Riddle: Everyone's Favorite Gimp

Riddle: Everyone’s Favorite Gimp, Apollo Fields | Jack Russell Terrier | Handicapped Dogs | K9 Carts



He's just one of those dogs that you meet once and never forget, for better or for worse.  Riddle is a terrier to the core and about as stubborn as they come.  He is an ass-kicker and despite the fact that he doesn't have a single straight leg to stand on, he has no problem defending his honor (or at least the little bit that he has left)!

After about the hundredth time of me asking a prospective client [in regards to photography], "Do you have any questions" and having them respond, "Do you have a dog in a wheelchair?", I finally felt like it was time for Riddle to get his own blog post.  

My personal favorite was a mom who once told her daughter, "If you ever get your act together and find somebody who will marry you, Heather needs to be your photographer because she has a dog in a wheelchair".  I never knew he would be such a show-stopper, but here's how it happened:  


Where it all began:

I got Riddle on August 1, 2012.  He was still a tiny puppy, but his take-no-prisoners personality was already well established.  He was my little farm dog, barn-hopping all day with me while I went around doing my training rides.  

Riddle moved from New Jersey to NYC with me, and eventually to Colorado.  He has traveled to numerous states on camping trips and adventures.  In a lot of ways, he has been one of the few constants in my life since I got him six years ago.  Riddle was my cat-loving fiance's first experience with dog ownership, which makes all other pups look like a walk in the park to him.    

He was also my first terrier that I have ever owned.  I grew up with well-behaved Dobermans who are sensitive, caring, and loyal.  Let's just say those qualities are not hardwired in the terrier's brain.  His personality challenges mine in the worst of ways sometimes.  He is stubborn and opinionated, ruthlessly alpha, and entirely unaware of his size and limitations.  We are not unalike.  Oftentimes, when I am mad at him, I realize that I am just arguing with myself, which is both humbling and infuriating.  


The Spinal Stroke:

Riddy suffered from a Fibrocartilagenous Embolism (FCE), commonly known as a Spinal Stroke in 2016.  Essentially, he had a stroke-like event within his spinal cord, and everything below that point was deprived of oxygen and led to paralysis in his hind limbs.  

I had never heard of this until the day it happened.  There are no warning signs with FCE and we were totally unassuming the morning we woke up to Riddle dragging his butt on the ground.  After numerous vet visits, puppy acupuncture sessions, and even doggie reiki, Riddle has a great quality of life.  Nothing makes me more upset than people assuming that he is limited by his condition.  I literally had a stranger walk up to me and my dog once in Breckenridge and tell me that I needed to "put him down because I was torturing him".  Little did she know that he is the one torturing me!  


People have tons of questions about Riddle and his disability, so I figured I'd answer a few of the common ones: 

  • "Is he in pain?"  
    Riddle has no pain associated with the spinal stroke.  As the sensation comes back in his hind limbs, he will go through spells of pins-and-needles, which annoy him, but aren't actually painful.  

  • "Will he ever walk again?"  
    He does walk independently, sometimes!  This is actually very frustrating for us in terms of his rehab because every so often out of the blue, Riddy will just get up and walk across the house.  Let's be clear though – it's not pretty – but he does walk.  Unfortunately, walking requires him to slow down, which is not in his vocabulary.  So a lot of the time he will simply choose to hulk himself around on his front legs.  
    As for the future?  Time will tell... Dogs that suffer from FCE range from permanently disabled to completely recovered.  The good news is he has made remarkable progress in terms of his reflexes and ability to bear weight on his legs.  Now just to convince him to actually SLOW DOWN and focus!  

  • "What kind of dog is he?"
    He is technically a Hunt Terrier, which is basically the black-and-tan Jack Russell.  They are bred to be little killing machines, and will become easily obsessed with anything they believe should become prey.  They also have an unbelievable threshold to pain and are not afraid to get injured in the perceived line of duty.  

  • "Did the stroke make his front legs crooked?"
    Nope, he was born that way.  The trait is desirable in small doses because it helps the dog get to ground more easily while hunting.  Riddy ended up with an extreme version of this splayed leg physique and luckily doesn't bother him, although he will probably be arthritic on his front in his old age.  Suffice it to say that he has bigger fish to fry in terms of his disabilities, though.  

  • "Where did you get his wheelchair?"
    Our wonderful vet recommended K9 Carts and it has been a lifesaver!  These carts are totally custom built and can be adjusted as your dog strengthens and begins to walk independently.  Riddy's cart allows him to still come on walks and hikes without slowing him down one bit.  He still needs to be on the leash in his wheelchair because he is fast enough to run away from me in hot pursuit of a squirrel.  

  • "Is dog acupuncture really a thing?"
    Yes, and I swear it works.  I don't really care how crazy that sounds.  Perhaps it is just my way of justifying all of the money I have spent on it, though...  

  • "What do other dogs think of his wheelchair?"
    Sometimes it gets in the way when he tries to play or wrestle with other dogs.  But mostly, it is just his attitude that gets in the way.  We affectionately call him "The Sheriff" because of his self-appointed patrolling duties and his need to break up every other interaction at the dog parks.  In fact, the town Sheriff once gave him his own badge... #truestory

Photography By: Apollo Fields