We recently had another visit from the much loved and well-known Fifty, the Two-Legged Pit Bull. Fifty's mom, Kelly Michael, brought him in for a “tune-up.”
We first met Fifty and Kelly at Integrative Pet Care in Bucktown almost four years ago. Fifty soon began coming to the Chicago School of Canine Massage (CSCM) for regular massages as a “demo-dog.” CSCM’s canine massage therapy students received hands-on experience while working on Fifty, learning different massage techniques while understanding his particular needs. During every session, Fifty was the epitome of what we term an “easy dog” – he has no aversion to touch or handling. Although compliant with touch, he was challenging students due to his physical needs. It was the perfect win-win situation.
CSCM students benefit from the massage treatments they give Fifty as well. He’s such a great teacher – they learn love, empathy, and patience. We’re also proud to witness how Fifty is a terrific example of the power of massage. During the past few years that he’s been coming to our classes, we’ve seen how the massage treatments really keep him going.
While any dog can benefit from massage, the massage treatments CSCM provides for Fifty are part of a well-developed health regimen to keep him strong in his role as canine ambassador for bully breeds and differently-abled animals.
There’s no question that Fifty has his admirers. He’s racked up more than 324,000 “Likes” on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BionicFifty). A recent video – a brief 19 second clip – of Fifty going on a walk has close to 10,000 views, is just shy of 1,700 shares, and has more than 850 comments.
However, Fifty’s popularity goes beyond the virtual realm, and that’s where his support network comes in. Even a typical week in Fifty’s life is a busy one, and it includes therapy at Integrative Pet Care that can consist of a combination of acupuncture, massage, hydrotherapy, or therapeutic laser. These modalities help with any number of issues, such as pain management and muscle atrophy, while improving Fifty’s strength and flexibility.
Kelly says his appearance schedule varies between 1 to 3 events each weekend, depending on where the event is and how Fifty feels. “Summers are definitely busier than winter,” explains Kelly. This born ambassador is “beyond friendly” and wants everyone to pet him and every dog to say hello to him. “People always want to meet him, so going to these events not only gives them the opportunity, but they're also supporting good causes,” Kelly says.
Fifty is empowered by Kelly who lets him live his life without feeling sorry for him. Any special needs he has just adds to the genuinely special dog he already is.
The idea of a dog celebrity will definitely catch your attention. However, there’s that “something more” about Fifty that catches your heart. One such “Fan of Fifty” is Pittie mom and animal advocate Stephanie Navarro. “Fifty is an inspiration and a symbol for overcoming obstacles. He gives a breed with a bad rap a good image and makes people second guess their preconceived notions.” Stephanie adds, “he shows that special needs dogs don't have to have a limited life.”
The inspiration that Fifty provides brings to mind the Beatles’ lyric about getting by with a little help from your friends. And Facebook aside, Fifty has plenty. In addition to the pro bono massages from CSCM and healthcare from Integrative, Fifty and Kelly are the recipients of generosity in the form of food and goodies. A few local Chicago businesses pitch in with food discounts and donations, and one big supporter is Bark ‘N Bites Pet Boutique.
However, don’t underestimate Fifty’s can-do spirit – he has made an impression outside of his hometown: the Milwaukee-based raw food company Stella & Chewy’s sends gift packages. There’s even a fan way across the country in Brick, NJ. Andrew at Roger’s Pet Supplies & Feed on Cedarbridge Avenue also donates, even though Kelly and Andrew have never met.
It can be pretty expensive just keeping one non-special needs dog healthy. But Fifty more than “earns” his keep by raising awareness for differently-abled animals and helping other organizations raise money.
In short, Fifty, with all the perks that come from his fame, is at heart, a giver. Kelly says, “Fifty has had one bad day – the day he was shot. And even when he was in the hospital after his amputation, he was smiling.”
With all this collective therapy and care, you might find yourself thinking, “Yeah, it’s a dog’s life.” And you’d be right. But in the case of Fifty, it’s also this dog’s attitude.
To learn more about Fifty and Kelly Michael and the organizations that Fifty supports, check out the following links: