Theo the pit bull has a couple things most dogs don’t: a Facebook page and a pretty cool set of wheels.
There’s one thing he still needs, though: a permanent home.
The energetic 60-pound dog was found on a roadside in Utica when he was a puppy. Unable to walk or even sit up on his own, it was presumed he had been hit by a car, but Xx-rays showed no broken bones, recounted Jennifer Zegarelli. She and her husband, Tony, provided the 16-month-old dog with a foster home in Glenville.
The humane society in Utica contacted the Albany-based pit bull rescue organization Out of the Pits, which brought Theo to Albany. There, he underwent an MRI, which revealed Theo had been born with a cerebellar deformity that affects his balance.
When Theo was 3 months old, Out of the Pits asked the Zegarellis to foster him. They readily agreed.
“We’re ridiculous animal people,” Zegarelli said. “My husband and I actually met at an animal shelter volunteering.”
Theo came to them complete with a custom-designed four-wheeled cart.
“When we first started fostering him, he couldn’t even sit up for more than like five seconds without falling over,” Zegarelli recalled. “The neurologist didn’t think he’d ever be able to walk at all, including in his cart.”
The little brown pit bull sure proved that doctor wrong. The first time the Zegarellis strapped him into the paw-powered cart, off he went. Thirteen months later, he’s all over the yard in that cart, paws going, tongue lolling, tail wagging. He has a little trouble turning sometimes, but he has figured out how to go in reverse.
“He’s very independent now and motivated. All he wants to do is walk,” Zegarelli said.
Once a week for almost a year, Theo has gone to water therapy at the Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic. The original idea was to have him work out on an underwater treadmill, but he’s not into the deep water thing. So physical trainer Tina Zakrzewski runs a little water on the treadmill and encourages him to walk on it, with the assistance of lots of snacks.
“When I first started, I had to give him a lot of support. I had to hold him up and keep him from falling over the entire time, whereas now I’m just keeping him steady so he doesn’t fall over. He’s supporting his own weight and has come so far,” she said.
Zakrzewski said she’s unsure if Theo will ever walk without a cart. She predicted he could advance to a two-wheeled one at some point, though.
But who knows? Theo has made defying predictions a practice. He’s now able to take multiple steps without the assistance of his cart.
Word of the determined pit bull has gotten around, thanks in part to social media. Zegarelli created a Facebook page to raise awareness about him and his search for a home. To date, Theo’s Page has racked up about 4,200 Facebook friends.
He’s also got a post office box, frequently filled with fan mail and gifts. If you’re wondering what to get for dog who has almost everything, he likes peanut butter, Zegarelli said.
Another idea would be to give him a permanent home.
“It’s got to be someone who’s willing to put a lot of time, love and a lot of TLC into him,” Zakrzewski said.
He’s great with older kids and other animals, Zegarelli noted.
Although she’s eager for Theo to find a permanent home, Zegarelli said she and her husband will definitely miss having the wheeled canine wonder around.
“He’s our little buddy,” she said, patting his head.