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Rocky the dachshund doesn't let handicap stop him

In many ways, Rocky, a black-and-brown dachshund, is a lot like any other friendly little dog. He's eager to check out new people, often sniffing and licking them in greeting. He enjoys going outside. He plays fetch with a small blue ball and loves getting treats of sliced turkey.

But no matter how good he's feeling, Rocky, 6, never wags his tail. In fact, he's not able to move the back half of his body at all.

A custom-made, two-wheeled cart supports his two back legs as he uses his front two legs to walk. His long black tail drags behind him, sometimes getting caught underneath his body. His owner, Pam Head, keeps an eye out for this and quickly reaches down and flicks his tail back where it belongs.

Rocky doesn't seem to be bothered by his handicap, though. His bright eyes and lolling tongue make it clear that he's pretty content.

"Some people are amazed by him, some people pity him - they don't see what he's really like," Head said.

She and her husband Don adopted Rocky four years ago. The dog has been using his wheeled cart since he had surgery after a back injury two years ago.

Though he's handicapped, Rocky is certainly not homebound. He often goes to work with his owners, who run Don's Collision Center in Lawrenceville.

Recently, the dachshund visited Creative Enterprises, Inc. in Lawrenceville and got a warm reception from the crowd gathered there.

The center's special-needs clients, who were seated in chairs arranged in a semi-circle, took turns petting and holding Rocky. Whenever he barked, they applauded and imitated him. Everyone wanted to get Rocky's attention, including the Creative Enterprises staff.

"He certainly has a place in our hearts. Our door is always open," said Gail Greene, the day habilitation manager at Creative Enterprises.

Greene met Rocky three weeks ago when she took her car in for repairs at Don's Collision Center. "He was in charge of the meet-and-greet," Greene said.

Intrigued by Rocky's cart, Greene began asking about the dog. She soon realized he would make an ideal visitor to the center, where several of the clients use wheelchairs.

"When I saw that dog, I was like, 'Omigod, he fits right in with our guys,'" Greene said.

Two years ago, Rocky hurt his back after jumping up and down for several hours while playing with one of his doggie friends. He needed surgery to stop the pain from a herniated disc, but the Heads were told there was only a 50-50 chance the operation would be successful.

They decided to go ahead with the surgery, even after finding out Rocky would lose mobility and would need help using the bathroom for the rest of his life.

Since then, both his owners and Rocky have adjusted to his disability.

At Creative Enterprises, Greene hoped Rocky would serve as an example to encourage the center's clients. "That's what I wanted to show - that he has adapted," Greene said.