By Chris Stucchio
In October 2016, my wife, Lori, and I adopted a rescue dog that we named Rocket, and it’s been a truly joyful experience for us.
Rocket, who’s 2 or 3 years old, is originally from Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, his family there lost their home and had to abandon him. While he was roaming the streets, he got hit by a car, which almost severed one of his back legs and severely damaged the other one.
Eventually someone noticed he was seriously injured and took him to Save a Sato, a nonprofit rescue organization that’s dedicated to easing the suffering of Puerto Rico’s homeless and abused animals. (“Sato” is slang for street dog.)
Save a Sato provides medical care, food and shelter to the dogs it rescues. Once a Save a Sato dog is healthy, the organization sends it to one of its shelter partners for adoption. A woman in Albion works with Save a Sato, and Rocket was staying with her until he found a permanent home in the United States.
Lori saw a picture of Rocket on a rescue website and contacted the woman about meeting him. She then made an appointment to visit the woman and Rocket, to get an idea of Rocket’s personality and to see how much care he would need since one of his back legs had been amputated and the other one wasn’t strong enough to walk on.
After Lori returned, we were going to discuss the possibility of adopting him, but she fell in love with him the moment she saw him in person, so she decided to bring him home that day without telling me. It was the best decision I never made.
Rocket is an incredibly intelligent and cute pit bull, beagle, Boston terrier mix with brindle coloring, an adorable underbite and the sweetest, kindest eyes I’ve ever seen. Despite all that’s happened to him, he still has a wonderful spirit, too.
The first couple of days we had him, we took him outside with a makeshift handheld harness, but it was unwieldy. However, on day three, the all-terrain wheelchair we ordered for him arrived, and that’s when everything changed.
Rocket’s wheelchair has two wheels in the back, a leg loop that his one remaining back leg fits through, two bars his body rests between, and two straps – one that goes around his neck and one that goes around the upper part of his body.
Once in the wheelchair, he can use his two front legs, both of which work fine, to walk, run or move in any direction he wants.
On the first walk in his wheelchair, Rocket went almost a mile and then slept for about 10 straight hours because he was so tired. But ever since then, he’s literally been covering 3 or 4 miles every day throughout our neighborhood, which is near the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
During his walks, he picks up scents and follows them; he sometimes barks, whimpers or howls when he sees other dogs; he scratches the ground with his paws after going to the bathroom; he carries himself with confidence and pride; and people regularly come up to pet him, ask about him, take his picture or say what an inspiration he is.
Since this was his first winter with us, I was worried he might not be able to walk outside after a big Buffalo snowstorm, but he and his wheelchair were never stopped, even during a state of emergency.
Technically speaking, we’re the ones who rescued Rocket; truthfully, though, he’s the one who rescued us.