XX minute read

Dog and wheelchair: The “alternative” therapy

Hello. I am Johannes, a 26 year old paraplegic from Berlin. In an accident I sustained an incomplete paralysis downward of L1. When I was 24, I fell 10 metres to the ground in a sport climbing accident. At that time I was working as a professional climber in industry and forestry, but I’ve always had a liking for creativity and craftwork in my spare time. I focus on those things since the accident. This includes creative sewing of objects made of a variety of materials, as well as photography. I am accompanied in all of this by my loyal canine companion Kasper, a lively male Whippet.

Johannes is 26 years old, lives in Berlin Germany and is using THE KSL.

The wish to have my own dog had been on my mind for many years. Unfortunately, before the accident I never had the time to look after an attention-hungry four-legged friend properly. As an industrial climber I was in many places where a dog could not have come along. I was often abroad for several weeks on construction sites. It was simply not possible to align my lifestyle with my wish for an animal companion.


The year 2014 changed everything, my whole life was turned upside down – and never put back on its legs again. While climbing, I took a ten metre fall – the diagnosis was paraplegia. After six months of inpatient rehab I was discharged to begin my new life and in a new apartment.

All of a sudden, I only had one thought: now or never! I had time and space: “Does anything still stand in the way of having a dog?”, I thought. And I refused to look at the wheelchair as an obstacle.

The idea once in my head, would not let me go. I received support from the people around me, but also a good dose of scepticism: “Isn’t it too early yet? Can you even cope with it? Aren’t you taking on too much?” But once I’ve made a decision, I can be quite stubborn.

Soon I found a breeder who had my favourite dog breed, the Whippet, and then everything happened very quickly. One of her dogs was carrying. It was shortly after Christmas 2014, the birthing date was the end of January, the reservation list was half full and I said yes. Suddenly everything was very definite. Or so I thought.


When I visited the breeder shortly after, things started to falter. For the first time I was confronted with those prejudices that unfortunately are still stuck in too many minds. The breeders were afraid to let me, a wheelie, look after one of their puppies. It took three visits and a lot of persuasion to convince them to try it.


And like that, Kasper became part of my life.

Retrospectively, this decision has been one of the best since my accident. I have never regretted it.


What I have only realised now is the complex manner in which Kasper has helped me.

After the initial trauma of the accident, the shock of never being able to walk again, I had to find myself again. I took leave of my old life, I mourned, I was furious – and eventually started a new, second life. Almost everything had to be relearned. Nothing was as it once was.

I focused so much on myself that I could no longer see the forest for the trees. When I was finally independent again, I was very glad to have reached an equilibrium. I stagnated and didn’t know where to.

When he was old enough I collected Kasper from the breeder. At 10 ½ weeks, my puppy was helpless in his new environment and scared, totally dependent on his new family – me. Suddenly there is this small, helpless creature whose whole world I represented and who trusts in me unreservedly. At that moment I was forced to leave the padded cage I had built for myself. I could no longer hide from things, facing every new experience only reluctantly. My small dog did not ask whether I felt safe transferring to and from the wheelchair, or what my insecurities were: he trusted in me. And that faith he had in me, transferred to me at that moment. I could no longer hide in my cocoon, and was instead in a gentle manner forced to go out into the world.

After my accident I never wanted to undergo psychotherapy and had, without noticing it, lost a part of myself. I had to first shift the focus from myself to Kasper. No longer be the centre of attention. It was only when I took on responsibility for someone else that I could once again take responsibility for myself.


Kasper is not aware of this role. He just wants to run, play, feed, sleep. He’s not aware of any prejudice. It is precisely this impartiality that has made him my best friend and dearest companion.


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December 19, 2016