Disabled dogs find joy with wheelchairs, prosthetics
Their lives have gone to the dogs. But Tanya and Charlie Diable of Butler Township are fine with that.
The couple has adopted six special needs dogs: Joey, Zoey, Temperance, Kingston, Harper and Boone.
“They are our babies. We see the dog, not their disabilities,” Tanya Diable said.
“Charlie and I have a heart for dogs that have been literally starved, abused, beaten, thrown away and for breeders wanting to kill them because they are unable to make a profit from them.”
The Diables created Joey’s P.A.W. (which stands for prosthetics and wheels) in August 2017, inspired by Joey, their beloved dog that had both rear legs intentionally severed at six weeks of age. Joey received prosthetics and life-saving medical care, donated by Merrick Pet Care. The gesture prompted the Diables to help other dogs in need.
Their organization provides money for dogs in need of custom prosthetics and wheelchairs. Its mission is to get dogs up and moving and show people the joy of owning a special needs dog, Tanya Diable said.
“I wasn’t allowed to have a dog as a child,” she said. “My parents made me have a cat.”
Joey’s P.A.W. recently celebrated a year of service, with more than 79 dogs and a goat named Hopie outfitted with prostethics and wheelchairs. Dogs from as far as Australia have received help.
Tanya Diable stressed her supportive husband and a team of about 10 volunteers have been key to running Joey’s P.A.W.
Charlie Diable said their priorities have shifted with the growth of the nonprofit.
“What moves me is seeing the dogs (and one goat) walk, run and play. To see the life come back into their eyes and to help them feel the love that Joey and Boone (our dogs) feel has dramatically changed our priorities and what we deem important,” he said.
The majority of dogs receiving assistance require wheelchairs offering front, rear or full supply, followed by a demand for prosthetics.
The Diables help special needs dogs get what they call “fur-ever” homes by facilitating adoptions across the United States.
“I never had to turn anyone down, although now we do have a small waiting list,” Tanya Diable said.
Custom made animal wheelchairs and prosthetics range in price from $300 to $1,200, depending on each dog’s needs.
“We rely on donations through fundraisers, and last year we raised more than $18,000,” she said. “People can donate online, and we cannot help those dogs in need without donations.”
Tanya Diable’s daily routine (Joey’s P.A.W. is her primary job and passion) includes scrolling social media sites — searching for dogs in need.
“At this point, most of my helping dogs come through those people who reach out to me through Facebook, Instagram or our website,” she said. “Joey’s P.A.W. has radically changed my life.”
Dog owners usually receive their mobility device two to three weeks after submitting their request.
“I received a wheelchair thanks to Joey’s P.A.W. for our dog, Winchester, in less than a week, ” said pup parent Colleen Faust of Saxonburg. “Tanya is just fantastic, and she comes from a place where she understands because she has dogs with disabilities and knows where pet parents are coming from. She gives and gives to make these animals have better lives.”
Winchester, a 10-year-old rough collie, weighs 80 pounds. He was born with hip displaysia and suffers from arthritis. He was housebound and required human help to go outside, missing out on walks and outdoor fun with his canine brother, Micah.
Winchester received and tested his wheelchair out last week to great success.
“Winchester loves to catch balls and Frisbees, and he couldn’t do that anymore — but now he can with his wheelchair,” Faust said. “He went on a nice walk this week with Micah, and I was crying to see him happy again. I thought his life was over and for him to gain his independence and quality of life back — I am so grateful.”
Boone, a year-old hound-beagle mix, had both rear legs intentionally and brutally cut off and was severely beaten by his owner at 5 months old. His owner left him at a Texas shelter and scheduled him for euthanasia. But Tanya Diable found Boone online, immediately offering to foster him.
“I covered my mouth, gasped and I thought, oh my gosh, it’s just like Joey,” Tanya said. “Boone had bones sticking out. It was the saddest thing. It brought instant tears to my eyes.”
Within two hours of having the dog, they decided to keep him.
“I was a foster fail,” she joked. “I knew we would keep him. We re-named him Boone, which means miracle or blessing.”
Boone serves as the face of Joey’s P.A.W. and attends fundraisers and events.
Boone is never without his signature wardrobe staple — a bow tie.
He’s also never far from Tanya Diable’s side.
“He’s a momma’s boy,” she said. “He never leaves me.”
Boone is currently training at The Dog Stop Training in Pittsburgh’s Strip District to be a therapy dog.
Certified canine trainer Brett Reynolds said Boone’s progress and skills are impressive, especially for a dog with special needs.
“Boone has a sweet and loving disposition, and the remarkable thing about Boone is he is very intuitive, and a good therapy dog adapts to a situation depending on his environment,” Reynolds said. “Boone had a horrific start to his life, but he still finds love and joy in everything he does.”
Boone packed extra bow ties last week for a trip to New York , where he taped a dog related segment for the Rachael Ray television show.
The show is scheduled to air Thursday , Sept. 27 .
“I truly promote the joy of owning a special needs dog,” Tanya Diable said. “Boone’s mission is to teach people about animal abuse.”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.