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Walkin’ Wheels Helps Working Dog Do What She Loves Best

Rina, an 11-year-old Search and Rescue working dog and athlete in the rigorous dog sport of Schutzhund, suffers from degenerative myelopathy (DM). But thanks to her Walkin’ Wheels, Rina is still able to enjoy life and participate in many of the things she loves to do best.

Imported from Germany at 16 months old, as soon as Rina arrived in the United States and her paws hit the concrete, she was ready to go, eager to learn, and filled with an unimaginable desire to work. There wasn’t anything this dog would not try and conquer, which still holds true today as she fights the progressive disease of DM.

Tracking & Trailing

Police K9 training
Police K9 in training

Rina participated in many different aspects of training, but her special niche was in tracking and trailing. She spent countless early mornings stomping in tracks, and hours upon hours practicing obedience routines on the training fields. Her tracking seemed to be her strongest quality. Her fearless attitude and determination caused her to get the best of several canine helpers during protection routines, as well as landing her in a dental office with some very costly titanium caps, bringing her competitive protection training to a screeching halt!

Then Rina’s passion for Search and Rescue began. Short tracks, long tracks, dirt tracks – you name it, she tracked it. Over the next several years the tracks got longer, as well as the time aged (time from the tracklayer stomping the track in, until the time Rina hit the ground running).  Running was an understatement; it was more like a full-out sprint with extreme accuracy in finding the missing person who was hiding somewhere waiting for her with her favorite toy.  Rina’s capabilities amazed people! Rina was able to accomplish tracks aged for several hours in both city and rural environments.

Police K9 searches site
Police K9 search and rescue

Search & Rescue

Rina loved being the co-pilot as she traveled around expanding her training from facility to facility. You name it, Rina did it. She worked the rubble pile, searched undergrounds pipes which were almost as complex as a New York Subway, rappelled off buildings, flew in helicopters, and got out on boats. Rina walked planks, climbed scaffolding, and scaled walls. This was all part of the “proof” style training; “proofing” prepares your dog for any situation that may head in your direction.

Police K9 in agility training
Police K9 with children
Police K9 with children

It became time to take Rina’s skills to the next level and begin to utilize her as an active resource in the community. Rina began testing to get certified, obtaining several certifications from the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA); she earned the building search, obedience, tracking, trailing, and area search certifications in her first attempt. Then she obtained the certifications from the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) and became dual-agency certified. Rina could search 60 and 120 acre plots of land and locate a subject within minutes!

Recognized as a Search and Rescue K9 by her owner’s Fire Department, Rina was deployed on missing children, runaways, and elderly patients with Dementia. Rina made numerous trips to Pre K, kindergarten classes and elementary schools dazzling the children while finding their missing teachers and principals. But Rina had to retire earlier than planned due to DM.

Onset of DM

Retired Police K9 with DM gets new wheelchair

All of a sudden, late in May 2015, Rina’s owner noticed that her feet were starting to drag. At first, she tried to convince herself that it was related to Rina’s age, but it was soon evident that this was not the case. Rina’s hind legs started to wobble as she walked; she was diagnosed with DM in November 2015. DM is a spinal cord disease that usually affects older dogs and causes their legs and feet to cross, and knuckles to drag.

It seemed like overnight that Rina could no longer walk on her own. By February 2016, Rina lost use of her rear left leg and shortly after that, the right one as well. Medication as well as laser therapy, hydrotherapy, and massage therapy were all used to treat Rina, with the help of a GoFundMe account. Her owner watched Rina fight to stand and walk. After everything Rina had accomplished in her life, this one seemed to be beating her.

The family home became a runway of rugs so that Rina could drag herself around to still be part of the pack and all of the activity going on in the house. Each day presented a new issue due to the progression of the disease, but Rina’s spirits remained high. Her owner tried a wheelchair for Rina, which helped her movement, but ultimately did not prove to be a good fit for her.

Walkin’ Wheels to the Rescue!

Wheelchair Police dog uses wheelchair during training

Then Walkin’ Pets came into Rina’s life and introduced her to a Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair. Presto! She felt stable and comfortable in her new wheels and got her mobility back. Rina is now able to dabble in the things she loved most in life. She continues to track and do protection work – and she even tried to climb over the A-frame in her wheelchair!

Congratulations to Rina for her determination and indomitable spirit – and to her owner for providing her with the love and support she needed to get back in the game!

Please note: The Naples News did a special story on Rina!

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