By Terry Rogers
About a year after Osiel Villalobos’ sister Alma married her husband Rene Diaz, they got their first dog, a Boston Terrier puppy they named Oliver. Known as Ollie, the puppy became part of the family, well-loved by Allesandro and Sebastian, the Diaz’s children who were born later.
“Alma and the kids were in the front yard decorating for fall,” Mr. Villalobos said. “Usually, Ollie stays right in the yard, but Alma noticed he wasn’t by them and looked up to see he was across the street. When she noticed this, he was starting to come back and she saw a car coming. She yelled for him not to come, but it was too late and the car hit him. They live out in the country, so the car was probably going faster than 35 miles per hour. She started running to the street and saw him trying to pull himself across with his front paws. She yelled to the boys to get their father and they all got in the truck to rush him to the vet.”
Mr. Villalobos said that when they arrived at the Pets ER Emergency Hospital in Salisbury, MD, Ollie was stabilized by the staff. His sister and brother-in-law were told they would need to take him to Philadelphia for surgery if he was to survive. There was no question in their minds and the family left Salisbury to drive to the University of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital in Philadelphia. Ollie underwent scans, blood transfusions and surgery.
“Alma and Rene stayed the night in the parking lot of the animal hospital while they waited to hear from the veterinarian,” Mr. Villalobos said. “He suffered a fracture to his lumbar spine (L1) that caused a spinal cord injury which permanently left his hind legs useless. Every time I would see Ollie, he would always be running around like a little speed demon, always on high speed mode. It broke my heart when I found out he would never be able to use his hind legs again, knowing how much he loved to run around. I wanted to see Ollie be that little speed demon again and I also know how much my sister loves her fur baby and how much she wished he would be himself again.”
As an industrial mechanic and welder at Chemours in New Jersey, part of Mr. Villalobos’ job is fabrication and working with metals every day. He knew that to get Ollie back on his feet he needed something that was fast and lightweight. Villalobos went online and got ideas for his design. He decided to use aluminum because it is light, purchasing two pieces of 1-inch by 4-foot flat bar at Ace Hardware that was about 1/8” thick and some Velcro straps. He used wheels from a scooter donated by his own children who loved Ollie as much as his sister’s family.
“I measured Ollie’s height and width, then started putting it all together,” Villalobos said. “That required bending the aluminum, drilling some holes and welding. I had Oliver try the prototype, then I made adjustments to the frame and put some soft padding for his back legs to go through. The finished product was better than what I anticipated it to be.”
Mr. Villalobos said that Ollie will need to use the wheelchair permanently. He took to it easily, immediately taking off, running from person-to-person and even turned on his own. “We gave him treats and encouragement, but he learned totally on his own,” he said. “The result was an emotionally happy sister and a dog excited to, kind of, be back on all fours.”
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