By Chris Jaffray
A backpacking border collie mix paralysed in a freak accident has refused to let his disability hold him back – by continuing his travels on wheels.
Black, tan and white pooch Finn, 13, had travelled the US with owner Bryce LaDuc, 40, since he was rescued as a puppy – visiting more than 30 states, hiking up mountains and trekking through national parks and forests.
But disaster struck last January when the pooch was lying on the bed in the campervan he shares with owners Bryce and Paul Staalesen, 38, and suddenly, and uncharacteristically, leapt out of the back door while the vehicle was stationary.
Finn was left with severe spinal trauma and was unable to use his hind legs – but after six months of being unable to play, doting owners Bryce & Paul splashed out $600 USD on an all-terrain doggy wheelchair so he could enjoy his adventures once again.
Bryce, who describes herself as a ‘weekend warrior’ when she travels with Finn and two year old rescued border collie Arlo, said: “Finn spent 12 years of his life hiking, running beaches, backpacking and travelling in the US in our campervan.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could go back to that morning and change the course of that day, but instead of dwelling on regret, we decided to make sure he lives out his life as healthy and happy as possible.
“Could it have been prevented? As with most accidents of course and there is a huge measure of regret and ‘what if’, but I also want him to enjoy his life and do the things he loves.
“He is the most important thing to me in life so I feel a huge amount of guilt, but sadly it happened and it can’t be taken back.
“Luckily, I don’t think Finn realises he is different to other dogs.
“One of the most wonderful lessons a dog can teach you is the art of resilience.
“Finn doesn’t hold any grudges about how he is and he wakes up each day and tries his hardest to make even more progress.
“He lives by the quote ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude’.
“He is still a puppy at heart and he has had a blast playing with his friends and bombing around the beach again – even if it is in a wheelchair.
“He has even earned the nickname FINNspirational.”
Bryce and Paul bought their camper van so they could bring their pets along with them on their trips into nature, living by the motto ‘never leave the dog behind’.
The couple love to hike, backpack and get outside as much as possible so didn’t want Finn to lose those opportunities when he became disabled.
After the accident, the pooch’s hind end and rear legs stopped responding to pain and he completely lost hind end mobility.
He underwent physical therapy using an underwater treadmill alongside electro-acupunture and cold laser treatments and slowly managed to use his hind legs again.
The couple purchased the heavy duty, off road custom-made wheelchair – made of aluminium and tailored to his body shape – so he could still join in their family hikes.
And incredibly, Finn is still even able to give Arlo a run for his money when the pair play together despite his wheels.
Bryce said: “After the accident, the most difficult thing about Finn’s immobility was seeing him have his independence taken away.
“Losing his mobility didn’t just affect him physically, but it also affected him mentally. He didn’t have the ability to do his job and we could tell that was starting to get depressing for him.
“Seeing him use his wheelchair and be able to do the things he loves doing is priceless. It has truly given him a new life.
“Everyone has loved seeing the way he has bounced back since having his chair.
“He gets a lot of attention on social media – people love him and call him a superhero.
“He shows how resilient dogs can be – regardless of their circumstances they always make the most of every situation and live life in the moment – without resentment or self pity.
“People are always really interested in learning what happened to him – and while we all wish we could keep our dogs in bubble suits, sometimes accidents happen and Finn is living proof that life goes on and that being “different” doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.
“He has been such a fighter and watching him, at his age, make the progress he has, you can tell he loves life – he is the my best friend and my biggest inspiration. It is humbling to see how far he has come. ”