Disabled therapy dog inspiring people at Alabama hospice


Despite his physical disability, Turbo, a pet therapy dog for a hospice facility in north Alabama, is inspiring people and showing them they will overcome any problem they could face similar to he has.

Turbo, a 50-pound, 1-year-old chocolate lab, was born with a disability that makes him incapable of bending his back legs. His owner, Meighan Maples of Trinity, works for Hospice of the Valley and takes Turbo to nursing homes as a pet therapy dog. This yr Turbo also attended Hospice’s Camp Hope, an outing that gives support for kids who’ve lost family members.

Maples said she adopted Turbo specifically because he was handicapped. “He has a really rare hip issue; they don’t even know what to call it.” Maples said he also has a weak immune system resulting from his physical issues.

Turbo’s breeder was given the choice by the veterinarian of euthanizing him because, although the dog will not be in any pain, he would eventually need wheels for mobility. The breeder didn’t have the center to place him down, Maples said, and kept him for a number of months before beginning to search for a everlasting home for Turbo.

“Me and my husband were sitting on the porch and we saw him on Facebook,” Maples said. “We just began crying. We said, ‘We’ve got to have him. He’s special; he’s going to do something special.’ And he has.”

Maples took Turbo to an event at West Morgan High School and so they encountered a 4- or 5-year-old boy in a wheelchair.

“It was an easy connection. He said, ‘He can’t walk, like me, can he?’ I said, ‘Not likely, has to have a bit help.’ And he said, ‘I just love him, I just love him. He’s different like me,’” Maples recalled.

Maples said people like that boy connect with Turbo and feel they aren’t alone.

Maples said Turbo has never acted in a different way than another dog and is totally joyful. “He’s just as normal (as other dogs). He just pogos, that’s what we call it. He hops.”

Turbo finds ways around his disability, she said.

“Sometimes when he leans over, like if he goes to smell the bottom, his whole back end comes up and his back two paws come up and it’s like he does a handstand. The youngsters at Camp Hope thought that was awesome,” Maples said.

Maples was paired up with a young boy at Camp Hope who became attached to Turbo. She said Turbo went home at lunchtime. The young boy cried and refused to eat his lunch because he missed the dog.

Maples has taken Turbo to 2 assisted living and nursing homes, Morningside of Decatur and Falkville USA Healthcare. She said the elderly love to look at Turbo walk. Maples said the residents have fallen in love with Turbo and he with them. She said he’s an awesome therapy dog because his presence brings joy.

Dee Robinson, Morningside activities coordinator, said the residents “feel a bit sorry for him due to his legs. But when she showed us he could rise up and, well, he was greater than what we saw … everybody loved to take a look at him and see what he could do.”

Robinson said the residents were impressed that Turbo was still walking, appeared to be doing superb and was overcoming his disability. She said each the residents and staff felt that if Turbo could overcome his problems, they might overcome their very own.

Sammi Brooks, Morningside executive director, said “I just wanted to take a seat in the ground and love on him. He’s very sweet, but I feel for me, it’s his willingness to beat his disability.”