LOGAN SQUARE — Josh the pitbull was thrown away.
The tiny mutt was found in a cardboard box in a dumpster in Chicago's January cold, unable to use his back legs.
He was taken in by the city's Animal Care and Control, and then by Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue. He now lives in a foster home, where Erin Kowalski carries his 37 pounds up and down her Ukrainian Village three-flat's stairs every day.
See Josh's progression in the video:
Josh has adapted to using a dog wheelchair, a wheeled cart that suspends his back legs so he can pull himself forward with his front, and a "scoot suit," a bag that covers the lower half of his body to protect his skin while he drags his legs behind him.
He's been doing intensive physical therapy for a few months at a Logan Square facility, and he's getting stronger every day.
Someday soon, he might walk on his own.
Kyla Gardner says it takes a lot of care and money to help Josh:
"We see improvement almost every week," Kowalski said. "There’s no guarantee that he’ll ever regain function, but we’re very hopeful."
On a recent Friday at Josh's rehab hospital, Integrative Pet Care, 2520 W. Armitage Ave., even the lure of treats couldn't pull him away from ear scratches and cuddles from a group of trainers waiting for a lecture to start.
"He’s just a ham," Kowalski said. "He's such a good time, [has] such a good disposition, is so sweet. You always hear about bully breeds being negatively portrayed ... but he is one of the sweetest dogs."
Josh's good disposition helps with his therapy, which includes physical therapy, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, electric muscle stimulation and acupuncture three times a week, said veterinarian Deanne Zenoni.
"He finds it very entertaining and fun — that's very important with rehab," Zenoni said. "To him, this is normal. He really doesn't let [his reduced mobility] affect his personality or his mood. He's not grumpy."
How could 9-month-old Josh be grumpy, though, living with a certified canine masseuse? Kowalski, a canine massage therapist by trade, gives Josh daily massages.
"You couldn't ask for a better foster home," Zenoni said. "Erin has been through this before."
Kowalski's nonprofit, Bialy's Wellness Foundation, sponsors animals that have special needs. Along with Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue, Bialy's supports Josh's $1,400-per-month expenses.
The organization is named after Bialy, a dog who, like Josh, had limited use of her back legs.
Doctors said Bialy would never walk again, and though her gait was a bit uncoordinated, Bialy was walking on her own six months after starting rehab.
She was a "foster failure" for Kowalski, meaning the canine massage therapist adopted the dog permanently.
Kowalski and Zenoni hope for recovery for Josh, too, but it's hard to know how much mobility he'll have.
"It's a hard question to answer," Zenoni said. "The important thing for me is that I am seeing progression month to month."
Knowing what the future holds for Josh is also difficult, as his back problems have not been diagnosed as congenital or trauma-related, Zenoni said.
But Josh has almost 2,800 cheerleaders on his Facebook page, and strangers recognize him on the street almost every day, Kowalski said.
Bialy's is raising money for Josh's continued therapy.
"It's the most costly thing that he has right now going on," Kowalski said. "In order for him to have that opportunity to walk, which we’re really, really hoping for, the continued therapy is a must."
Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue is taking applications to adopt Josh, but his special needs will require a specific type of home, Kowalski said.
A home like hers, perhaps?
"If the perfect home comes along, I'm definitely going to let him go to it, but if that never happens, I'm so cool with that, too," Kowalski said. "There's a lot of push to take him in and do another 'foster failure' with this guy."
Josh plays fetch (Facebook/Josh - CBBR)
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