Adopting a dog with neurological challenges

When you watch Wallis walk, it’s hard for your heart not to melt a little. Unlike most dogs, Wallis swerves from side to side with his hind legs spread wide for balance. Wallis moves this way because he’s partially paralyzed. But if you spend just a little time with this senior dog, you’ll see he’s not interested in letting anything stand in the way of loving his life — and everyone in it, too.

Wallis came to Best Friends NKLA Pet Adoption Center after being surrendered to a municipal shelter. It’s impossible to know what caused the neurological damage that paralyzed his legs, but the little guy was still sweet and happy despite it. Certainly someone would fall in love with him and give him a home. It would just take finding the right person who didn’t mind that he’s a bit different.

Wallis needed someone who didn't mind his differences.

At the pet adoption center, he was as happy lounging in his kennel as he was in the yard playing with his toys or other dogs. After Wallis visited a nearby canine rehabilitation center for a hydrotherapy session, the prescription for him was physical therapy to help him get around better.

It wouldn’t be long before someone he’d never met before would get those instructions, because as it turns out, that right person was about to fall for him and take him home.

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Hydrotherapy helps Wallis

Physical therapy helps Wallis get stronger.

Adopting a senior dog with special needs

On the day Heidi Knight came to the pet adoption center, she was thinking about adopting two small senior dogs. Artrice Allen, the adoption specialist at the center who helped Heidi that day, remembers what happened when Heidi finally met the two dogs she had her eye on: not much.

“Heidi even got on the ground so she’d be on their level,” says Artrice. “This usually helps dogs feel more comfortable. But they just wouldn’t interact with her.” But Heidi was determined. She decided to look around the center a little more, and that’s when she saw Wallis and asked to spend some time with him.

“We are always excited when someone comes in looking to adopt a senior pet,” says Artrice. “But when someone adopts a senior with special needs, that’s even more amazing.”

Artrice took Wallis out to the meet-and-greet area where Heidi was waiting. And when she put him on the ground, Wallis immediately walked in his unique way over to Heidi.

Everyone cheered when Wallis left that day in a wagon gifted to him by a volunteer.

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Wallis gets adopted!

Getting stronger every day

Heidi may be a first-time dog adopter, but she’s a natural at understanding what her special-needs dog needs in order to thrive. She put a runner made of nonslip material on her hardwood floors so that Wallis can get to his two favorite places — the couch and the bed.

Heidi also takes him on walks, making sure he’s moving comfortably. “I think he’s getting stronger,” she says. “His walking is starting to improve, and he seems to be getting faster.”

These days, Wallis has amassed a small fan club comprised of Heidi’s coworkers, who love it when Wallis comes to work with her and her mom, who couldn’t have asked for a more spirited and determined “grandson.”  

“He has taught me so much. Sometimes I can’t believe how happy he is despite everything that happened to him,” says Heidi. “I didn’t know I could love someone this much.”

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Wallis and baby.

Photos by Wendi Boden, Katie O'Shaughnessey and Brittany Sorgenstein