As far as dogs in Albany go, River is a local legend. What makes this precious pooch so special? Is it his winning personality? His friendly nature? Perhaps, but what is more likely is that this dog exhibits all those traits from his wheelchair.
Yes, River is Albany’s wheelchair dog mascot. He treks all across the city every day with his parents Herby and Carol Mader, spreading joy wherever he goes. “Everybody has to come by and pet the dog,” says local LuAnn Jopp.
River’s story all began a few years ago. One day, on a routine walk, River was attacked by two much larger dogs. The dogs bit River all along his back, ultimately damaging his spine to the point where he could no longer use his rear legs.
Whether it was the bites that inflicted the injury directly, or if they just exacerbated an underlying condition remains unknown. What we do know is that, even though River has suffered a great deal, he doesn’t let being a wheelchair dog keep him down. Not for a second. “Probably a lot of dogs would give up, you know, where he’s not,” said Herby.
Now a sage-like 11-year-old, River may have slowed down a little, but still manages to make the rounds every day, saying ‘hi’ to all his neighborhood friends. Dr. Wendy Womack, Rivers vet, goes so far as to label River as an official Albany icon.
While River was a wonderful dog before the accident, it was not until after that Carol noticed his incredible sense for empathy. “He pulls out the people, I think, that are hurting. It’s like he senses they need attention.”
River’s closest friend — outside of Herby and Carol — is Ron Koczur, a similarly abled man from Albany. Ron lost one of his legs to diabetes and now also uses a wheelchair to get around. “[River] knows when I’m coming, he comes. I always see him every day, twice a day, three times,” says Ron.
And while River’s bravery in the face of adversity is quite the admirable, without the Mader’s love and care this wheelchair dog’s story would likely have ended much differently. “They are very devoted,” says Womack about how much time and energy the Mader’s have invested in making sure their pooch has a high quality of life. Everything from installing ramps up to the house to taking him for long walks every day, the Mader’s will spare no expense when it comes to their boy’s well being.
How to Help Wheelchair Dog’s Like River
If you have — or know of — a dog that requires a wheelchair to get around, there are a number of considerations regarding their care that need to be made. Depending on the severity of their condition, your dog may need to be put on medications to manage their pain (i.e., Rimadyl, Novox) as well as need help getting around. Things like ramps should be installed around the house, giving them access to places otherwise blocked off by stairs.
Also, because of their condition, the types of play they are capable of may be limited. But that doesn’t mean the will to play is not there! Fetch or hide and seek are two great games you can still play.
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