Hong Kong Wheelchair Dog Wins Spot in International Pet Calendar

Her owners hoped Tessa, 13, could remain mobile after she was diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy, an incurable neuron condition. And so she has!

Tessa's owners got her a wheelchair when she was diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy. Photo: Xiaomei Chen
Tessa’s owners got her a wheelchair when she was diagnosed with canine degenerative myelopathy. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

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When Tessa, a 13-year-old shepherd mix, was diagnosed with an incurable neuron condition, her family hoped she could remain mobile.

Her owners, Sandra and Nigel Snell decided to experiment with putting her in a wheelchair and have been very pleased with the results. The contraption allows Tessa to move about rather easily.

Sandra Snell, an occupational therapist, told the South China Morning Post that the wheelchair has “given a new life” to Tessa, who all her life has accompanied her family — including sister dog Ginny — on many outdoor pursuits.

“She still has this passion to be outdoors, so we decided it was up to us to make her mobile again,” she said. “She is now able to continue to be mobile and enjoy all the things she likes.”

With the help of the wheelchair, Tessa can walk, run and even swim with the aid of some buoyancy tools, though some of the more rugged trails she once enjoyed are now off limits.

Nigel Snell said Tessa’s entry into the photo contest came by chance.

“We were sending pictures to the wheelchair company to ask some questions, but when they saw Tessa, we were encouraged to send pictures of her to enter the competition,” he said. Her recognition marks the first time a dog from Hong Kong has won the Walkin’ Wheels Calendar Contest, which is organised by handicappedpets.com.

The Snells with their dogs, Tessa and Ginny. Photo: Xiaomei Chen
The Snells with their dogs, Tessa and Ginny. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

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Originally from Australia, the Snells found Tessa as an abandoned puppy in Tai Tam 13 years ago, two years after they moved to Hong Kong.

“When we saw her little tiny nose and her brown eyes, we felt like we had to take her,” Nigel said.

Sandra hopes that Tessa could help foster awareness for pets with disabilities
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“As opposed to putting their sick dogs to sleep, I hope people realize that dogs can be given a second chance at having a good life,” she said.

Not even the water is off limits! Photo: Xiaomei Chen
Not even the water is off limits! Photo: Xiaomei Chen

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Her husband added that mixed-breed dogs were often not appreciated by many people in the city. The Snell family has adopted five abandoned dogs in Hong Kong in their time here, all of which have been mixed breed.

“Sometimes people ship pet dogs in from overseas,” Mr Snell said. “But there are so many beautiful dogs here in Hong Kong who need a home.”

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