How old is Rookie?

Our best guess is that he is around 11 or 12 years old.

Where did the name come from?

When he came to us, it was obvious that he had been through quite an ordeal. We wanted to give him a name that would signify a fresh new start on life…what this wonderful old guy deserved.

How did he come into your life?

It all started almost a year earlier, upon the adoption of my first dog, Loki—a Chihuahua mix. I fell instantly in love with him, and he made such a huge impact on my life that I decided to find out more about dogs in general. Upon doing so, I feel in love with the species! In the fall of 2011 a friends asked us to rescue a pit bull who had been abandoned by its owner. After two weeks of love and attention, we found her a good home . That’s when my eyes were opened to the need of rescuing animals in our communities. Many months later, I discovered Frisco and Joey’s Mission, a rescue operation specifically aimed towards Senior and Special-Needs pets. Plans were underway for me to sign up as an official Foster-Parent for them when I got the call from Frisco and Joey’s that there was a small GSD-mix breed dog who was minutes from being put down and needed a home, ASAP. I agreed, and the very next day…the winter storm of the century hit. Over two foot of heavy, icy snow had buried northern Michigan and caused widespread power outages. While we dug ourselves out and waited 5 days for the power to come back on, a few other volunteers from the area were able to watch over Rookie (then named Jonah) and keep him from being euthanized. I will forever be grateful to the kind souls who pitched in and helped save his life.

How did you found out he had problems walking?

There is a phrase called “Cruel Irony.” that applies here. Let me set the scene: We had been taking care of Rookie for about two weeks and he had been nothing but the sweetest dog to us, we enjoyed walks on the trails and hoisted him up on the couch for cuddles at night. We knew his hips were bad…you could see it when he walked and in the narrowness of his backside, but he got around pretty good, and only needed help up steep steps and we had to carry him upstairs at night for bedtime. We were happy to do so. During this time in the back of my mind I had already been considering adopting him. I had noticed how Rookie had been attaching himself to my husband’s side. I led him out to the car one afternoon because I wanted to take him for a ride to see my Mom, who had yet to meet him at that point. I opened the door and said in a cheerful voice, “Come on Rooks, let’s go meet Gramma!” I felt resistance on the leash and looked back at him I was taken back by the expression on his face. He must’ve thought he was being shipped off to yet another foster home. He looked absolutely depressed. His ears were flat to his head and he gave me the most pitiful expression I have ever seen on a dog. I looked into his eyes and that settled it. We went right back into the house and I phoned Jessica from Frisco and Joey’s Mission and let her know we were going to keep him. I was going to be a “failed foster parent”. I thought my husband might’ve been upset, but he looked more relieved than anything. I think we both knew that not only did we love Rookie very much, we had the time and the energy it would take to care for his special needs. Here’s where “Cruel Irony” comes in. It was the day after we adopted him that he just stopped getting up. He needed assistance every time we had to get him up to go outside and potty, and walks were out of the question. The food and water bowl moved from the sitting room to the living room, and right beside his bed. And there he stayed for weeks, leaving only for doctor’s visits and potty breaks. Miserable didn’t begin to describe the pained look on his face. He was patient with us as we tried to figure out what to do to get him back on his feet. New medication helped to dull the pain, but not matter how his pain level decreased he could not stand on his own. Age, muscular deterioration, and hip displaysia kept him constantly in bed. That’s when my husband decided to do some research online and we began to build him a cart, or “doggie wheelchair.”

Where there any other fursiblings in the house? How did they take to him?

Though Loki might not have been thrilled at the prospect of having to share “Mommy’s” and “Daddy’s” attention, he appreciated having someone to pass the time with when we were not at home. Rookie also has an orange-tabby cat brother. And since adopting Rookie, we have added yet another addition to the family, a very large GSD-Mix named Huckleberry. Huckleberry is an oaf of a dog, and sometimes tries to get Rookie to play with him and in the process knocks him down. But all in all, home life is happy for him, and each dog has his own corner of the house.

What type of therapy did he do to build up the muscles?

Originally, we built the Doggie-wheelchair on the premise that we would be using it indefinitely. The thought didn’t even go so far as to “rebuild muscle”. Rookie surprised us with that all on his own! What the wheelchair did for Rookie was nothing short of a miracle. After a few weeks in the wheelchair (about 30 minutes every day), he actually began to stand up on his own! Then he could take short walks without it. Then long walks without it! Our guess is that the wheelchair had allowed him to build up muscle over the damaged tissue to allow him to walk again. Now, we only use his wheelchair when we take him to town or anywhere we know a lot of “standing” will be involved.

How long did it take to get him used to the wheels?

This is a great question, and one of our big concerns. It took us about a week and a half to build the cart, all the while we’re wondering, “How is he going to react? Is he going to freak out? Or just stand there?” When we placed his back legs in and strapped the harness…he took off like a shot! The look in his face was one of triumph. And freedom.

What medications does he need?

While the cart has been great for his muscles, he still needs a powerful pain killer (Metacam) to keep him active and comfortable.

How is Rookie doing now?

As of this interview, Rookie is unfortunately in a decline. He has less energy and falters sometimes, and prefers his bed over walks, for the moment. When adopting a senior pet, you make a little promise in your heart that you’ll keep memories of the the good times and the wonderful memories shared , with the understanding that they will not last forever.

Is there anything else you would like to share about Rookie?

We are so honored to be with Rookie in the autumn of his life. He has taught us so much about unconditional love, and second chances, and that every day is a little miracle. I don’t care if that sounds cheesy…because that’s what he has taught me.

My message to fellow pet-owners: If you or someone you know has a pet that is struggling with standing, walking, or any other mobility issues, please know that there are choices out there. Speak with your veterinarian about the options available to you like pain-relievers, physical therapy, and yes, even Pet Wheelchairs. Combine these resources to help your pet get a new “leash on life”.


Rookie has gone over the rainbow bridge 3/1/2013 as he lost the ability to be able to stand. Fly free Rookie and know that you will be forever loved.


Author’s Note: I would like to thank Rookie’s mom for letting me share his story. Pictures were used with permission. 

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