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March 18, 2010

Dagnabit, Never Give Up

Rescued dog wins 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest

  • This photo of Dagnabit, submitted by Kim Dudek, won the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest Judged Category.

  • This photo of Ciao, submitted by Dr. Aurelian Stefan, won the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest Fundraisers Category.

If you happen to be wandering around the French Quarter and see a posse of wheelchair-bound dogs, it's most likely Kim Dudek who's leading them around.

Kim submitted a photo of Dagnabit, her rescued dog in a wheelchair, to the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest, and the judges chose her photo as the grand prize winner in the Judged Category.

Dagnabit's story

Kim first met Dagnabit in 2004, when he was found wandering behind one of her businesses. She said he looked as if he had scars. He had aggression toward other dogs, and his ears had been cut off.

Dagnabit had a collar with a phone number for a veterinarian in Florida, but his owner could not be found. One of Kim's employees decided to take care of Dagnabit.

A sad setback

Slowly, Dagnabit got used to other dogs, and his aggression eased. His owner found him sitting cross-legged on the floor one day, and called Kim for help. A trip to the veterinarian's office resulted in bad news—Dagnabit needed life-saving surgery for three ruptured discs in his back.

Three months after the surgery, Dagnabit had lost 30 pounds and could not walk. Kim says he acted as if he had lost his spirit, but she would visit him every day at the boarding clinic where he was being kept. Kim later became Dagnabit's official owner.

Helping Dag

Having worked as a rehabilitation counselor for children, Kim decided to try similar rehabilitation principles on Dagnabit. The two worked with a canine massage practitioner, a veterinarian acupuncturist, and a veterinarian specializing in chiropractic and homeopathic medicine. Soon after, Dagnabit was finally able to stand again.

Kim began taking classes at the University of Tennessee and became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. She began working with Doggone Wheels to produce a wheelchair for Dagnabit. It wasn't long before he was wheeling around the French Quarter, and he even began to swim.

Kim continues to work with Doggone Wheels to help disabled dogs all over the country get fitted for wheelchairs. She started Dag's House, a dog rehabilitation facility with a fitness center, canine hydrotherapy pool, agility course, and outdoor space dedicated to relaxation, play, endurance training, and conditioning.

About the photo

The photo of Dagnabit that won the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest was taken by Skip Bolen, a photographer who offered to take photos of Dagnabit through his recovery process.

See a slideshow of all of the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest winners »

Just the beginning

The wheelchair was just the start for Dagnabit. He is now out of the wheelchair and is learning to walk again. He can even go up stairs. His aggression toward other dogs is completely gone.

"He is so strong-willed about doing it [walking up stairs]," said Kim. "He trusts me. He's amazing. He's like the poster child for disabled dogs—he's beat all odds.

"He has changed my life," said Kim. "He's an amazing dog."

About the fundraising winner

The photo that won the grand prize for the Fundraisers Category raised more than $32,000 for Romania Animal Rescue. The photo was submitted by Dr. Aurelian Stefan, a veterinarian at the Romania Animal Rescue.

Ciao, the dog in the photo, was named after the gas station where he was found (and means both "hello" and "goodbye" in Italian). Dr. Stefan brought him to the clinic, but Ciao died shortly thereafter.

"Hello and goodbye are the words that all the gas station dogs hear many times a day," said Dr. Stefan. "They have a cruel life because they live along the busy roads with all the dangers that a busy road brings. I wanted Ciao to speak out on behalf of the homeless dogs living along the highways. They need a home, or at least to be spayed and neutered."

Dr. Stefan emailed and messaged friends on Facebook to drum up votes for Ciao.

Romania Animal Rescue Inc. is a 501(c)3 charity with headquarters in California. It is also a registered charity in Romania. Romania Animal Rescue does not have a shelter in Romania, but funds free spay/neuter for shelters, as well as doing "spayathons" in villages and cities. The clinic has a regular set of clients that bring in street dogs to Dr. Stefan and his brother, Petrisor Stefan, who do spay/neuter and emergency treatments in Romania.

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