A paralyzed Doberman who, against all odds, learned to walk and run again is reminding us this week of the extraordinary, rejuvinating power of second chances -- and the miracles that can be achieved when a community comes together.
In April, Kenny the Doberman lost the ability to move all four of his limbs after a kennel worker accidentally dropped a metal door on his neck. Doctors suggested that the injured animal should be euthanized. No one thought the pooch would ever walk again.
Kenny, who is believed to be 10 years old, had been living at Doberman Rescue in Los Angeles when the accident occurred. Unsure of what to do, the owner of the shelter turned to Leslie McMahon, founder of canine physical rehabilitation center Two Hands Four Paws.
"I took him [Kenny] straight to the neurologist, and she knew we didn't have the roughly $8,000 to do an MRI and surgery so she told us to just try rehab to see if we could get him up again," McMahon told The Huffington Post in an email Thursday. "For one very long month, we put in at least four hours of rehab a day trying to keep his muscles supple, putting him in the pool, doing massage, laser, acupuncture, assisted standing and assisted walking in the quad cart."
Kenny's limbs were so stiff that helping him to move proved "incredibly difficult," McMahon said. But she and her team tirelessly kept at it.
That is, until one terrible day, when it became clear that Kenny had lost the ability to urinate. "[It] became life-threatening, and we actually thought we would lose him because of this," McMahon explained.
Fortunately for Kenny, it was at this point that a group of strangers banded together to lend a hand.
Annie Hart, founder of Los Angeles-based animal rescue group the Bill Foundation, got wind of the injured dog's plight and shared his story with the group's friends and supporters via social media.
Hart told The Huffington Post that they raised a staggering $6,000 overnight for the pooch.
With this money, Kenny was able to undergo an MRI and then surgery. Doctors discovered, however, that the damage to Kenny's spinal cord had been extremely severe and warned that the dog might not survive, much less regain his full strength.
Thankfully, a very tenacious Kenny made it through the surgery, but just three weeks later, disaster struck again when he came down with pneumonia.
Kenny was raced to the emergency room and "it was scary touch-and-go for a few days," McMahon said. But yet again, the brave dog pulled through.
Even after Kenny recovered, however, he still had much to contend with. Worried that the dog's legs would not respond to treatment if they waited too long after the surgery, McMahon said that workers at Two Hands Four Paws "went into crisis mode."
"At times we had four people in the pool with him, each one 'walking' a leg to mimic the motion of movement," she said. "He probably got at least 25 hours of physical therapy a week, including acupuncture."
Still, despite all the work, McMahon was not optimistic.
"The fact that he had been down for so long before getting surgery was also not in his favor and ... I rarely see dogs walk again after being down that long. I frankly didn't think we would get this puppy up again due to his size and how bad his paralysis was and how long he had been down," she admitted.
But thanks to the tireless dedication of McMahon and her team, as well as the generosity of many strangers, Kenny made jaws drop in July when he took his first steps.
"It's nothing short of a miracle," Hart told the HuffPost of the pooch's recovery.
Today, McMahon says Kenny "runs around like a lunatic day in and day out."
"He's a completely different dog. He learned how to play, learned what toys are, learned what walks are and does all three all day long. He's just a joy to watch," she said.
Kenny is currently with a foster family and is looking for a forever home.