Special-needs dog Tom Turkey joined the Wheeled Wonders, a group of mobility-limited children, on Thursday afternoon for a romp around the Peak Health and Wellness Center tennis courts in Missoula.
There were smiles, laughter and barks aplenty.
Tom, an 8-month-old Labrador mix, has an undiagnosed neuropathic problem that leaves him unable to walk without the use of a specialized cart.
The cart was donated to the Humane Society of Western Montana by Lynn Dominick after seeing the Humane Society’s Facebook posts about Tom.
While Tom can't walk without assistance, he is able to swim in water therapy sessions, according to Lora O'Connor, executive director of the Humane Society.
Tom and his two siblings, Green Bean and Pumpkin Pie, were dropped off at the Humane Society two days before Thanksgiving; thus their food-inspired names.
“The kids just love him,” said Jamie Wolf, spokesperson for the Child Development Center. Wolf emphasized that it was good for the children of Wheeled Wonders to see a mobility-impaired dog that still has an active, and fun, life.
The center started the Wheeled Wonders program last year.
“I noticed there was a need for these kids to be out in public and to do the things that other kids do,” said Michelle Allen, of the center.
The group includes children ages 1 to 17 who participate in a variety of activities, including horseback riding, gymnastics and laser tag.
On Thursday, the Wonders were treated to a short tennis lesson at the Peak by director Scott Potter. Potter has worked at the Peak since its opening nearly five years ago and teaches adaptive tennis lessons for adults.
When he was approached by Allen, he jumped at the chance to get involved.
“When Michelle asked me if I was interested, I said absolutely,” Potter said.
On July 2, the Wonders will meet at The Hub, where the kids will be able to race their wheelchairs around the racetrack.
The Child Development Center hopes to coordinate with Tom and the Humane Society for future outings. While Tom seemed to be enjoying himself, he declined to comment, other than to wag his tail.
For more information about Tom or to adopt him, visit the Humane Society at myhswm.org.