Paralyzed dog found on Thai beach gets second chance at life

Leo checks out the smells while enjoying a walk in Sarnia with Jamie Marilyn Smith. The paraplegic German shepherd mix was rescued and brought to Canada after being left for dead on a beach in Thailand. Glenn Ogilvie

Cathy Dobson

This is one pooch with a whole lot of perseverance.

Eighteen-month-old Leo was left for dead following a run-in with a motorcycle in Thailand. He suffered a broken back and his hind legs were paralyzed.

But today he’s got a cozy home in Sarnia, all the medical attention he needs, and a wheelchair that allows him to run city sidewalks in the snow.

“He really is inspiring,” says his foster mom Jamie Marilyn Smith. “He’s really happy despite what he’s been through.”

So how did a lame little mutt from Thailand get a new lease on life in Sarnia?

The story began last summer when a young Ottawa woman named Meagan Penman was vacationing in Thailand. Penman was on a beach in Hua Hin when she saw Leo, with a broken back, dragging himself across the sand.

“He had infected sores all over his legs, was covered in ticks and was so skinny,” said Smith. He also had a nasty bladder infection.

Penman was able to piece together Leo’s history by talking to some locals. He had apparently been struck by a motorcycle some weeks earlier and left to die. No one claimed him. No one helped him.

But Leo’s luck changed when he approached Penman. The 22-year-old took the paraplegic dog to a veterinarian and searched for a Thai rescue program to take him in.

When Penman came up empty-handed, she flew Leo back to Canada.

“So many people told me he would be better off put down, but you can’t put a value on a life,” Penman, a model, told the U.K. website MailOnline.

“He was in such distress and I couldn’t just ignore this kind of neglect. No animal deserves a life like that.”

Penman raised $7,000 online for Leo’s flight to Ottawa.

It was at that point that Smith, 35, saw his story on Facebook. She’s originally from Ottawa and was visiting family there at the time.

“My dog Charlie had just died a few weeks earlier,” said Smith, a self-employed artist and photographer who moved to Sarnia four years ago.

“I was missing Charlie, and focusing on doing something positive. Leo’s story amazed me,” she said. “He inspired me.”

Smith met Leo and agreed to foster the little shepherd mix with the big brown eyes.

“His bladder infection was still severe when we met and he smelled,” she said. “He has higher needs than other dogs but the rewards are far greater than the hard work.

“He’s so cute and full of joy.”

Smith brought Leo home, despite the high cost of caring for a disabled dog.

Leo’s lucky streak has continued. A Facebook page Smith created called Love For Leo attracted $4,500 in 24 hours, enough to pay for more vet care, to have him groomed, provide his special diet, and for customized doggie diapers Smith engineered herself. Donations are no longer needed, for now.

Meanwhile, Penman arranged for shipment of a wheelchair that Leo quickly mastered. Smith straps him in and Leo takes off as fast as any able-bodied pup.

“He was so excited the first time we used it,” she said. “I was so glad to see him run and play fetch for the first time.”

Leo shares a cuddle with foster mom Jamie Marilyn Smith. Glenn Ogilvie

Leo shares a cuddle with foster mom Jamie Marilyn Smith.
Glenn Ogilvie

 

Despite being paralyzed from the hips down, Leo loves to play. Glenn Ogilvie

Despite being paralyzed from the hips down, Leo loves to play.
Glenn Ogilvie

Jamie Marilyn Smith gives Leo a boost to help him get up the stairs. Glenn Ogilvie

Jamie Marilyn Smith gives Leo a boost to help him get up the stairs.
Glenn Ogilvie