NAPLES — When Karen Sesso tosses Ru Ru a squeaky toy, be sure to clear a path.
The 6-year-old dachshund relies on a deluxe doggie wheelchair for his mobility, but when it comes to squeakies, there is simply no stopping him.
“That’s what he likes best,” says Sesso, the shelter manager at the Humane Society Naples. “He will squeaky for a long time.”
After a playtime injury left Ru Ru’s back half paralyzed, his previous owners found they could no longer care for him. A shelter in LaBelle initially took the pup, but those arrangements didn’t prove suitable. Finally, a month ago, the Humane Society Naples brought Ru Ru to its Airport-Pulling Road facility.
That, too, was never intended as a permanent situation. Ru Ru, like all the shelter’s pets, needed to find a forever family, and when Ru Ru’s tale hit the media, the Humane Society began to receive calls from as far away as Canada and Colorado.
But unlike many of the shelter’s other pets, Ru Ru obviously isn’t the average adoptee. Not only is he a sucker for squeakies, he is also a social butterfly. Shelter visitors, be they two-legged or four, quickly capture his interest. And when he’s in his wheelchair, he has the advantage of speed.
“When he gets outside and sees something, he wants to go,” Sesso says. “He gets over rocks and all kinds of things. Mulch. As long as it’s not too large, he can maneuver.”
Then there were Ru Ru’s physical limitations to consider. Since his injury, Ru Ru can’t perform the normal puppy potty processes without a bit of human help. He has had regular physical therapy from vet staff, including Vet Tech Alex DeStefano and local veterinarian Lesli Reiff, who donated her services and staff time to the Ru Ru cause. Also, when he’s not in his wheelchair — one newly purchased for him by the Humane Society to better fit his body — his movements are limited to pulling himself along on his front legs.
Whoever adopted Ru Ru needed to be one part animal trainer, one part very good person.
Lucky for the Humane Society, they found two such people. Enter Leslie Newcity and her husband Patrick Walker of Venice. Newcity is a physical therapist who works with developmentally disabled adults and children; Walker is a contender for the world’s best spouse, especially considering the couple already has three other dogs.
On Friday, Newcity and Walker drove from Venice to formally adopt their newest family member.
Newcity was excited to bring Ru Ru home to meet her other dogs — Yorkshire Terrier Tyson, Shih Tzu Monte and Boxer Isabella — and to settling Ru Ru into his new life. That new life includes taking him to work with her and introducing him to her clients, who she believes will be inspired and touched to see the disabled little dog.
She and Walker will also work on helping Ru Ru gain his independence in their home. They are planning to add fully-pivoting wheels to his chair and build a ramp for their deck.
Newcity understands that Ru Ru will be a greater challenge than her other dogs, but it’s a challenge she’s ready to greet.
“I’m going to embrace every day with him, embrace the challenge,” she said. “He’s the hero here. He’s the hero.”