Dog found paralyzed in Glenwood Springs starts to recover as adoptive owner arrives |

Dog found paralyzed in Glenwood Springs starts to recover as adoptive owner arrives

Will Grandbois /

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Adoptions are an everyday occurrence at Colorado Animal Rescue’s shelter, but Thursday afternoon was something special.

The staff, on duty and off, crowded behind the desk to await the arrival of Ernie’s new owner.

Ernie, a dog who recently began walking again after being found partially paralyzed in Veltus Park just after Christmas, seemed a little overwhelmed with all the attention. In addition to Colorado Animal Rescue employees and volunteers, several students from Colorado Mountain College were in attendance, wrapping up a short film about Ernie’s treatment and recovery. Someone painted a little sign that read, “Ernie is going home!”

As each new car approached the facility, the assembly looked up expectantly. Ernie, meanwhile, was content to bask in affection, cuddle with his feline friend and occasionally chase a worn tennis ball in awkward but surprisingly quick bounds.

When Susan and Matt Cooley, of Littleton, responded to a link on Facebook and agreed to adopt Ernie, he didn’t have any use of his back legs. Several veterinarians had examined him, but whatever trauma had caused the paralysis seemed old and indefinite. He wasn’t a candidate for surgery, and even with rehab the prognosis was murky at best.

“It was hard to say in Ernie’s situation because we didn’t know what caused his paralysis,” veterinarian Elizabeth Dooher said.

He was undergoing integrative therapies and rehab with Dooher, and while no one ruled out the chance of recovery, it seemed a long shot.

According to Kindra Bohrer, foster care coordinator for Colorado Animal Rescue, the Cooleys were “fully prepared to care for a dog in cart.”

The pair had, in fact, cared for disabled pets in the past.

“I always get not-perfect ones,” Susan Cooley said.

It wasn’t until March 14 that Ernie began to show signs of recovery.

“Little by little, we saw a little bit of movement in his hind legs, and he started to gain courage,” Dooher said.

They notified the Cooleys and sent them a short video of Ernie walking.

“I watched it a zillion times and reposted it on Facebook. I had to show everyone,” Susan Cooley said.

Dooher had been treating Ernie for several weeks using integrated therapies, an approach that adds acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and laser therapy to more traditional animal rehabilitation.

“This is an example of some great things that can happen with integrative therapies,” Dooher said. “When people look outside the scope of what regular veterinary medicine can offer, we sometimes can tap into healing.”

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