Turbo.Roo has spunk. He also has a loving family, caring friends, and nearly 44,000 followers on social media. Together, they more than make up for what the 10-week-old Chihuahua does not have: two front legs.
The tiny pup was part of an accidental litter in the Indianapolis area. A genetic defect caused the condition, which his original humans did not feel qualified to manage. At four weeks and just 10 ounces, he was turned over to the Downtown Veterinarian clinic.
Vet tech Ashley Looper volunteered to foster Turbo.Roo, so named by clinic staff because of his resemblance to a kangaroo and the animated snail who dreams of winning the Indy 500.
“I thought I would take him home and work on finding him a family,” she says. “And then I fell in love and decided to keep him.”
Looper also admits that during those first few weeks of fostering, she began to worry that the media spotlight on Turbo.Roo would make it difficult to find appropriate adopters. An online fundraiser to buy him a cart once fully grown and the creation and donation of interim carts — from the first made with toy helicopter parts and later models that used 3-D printing — caught the attention of reporters near and far.
“He’s super cute, and I didn’t want someone to adopt him just because of that,” she explains. “There’s a lot that goes into taking care of a handicapped pet. You have to hold him up so he can go to the bathroom. There are many things he can’t do by himself, on top of being a puppy in general.”
Turbo.Roo also needs regular physical therapy to strengthen his back legs and core. He goes to the clinic with Looper and gets a workout during her lunch break.
“We take him out and make sure he exercises, so that he’s not just sitting in his kennel all day,” she says. “He’s definitely a Chihuahua, though. He’ll let you know when enough is enough: ‘Put me back so I can take a nap, then we’ll come back to this in an hour or so.'”
At their home in Speedway, Looper and boyfriend Ray Hurt help the pup get used to his cart, both indoors and outside. It wasn’t until recently that Turbo.Roo realized the wheels would help him run.
“We took him outside, not expecting anything,” she recalls. “He hadn’t been real fond of the cart the other times we’d taken him out and put him in it.”
This time, though, they brought along Braxton, their seven-year-old Puggle.
“It just clicked. He took off running after him.”
Turbo.Roo also gets moving with help from Navin, a kitten Looper agreed to foster before Turbo.Roo arrived.
“Someone found him in a downtown parking lot and brought him into the clinic. I thought we could take care of him until he got a little bit bigger and then adopt him out,” Looper says, “but he and Turbo became best friends, like two little brothers. So we kept him, too.”
The experience with Turbo.Roo has inspired Looper and Hurt, a Speedway police officer, to do more for special needs pets. The original YouCaring.com campaign to raise $600 for his adult cart has brought in more than $3,600. They will put the additional money toward his ongoing care, which will involve the vet visits every dog needs, regular X-rays to track his growth, and supplements to make his bones and joints stronger. The couple wants to start a charity in his name to help outfit other dogs who need carts but cannot afford them.
“We want to help other pets get wheels, to have the opportunities that Turbo has,” says Looper, who has started small with sales of Turbo.Roo coffee cups through an Etsy shop to benefit the soon-to-be Turbo’s Buddies organization.
They also are talking to Mark Deadrick, the San Diego mechanical engineer who donated his 3-D design and printing skills to create the cart Turbo.Roo currently uses, about starting a business that offers multiple cart options. It would offer custom-builds for adult dogs, plus kits with interchangeable parts that would allow a puppy to use a cart while still growing.
Above all, though, the couple just looks forward to many years with their precious pup.
“He’s spunky and sweet, and his heart is just so big,” Looper says. “Sometimes he looks at me like he wants to take on the world. He’s different than another other dog I’ve had or met.”
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