Chelmsford Dog’s a Big Wheel
CHELMSFORD -- He’s an 11-year-old boxer who now uses a wheelchair in place of his failing hind legs, and in 2019, he’ll be among 13 dogs featured in a calendar of handicapped pets.
Remy, or Remdawg, as his family likes to call him, is as special to them now as he was the first day they met.
Jeff Bernier surprised his wife, Jenn McEwen, with Remy a week before their wedding in 2007.
“We’ve been pretty hooked since,” McEwen said. “We do everything together.”
Their love for Remy inspired them to get two more boxers: Ray, 9, and Rex, 4.
He’s been with them through thick and thin, good times and bad, and now he’s in the limelight.
Remy was selected by popular vote from among 240 entries from 26 countries to be featured in the 2019 calendar by Walkin’ Pets by HandicappedPets.com , an online pet product company that caters to aging, disabled and injured pets.
He’s also currently way ahead of the pack in the Patch.com “Top Dog in Massachusetts” contest.
Bernier and McEwen are thrilled that others are recognizing what they’ve known all along.
“He’s definitely one of a kind,” Bernier said.
They don’t know yet what month will be Remy’s in the calendar, but they’re hoping for July. That’s his birth month, and when the pictures that landed him the spot on the calendar were taken.
Remy has degenerative myelopathy, a condition common among his breed that causes gradual hind-end paralysis. The spinal cord disorder is similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in humans.
McEwen said she began to notice last summer that Remy was dragging his back toenails while they were walking on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail close to their home. A short time later, Remy began having difficulty walking on their new hardwood floors, which have since been covered in carpet and area rugs. In December, his veterinarian told them it would likely be Remy’s last Christmas with the family.
“It was hard on all of us, because we didn’t know what was happening and why,” McEwen said.
They put Remy in hydrotherapy and physical therapy, and continued to love him as they always have. They also got him his set of wheels, which he didn’t take to right away.
This July, the family went on vacation to York, Maine, and held a luau on the beach to celebrate Remy’s 11th birthday. That’s when Remy realized he needed the wheels, Bernier said.
“When he got on the sand and tried to get to the ocean, he just stumbled and dragged. It was hard to watch,” Bernier said. “But then we put him in the wheels and he just took off. Now it’s a part of him.”
They’ve found the more exercise and massages Remy gets, the longer he’s been able to stay mobile and healthy. They love taking him to Heart Pond and other lakes -- he loves to swim -- and even brought him to the top of Mount Washington.
“If we can get an extra year of his life, fantastic,” Bernier said.
It took a long time for McEwen and Bernier to have their son, Justin, now 7. Remy has been his protector since birth.
When McEwen had three subsequent miscarriages, Remy was her comfort. He’d come and place his head on her stomach.
“He just knew when I needed to be consoled,” she said.
He also knows to quiet down when McEwen is experiencing a migraine, she said.
Remy has always been well-behaved, sticking by his family when off-leash. The one time he did wander away from home, he found his way right back. A concerned man who saw him in the middle of the street near Agway followed him home to make sure he got back safely, and was amused by Remy’s confidence and sense of direction.
With how amazing Remy has been for their family, McEwen and Bernier said they feel they owe it to him not to give up on him. For others with handicapped pets, they share the same message.
“Don’t give up,” McEwen said. “The thoughts of the wheelchair, I just didn’t know if I could do it at first, but they’re worth it.”
For more information and to order the calendar Remy is featured in, visit handicappedpets.com/calendar-contest /. Proceeds benefit the Handicapped Pets Foundation, which provides wheelchairs for pets in need.
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.