Most mornings, Kiki the pit bull wakes up to her foster mom, Kara Severson, singing her show tunes from the couch. She sleeps there so the dog -- whose back legs don't work, likely from a neurological condition -- can snooze next to her person.
"My couch is low enough to the ground, I can hold her paw as we go to sleep," Severson says of the pup, who's currently up for adoption. "She seems to appreciate being able to get close to me during the night."
Specifically, and rather perfectly, the song is usually "Good Morning," from the movie "Singin' in the Rain."
"No lie," says Severson. "Good morning, good morning, it's such a pretty day. Good morning, good morning, to you, and you, and you!"
This musical start of the day is followed by a some healthy food, a good bone-chewing session, napping, going out for walks (using an adorable wheelchair) and then playing some tug and fetch. Kiki also has her bladder "squeezed," as Severson puts it, every eight hours or so because she can't pee on her own.
Don't worry; Kiki doesn't mind that part of things, either.
"She flips herself up to a sitting position and usually licks my face," says Severson. "The face licks feel like a 'thank you for helping me!'"
Recently, a new addition was made to Kiki's routine.
Bialy's Wellness Foundation, a group that helps special needs animals get the care they need, arranged for Kiki to receive physical therapy at a local clinic called Integrative Pet Care. (This clinic also treats some other famous special needs pits, like Fifty the two-legged pit bull.)
It's there that Kiki was put on this underwater treadmill:
I'm walking! I'm walking! Emma says that's really my back legs walking!!! Yay me! #ParalyzedDog #RecycledPits #BicksPit #BialysWellness #Miracle
Posted by Kiki on Monday, March 23, 2015
"I was blown away when she began using her hind legs," says Severson. "That was the first time her legs have ever moved with purpose."
It's not clear if Kiki will ever be able to walk unassisted, but the point of this treatment isn't to produce miraculous results; it's to make sure Kiki is as strong and comfortable as possible.
"The resilience dogs have and the drive to continue forward is incredible," says Erin Kowalski, founder of Bialy's Wellness Foundation. "To watch Kiki progress is truly humbling and puts a smile on my face."
"Just like humans, we believe that every animal deserves a shot at life as long as they are happy, comfortable and pain free. Why not give them a chance?" says Liz Schock, the patient services manager for Integrative Pet Care.
Kiki is very, very lucky to be getting this chance.
She was a little over a year old when she was dropped off at Chicago's city shelter, with legs that didn't work and an unknown history, along with that adorable little face and sweet disposition.
Severson, who'd taken in special needs foster pets before, saw Kiki's photo on Facebook and knew she had to help. Kiki's been living, quite happily, with Severson's 8-year-old shar–pei and two cats since July 2013.
"She's a living doll," says Severson. "I swear if she was in a Steven Spielberg movie, the toy modeled after her would be the biggest toy of the year!"
Severson says she hopes whoever adopts the pup will see and love Kiki for what she is: a gorgeous dog who loves her life and brings happiness wherever she goes -- even if she needs a little help getting there.
"I've seen so many faces cheer up instantly upon seeing her," says Severson. "Think of all those smiles that would not have happened if she wasn't saved and loved. Don't we need more joy in this world?"
You can keep tabs on Kiki on her Facebook page.
And get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an animal story to share!