Despite his physical disability, Turbo, a pet therapy dog for a northern Alabama hospice, inspires people and shows them that they can overcome any problem they may face, just like him.
Turbo, a 50-pound, one-year-old chocolate lab, was born with a disability that makes him unable to bend his hind legs. His owner, Meighan Maples of Trinity, works for Hospice of the Valley and takes Turbo to nursing homes as a pet therapy dog. This year, Turbo also participated in Hospice’s Camp Hope, an outing that provides support for children who have lost loved ones.
Maples said she adopted Turbo specifically because he was disabled. “He has a very rare hip problem; they don’t even know what to call it. Maples said he also had a weak immune system due to his physical issues.
Turbo’s breeder was given the option by the vet to euthanize him because, although the dog was not in pain, he would eventually need wheels to move around. The breeder didn’t have the heart to let him go, Maples said, and kept him for a few months before starting to look for a forever home for Turbo.
“My husband and I were sitting on the porch and we saw it on Facebook,” Maples said. “We just started crying. We said, ‘We have to have it. He is special; he is going to do something special. And he did.
Maples took Turbo to an event at West Morgan High School and they met a 4 or 5 year old boy in a wheelchair.
“It was an instant connection. He said, ‘He can’t walk like me, can he?’ I said, ‘Not really, we need a little help.’ And he said, ‘I just like him, I just like him. He’s different like me,'” Maples recalled.
Maples said people like this boy tuned into Turbo and felt they weren’t alone.
Maples said Turbo never acted any different from other dogs and was completely happy. “He is just as normal (as the other dogs). He just has pogos, that’s what they call it. He hops.
Turbo finds ways around her disability, she said.
“Sometimes when he bends over, like he’s going to feel the ground, his whole back comes up and his two back legs come up and it’s like he’s doing a handstand. The kids at Camp Hope thought it was was awesome,” Maples said.
Maples was paired with a young boy at Camp Hope who became attached to Turbo. She said Turbo got home around lunchtime. The young boy cried and refused to eat his lunch because he missed the dog.
Maples took Turbo to two assisted living and nursing homes, Morningside of Decatur and Falkville USA Healthcare. She said old people like to watch Turbo walk. Maples said the residents fell in love with Turbo and he fell in love with them. She said he is an excellent therapy dog because his presence brings joy.
Morningside activities coordinator Dee Robinson said residents “feel a little sorry for him because of his legs. But when she showed us he could stand up and, well, he was more than that that we saw… everyone loved watching him and seeing what he could do.
Robinson said residents were impressed that Turbo was still walking, appearing to be well, and overcoming his disability. She said residents and staff felt that if Turbo could overcome his problems, they could overcome theirs.
Sammi Brooks, Executive Director of Morningside, said: ‘I just wanted to sit on the floor and love it. He is very nice, but I think for me it is his will to overcome his handicap.