Had she been another dog, Lucy might have been put down. But she wasn't, and after getting hit by a car outside a feed store in Puerto Rico, and then struggling with a loss of feeling in her legs, she was rescued and given a chance to live.
Lucy, a 4-year-old mixed breed, spent two years at the Second Chance Animal Rescue in Puerto Rico, and – still paralyzed in her back legs – was adopted by New Hampshire resident Courtney Dunning in 2008.
Lucy arrived with a wheelchair – one that had been custom-made for another dog. It didn't fit Lucy too well, and had been patched up with duct tape. One day, while Lucy and Dunning were at a coffee shop, they met an employee of HandicappedPets.com, which provides support for special needs pets.
Soon after that encounter, Lucy had a new, donated set of the company's Walkin' Wheels, a special wheelchair that's designed to adjust to different dogs. Dunning kept in touch, and last spring, she shared a photo of Lucy on HandicappedPets.com's Facebook fan page. The picture showed Lucy after she had climbed a small mountain in southern New Hampshire.
"It sparked a conversation," says Lisa-Marie Mulkern of HandicappedPets.com. "People started asking if she had ever considered taking Lucy up the Mt. Washington auto road."
Mt. Washington, at an elevation of 6,288 ft., is the highest peak in the Northeast. It has a wide paved road, one that Lucy could navigate even from her wheelchair. If she could summit the peak, she would be the first dog in a wheelchair to ever do it.
Dunning, a marathon runner, already ran and trained with Lucy regularly, but she wanted to make sure that her dog could handle the climb. After a test run in July, Dunning decided Lucy was ready. Mt. Washington accommodated Lucy and Dunning's attempt, and with a team that included Mulkern; Dunning's boyfriend; his Chihuahua mix, Topper; and a videographer, they set out to make history on Aug. 18.
It took six hours and two minutes, which included time for water, food and rest, but at 11:30 a.m., the team reached the top of the mountain. No other wheelchair-bound dog has matched her feat yet.
"Handicapped pets can do more than just survive injuries," Mulkern says. "Not only is Lucy able to survive and move around, but she's really able to thrive and accomplish things that any other fully-able dog could do. It was really exciting."