TAMPA, Fla. - After custom braces gave a paralyzed 3-year-old English Bulldog the ability to walk, his owners are taking his mobility on a mission.
Last November, ABC Action News followed "Spencer" through his leg brace fitting at Westcoast Brace and Limb in Tampa. Paralyzed from the "waist" down, veterinarians suspect someone dropped or stomped on Spencer when he was a puppy.
Linda Heinz found Spencer on her front porch, and guesses that someone dropped him off knowing she rescues all kinds of animals. For two years, he dragged his back legs around, barely able to move with injuring his paws.
Now, Heinz says, Spencer is finally able to be naughty with his brother, "Porkchop" the blind pig.
"Porkchop opens the front gate. The two of them run a muck and chase the cat," Heinz said. "The first time ever we had to buy him a leash."
Thursday, however, Spencer did a good deed with his new found freedom by visiting James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.
"Scary as hell but you still got to do your job," explained Jerome Markel.
That's how Markel describes war after fighting in Desert Storm, not unlike how he describes paralysis after a car hit him this summer while he was riding his scooter to work.
"It's still something I have to deal with everyday," Markel said.
"Just the thought of being like this the rest of my life."
Doctors predicted Markel would ever breathe on his own again much less move his arms and legs.
Thursday, he held Spencer.
"You were happy to start running, weren't you buddy?" Markel smiled. "It brings tears to your eyes."
Now that Spencer can walk, he visits hospitals, orphanages, even special needs pet adoption events, spreading smiles and cheer where challenges are heavy.
"And when Spencer came around, they said, 'I want to get up. I'll race him," Heinz said.
Markel shared his beef jerky, but it's unlikely Spencer knows the hope he gave in return.
"Glad to see he could overcome it," Markel said. "Maybe someday we can run together."