STATE CENTER – By anyone’s measure, Marshall County Deputy and D.A.R.E. Officer Steve Sodders is a hero simply by the very nature of his job. By one very lucky dog’s standard, he is a hero just by his very nature.
A little more than a week ago, the Sodders’ family dog, Allie, pulled an escape-artist trick and managed to get out of her kennel shortly after the family had left for work and school. The one thing Allie could not escape was the truck driving down the street next to the Sodders’ property.
“She had injury to her nerve system in her brain or her spinal cord, perhaps both,” said Dr. Grant Jacobson, the emergency doctor on call at Animal Clinic – The Vet.
The truck hit Allie in her head, rendering the dog paralyzed in all four limbs. While she could wag her tail (a good sign), she could not move her hind legs at all and her front legs were stiff – a grim prognosis for any dog.
Although Allie began to recover slightly – regaining use of her front limbs – her hind legs remained paralyzed. With both adults working and kids in school, the Sodders family began to realize caring for a paralyzed dog might not be possible.
“We went in Monday and thought we’d have to put her to sleep,” Sodders said.
Fortunately for the family and particularly for the dog, Allie moved one of her rear legs – giving the family hope she might improve. Jacobson explained that a type of “wheelchair” that would support the dog’s hindquarters might give her the mobility to live a relatively normal life – and give her a chance to recover.
“The first thing I thought was ‘How am I going to build a wheelchair for my dog?'” Sodders said.
While Animal Clinic – The Vet had a similar device available for loan, it is designed for a much smaller dog. But Sodders was determined to give Allie one last chance.
Armed with only a picture of a “doggie wheelchair” from the Internet, Sodders and family friend Ben Veren decided they would give Allie her own custom-made wheelchair.
The two made careful measurements (being sure the device would fit both the dog and through the doors of the house) and began constructing the PVC frame and attached the wheels of a baby stroller for mobility. After two long nights of work, the chair was completed.
“She started walking with it as soon as she felt she had support,” Sodders said.
Indeed, Allie could be seen cruising the sidewalks of her State Center neighborhood, happily trotting along to meet the neighbors, spoked wheels whirring along the pavement, running over the occasional toe.
If Allie could talk, she might lament her tangle with a truck, but in the same breath, she would probably thank her understanding – and handy – owner.