Jason Parker has shipped more than 100 wheelchairs to animals in need across the country — all for free, through his nonprofit, Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation.
Each one has been given to a dog — or sometimes a cat, or goat — who needed the chair to walk. Often, the chairs have gone to shelter and rescue pets who might have otherwise been euthanized.
“You just can’t give up on them,” Parker, 47, told TODAY. “The animal isn’t going to give up on you. I think it’s up to us to not give up on the animals.”
The inspiration for this generosity is Parker’s own dog Gunnar.
Gunnar was hit by a truck in 2014, not far from their home in Osseo, Wisconsin. He had two broken vertebrae and 50-50 odds of recovering mobility.
Parker estimates he and his wife Stephanie spent about $7,000 on surgeries, hydrotherapy and more, but Gunnar’s hind legs still didn’t work. In the end, Parker was “tapped out” and didn’t have another $600 to buy his dog the wheelchair he would need to walk again.
Luckily, Parker’s friends came to the rescue — they pitched in to pay for the equipment.
“I said to my wife, one of these days we’re going to pay it forward,” Parker said.
Parker, a volunteer firefighter and a car-parts salesperson, finally got that chance last summer, when he learned about a shelter dog named Hope, who had been found under a house in Houston after getting struck by a car. While veterinarians at a shelter were able to save her, her back legs didn’t work. She needed a wheelchair.
Parker came across a Facebook post about Hope and thought, “Let me see what I can do,” he said.