Dog, owner beat the odds by leaning on each other

For Ed Ferri, taking his 8-year-old dog Jack out for a walk requires more than just a leash.

The 50-year-old Ferri has to get the Great Pyrenees mix into his own set of wheels. Jack operates with two front legs and and a pair of wheels to make up for his two paralyzed back legs.

Without each other, neither Ferri nor Jack might be able to walk. Both suffered from debilitating injuries that left some to doubt either would survive.

During the past five years, Ferri and Jack have been pulling each other along the road to recovery.

"He gives me the courage to keep going," Ferri said.

That need for courage started in 2008 when Ferri, who worked at a local restaurant and owned a catering business, came home and fell asleep in the living room.

Later that night, his wife, Judi Winfield-Ferri, woke up to Jack's howls.

"Jackie was circling the chair, and then he froze and would not move," she said. "Ed was as yellow as mustard."

Ferri's liver was failing. Soon after, his kidneys began to fail and his lung collapsed before he was forced into a medically induced coma. Winfield-Ferri said her husband's liver miraculously began to regenerate by January, and he was able to regain consciousness.

But as he started to recover, Ferri began bleeding internally and required additional emergency care. Doctors found he had a birth defect. It put him in a wheelchair for months.

When he returned to his Franklin home, Jack was there to help.

"He would never leave my side. He would sleep at my feet on my bed because I didn't have a lot of movement," Ferri said. "He would always be there."

The dog would circle the wheelchair and tap Ferri with his front legs, imploring him to get up. Finally, Ferri was able to stand on his own.

Ferri continued to recuperate to a point where he and his wife of 23 years were planning to make the next 12 months their comeback year.

But a day before their May anniversary last year, they saw Jack stumble.

"After that, his legs just went out on him," Ferri said. "We didn't understand, and he didn't understand at the time. He just kept trying to stand up, and I kept trying to pick him up."

The next day, veterinarians said the dog had an embolism on his spinal cord that would paralyze his back legs for the rest of his life.

While Jack wouldn't be in pain, the vets said keeping him alive would be expensive. The couple had an army of friends who quickly came to help. They built the ramps and spaces needed to make the house wheels-friendly.

Ferri has made it his work to keep Jack going. That means strapping Jack into his wheels and taking him on walks around their neighborhood.

For the couple, helping Jack is well worth it.

"We have to start living our lives joyfully now," Winfield-Ferri said. "We have to celebrate what happened and ..."

"Not be afraid of living," Ferri said.


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