, too. So I’m busy!”

I turned to  Kevin. “Easy to tell Leo means an awful lot to you!”

“Yes sir,  I do! He’s not a burden to us. We don’t look at it that way. I believe God meant for us to take care of him. And for him to take care of us.”

“How does Leo manage to get around when he’s out of his wheelchair?”

Lourdes was first to answer. “Quite good!  He can’t use his back legs at all. But he’s very strong with his front legs.  He walks around and just drags his rear end along. We’re so proud ot him!”

Now Lourdes asked Kevin to hold Leo still for a minute. She dug into her pocketbook. “Here,” she said, handing us a leaflet. It showed Leo nice and big in his wheelchair and rarin’ to go. Wearing a bright red kerchief around his neck. So dapper.

The leaflet told his story. What befell him. How he recovered.  Well, partly, as we could see. What a joy he is. And how life is now so much better thanks to the love and generosity of many kind and generous people.

It had numerous Biblical references. The famous words from 1Corinthians 13 about love being a commitment. Then  Psalm 27: “Be courageous, and let your heart be strong. Wait for the Lord.”  And Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” A very religious family, the Doyles.

The leaflet invited us to pray for Leo. And be generous if  possible—he needed a ton of ongoing care. And it urged us to go to www.interiormiracles.com. Certainly an inspired name, I thought. It was Leo’s website.

I handed the leaflet to Annabelle and she scanned it. I know her well. I could tell she had thoughts about all this.  I was confident she’d discuss them with me later.

I mentioned to Lourdes that I blog about interesting things that I come across.  “Leo is really quite a story, Lourdes! I mean Leo and you and Kevin! Would you mind?”

She beamed. “Sure! That would be wonderful. So good for Leo! We’ll be glad to help you. If you need pictures of Leo, or anecdotes about him, Anything at all! Here, look!” She took my leaflet and pointed to their phone number and website.  “Don’t hesitate to contact us!”

“Thank you. We’ve enjoyed meeting you. Now we’ll let you go for your walk with Leo.!

Kevin spoke up. “Yes, it’s time. The arboretum will be closing. This is such a beautiful place!”

And Lourdes added, “So important for Leo to get his exercise! Nice to chat with you. Don’t forget to call if you need anything. Anything at all.”

I glanced at them twice as they headed for the entrance. Leo was doing fine with his wheelchair. Moving right along. Such a nice, happy dog. That red kerchief he was wearing—what an inspiration. I could see how lots of people could go ga-ga over him.

And Lourdes and Kevin were so happy to be parenting him. A crippled and greatly loved child could not get more attention.

As Annabelle and I drove home, old memories revived in my mind.

I remembered how in India, I had come across a double-leg amputee on a street. His legs had been cut off very high. He had a “wheelchair,” too—a small square of plywood on four small casters.

It was just big enough for him to sit on. He was just six inches above the ground.  He pushed himself along by using what looked like a pair of old-fashioned flat irons. Surprising how agile he was in that primitive thing.

As a tourist in Cambodia, I saw a man with only one leg. He was hobbling along on a crutch homemade from the branch of a tree. He was doing great, too.

Later I got to see more amputees  like him—former soldiers who had stepped on a land mine during the awful war there. Mines were everywhere. They, too, got along on crude crutches like that. They eked out a living by chasing tourists like me and begging for money.

I wondered, What would they think if they beheld Leo in his $500 wheelchair? Flabbergasted, for sure.

Yes, UC/Irvine’s arboretum was wonderful, and Annabelle and I loved it. But what I’ll never forget is Leo strolling along so nicely in his chair. With his devoted Mom and Dad trailing him and so happy to be looking out for him.

Yes, Leo was one lucky dog.

That evening I looked at his website, www.interiormiracles.com. Nothing amateurish about it. Very slick. And beautiful—Lourdes’ decorating skills, I assume.

Leo getting ready on an underwater treadmill during his long and difficult come-back. Looks better there than when we saw him.

His website is rich with photos of Leo and info about him and his ongoing needs. This is just the home page. There are many pages.

It’s loaded with  heart-warming stories centering around Leo. Loaded, too, with  fetching photos of him,  Plus more Biblical and prayerful quotes.  And comments from folks who have gotten to meet Leo or hear about him and have gotten to love him.

And it has a mail-order store, all for the purpose of helping Leo. You can buy balloon bouquets…or Leo T-shirts…or a lavish calendar with Leo photos aplenty…Leo souvenirs…handcrafted items made by Lourdes and others.

And an impassioned message about dear Leo. He had a scary relapse last year and recovered, thank God. But he needs continuing care and it does add up. Do sign the guest book and please be generous, as much as you can. The site does tug mightily at your heartstrings.

You may want to check the site yourself.  That would be good. Then you can see for yourself.

~ ~ ~


  1. Joan Perrone says:

    Hi John,
    Very interesting! As a dog-lover, I can relate to how much an owner would do for their pet. They are like our children, especially when our human children have flown the nest. We, personally, have spent thousands of dollars on our Rudy, and would do it again in a minute. I will go to Leo’s site later to check it out. Sorry, but the last picture about Leo and the underwater treadmill was not viewable to me. Only a square with a red X on the upper left-hand corner.

    Keep the blogs coming. Joan

  2. jim davis says:

    sound like good people. religion helps.

    • Hi, Jim,
      I know you are a man of great faith and that surely be a great blessing.
      Hope the snow is melting…..
      Has the new librarian started?

  3. Nancy Simonds says:

    Your story about Leo melted my heart. I, too, have owned dogs who I’ve spent a lot of money on to keep them safe, healthy, well-fed and warm. They are family so why not? Humans should treat each other the same way animals of any kind do. They don’t know how to hate. They never go to war. They simply do everything in their power to make us happy; a lesson we could all learn. God bless Leo and his family.
    ~ Nancy

  4. Nancy Simonds says:


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