While out walking in a park in the Canadian town of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Bryan Thompson noticed a curious sight. Thompson spotted a fellow walker out with his dog, but rather than being led across the soft blanket of snow on a leash, the dog was lying in a red wooden wagon swaddled in blankets with a comfy pillow.
Thompson observed the scene in Dartmouth’s Shubie Park, marveled at the dog walker’s ingenious contraption, and took photos of the pair on their wintery walk through the snow.
On Dec. 20, 2019, Thompson shared his photos on Facebook and praised the kindly dog owner for his “awesome heart.”
“I don’t know this man, and I hope he won’t mind this post,” Thompson began. “This guy with an awesome heart was walking his dog through Shubie Park in Dartmouth, as you can see, in a wagon.”
Rather than simply observing from afar, Thompson was compelled to approach the dog owner and strike up a conversation. Thompson learned that the swaddled pup in the little red wagon had a progressive neurodegenerative disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “ALS” for short, rendering her effectively paralyzed and unable to walk unassisted.
I don’t know this man, and I hope he won’t mind this post. This guy with an awesome heart was walking his dog through…
“He told me she has ALS,” Thompson explained, “she was all bundled up and was happy for extra love. I told him he was a great person for doing that, because I know there are many who wouldn’t.”
“He just said that she would do the same for him and kept trucking,” Thompson recalled, sharing the dog owner’s modest response.
It is unknown whether the dog had been suffering from ALS for long. In the face of compromised mobility, however, the dog’s kindly owner did not admit defeat. Instead, a red wooden wagon and a bundle of blankets became the solution to keeping his paralyzed pet engaged with the world around her.
“It’s hard to type this without tearing up,” Thompson’s Facebook post continued, pleading to his followers, “I hope you can share this, especially everyone who shares the lost animal posts; this guy deserves a huge dog kiss for his love of his dog.”
Thompson’s moving anecdote and photo montage quickly went viral, being shared over 49,000 times to date.
ALS affects nerve cells in the—human or canine—patient’s brain and spinal cord, as per The ALS Association. As motor neuron connections gradually degenerate, the patient’s brain loses the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, sometimes leading to an inability to walk altogether.
As the condition worsens over time, it can drastically impede the patient’s quality of life.
Medical research into treatment for canines with paralytic diseases, however, may herald hope for the future. It may also have a significant impact upon the way human patients with ALS are treated.
According to ALS News Today, an innovative gene-silencing therapy intended for human patients was tried on dogs with degenerative myelopathy, a fatal motor neuron condition similar to ALS, at Tufts University in 2017.
The lead author of the study, Dominik Faissler of Tufts University’s Cummings School for Veterinary Medicine, described the research as “doing something for dogs that at the same time contributes to human medicine.”
In the meantime, the ingenious red, wooden wagon remedy is certainly giving one paralyzed pup the ability to enjoy the myriad joys of the great outdoors in spite of her disability.