Rescue dog Benny inspires hope from his wheelchair

Viral videos, happy disposition of Acworth puppy have gathered fans from around the world

He’s been featured in People Magazine and has a legion of adoring followers on social media who are inspired by his story.

Benny is a 7-month-old goldendoodle born with a spinal defect that paralyzed his hind legs. He gets around with the help of a wheelchair strapped to his body that supports his immobilized limbs.

A video of the pooch using a wheelchair ramp at his Acworth home for the first time recently went viral.

The 72-second clip was uploaded to the social media site Storyful on Aug. 26. It showed an antsy Benny in his wheelchair as he tested out the handicapped doggy ramp earlier this year. By Thursday, the video had been viewed more than 141,000 times.

Elizabeth Williams raised Benny on the Tucker Farm, an animal rescue ranch in the northwest corner of Cobb, since he was five weeks old. The viral clip is nothing new for him.

Williams posts daily photos and videos of Benny and the other eight dogs on her rescue farm. The video of him on the ramp is one she uploaded to social media in May, the very first time he used the wheelchair ramp.

Williams said followers are particularly drawn to videos of Benny in action.

“I had no idea a dog could bring so much joy to complete strangers,” Williams said Thursday. “We’ve always had a social media following. But people have reached out to me when their family members pass away and said Benny has brought them so much joy.”

Benny was born in Winder in February. Bosley’s Place, a Smyrna orphanage for special needs animals, stepped in when he was two weeks old after his mother had trouble nursing him.

Jennifer Siegel, the founder and director of Bosley’s Place, bottle fed him for about three weeks before he was weaned.

That’s when Williams was recruited to care for Benny and work on rehabbing his lame legs. Williams took him to live on her farm and began physical therapy treatments.

When the rehab showed no improvements, Williams and Siegel had Benny examined by neurologists at University of Georgia and Auburn University. Both medical teams diagnosed the puppy with a severe spinal deformity that paralyzed him from the shoulders back. The birth defect, caused by three fused vertebrae, means Benny will never be able to use his back legs or walk on his own.

But despite the obstacles, the deformity has never diminished Benny’s joyful nature.

Williams’ videos often show Benny tussling tussling with the other animals on the farm, which include goats, chickens and eight other rescue dogs.

Williams started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Benny’s wheelchair and the lifetime of medical treatments he will need. By Thursday, the crowdfunding effort had received more than $20,000.

Walkin’ Pets, the New Hampshire company that manufactured Benny’s wheelchair, featured the puppy in a May video, demonstrating his customized chair. The video and Benny’s backstory got the attention of People magazine, which featured him in a May article. Soon after, Williams and Siegel were flooded with messages from Benny’s newfound fans on social media.

Siegel said people from around the world responded, relating with struggles of their own. One woman contemplating suicide said she drew inspiration from Benny.

“He just exudes happiness,” Siegel said. “He’s not like a normal puppy. He is just so happy. I don’t know if he’s happy to be alive, happy to be where he is. But he just exudes happiness.”