When people think about assistance dogs, they often picture the trusty Labrador – not a fluffy little dog with huge orange ears! But that’s exactly what Roo is, an assistance dog. He may be a Papillon, a breed famed for their distinctive butterfly look, but he much more than just a pretty face, especially to his owner, Greg Wickenburg.
When Greg was just 17 years old, he was involved in serious road traffic accident that left him paralysed from the shoulders down, unable to walk or move his hands. In the years since, he has had to learn to cope, and has simply got on with his life with an incredible, commendable resolve.
Remarkably, little Roo has a similar backstory. When he was a tiny pup, Roo’s leg was broken – no one knows quite how – and his owners, unwilling to pay for treatment, dumped him. Roo was fixed up in rescue, just when Greg was starting to look for a small companion, who could sit on his lap and go for walks with his motorised wheelchair.
“I did not want a puppy, but he was just too sweet and cute,” recalls Greg. “We had to adopt him.”
Remarkably, Roo become much more than just a companion animal; Greg was soon able to get him to assist with day-to-day living.
“I started training Roo myself just so he would behave well – sit, stay, etc. But he was so smart, and picked thing up pretty fast. I started to train him to help me do things. He can now pick things up I drop and put them back on my lap. He can turn lights on/off. He can take money or credit card out of my shirt pocket and put on the counter, and most importantly he gets help if I need it.”
Papillons are often underestimated – but remember, their other name is the Continental Toy Spaniel, and they certainly have the breed type’s working drive and intelligence.
Now Greg is hoping Roo can help him in a whole new way. Roo’s adorable face and charming story is encouraging people to consider donating to Greg’s campaign. Greg desperately needs a new specially-adapted van he can drive himself, as his current vehicle is on it’s last legs. With weekly doctor’s appointments, it would be great for Greg to continue his independence and keep in touch with friends, without having to rely on his family to get around. Greg’s GoFundMe page can be found here – with even more gorgeous pictures of Roo!