One day when I went to the pet supply store to get dog food, I took Rugby with me. It was a rainy day and there were very few people in the store. As always, Rugby was scoping out everything at his eye level. I was focused on my errand and we were walking in that direction when I heard people talking.
I heard a child say, “Mommy look at that doggie in the wheelchair.” Then I heard a woman’s voice saying, “Don’t go near him. There is something wrong with him. Let’s just go the other way. No. You can’t pet him. Something is wrong with him.” This was not the first time something like this happened.
It was almost like Rugby was telling himself what to do, “If they can’t come to me, I’ll go to them.”
At that moment, I felt Rugby pulling me down the aisle and around the corner to the next aisle where the children and their mother were. I saw the mother put her hands on her children’s shoulders and hold them. Rugby pulled me right over to them and then barked. It wasn’t a loud bark. It was more like a “woof.”
The little girl looked at her mother and asked her, “Mommy, can’t we pet him please?” I don’t know if the mother was embarrassed or just confused but she still held their shoulders and said nothing. “Mommy, can we?”
I decided that I needed to put my two cents in so I said, “It’s okay. They can pet him. They won’t catch anything.” She gave me a questioning look and I told her that I knew that she was concerned and that Rugby wouldn’t hurt her children in any way, quite the contrary.
She released her hold on the children as if to tell them that they could pet him. I explained that Rugby had been in an accident and that he needed the wheelchair because of his paralysis.
As the children and Rugby interacted happily, she and I talked. When we were ready to say good bye, she told her children something that I will never forget.
What a lesson those children learned on that day. What lessons are you teaching your children?
Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli was born with Arthrogryposis (multiplex congenita) which is a rare disorder that causes limited joint movement and poor muscle growth. In addition, Luca was diagnosed with scoliosis at eight years of age and had a 70˚ spine curvature at thirteen. He had surgery that involved fusing eight vertebrae and the insertion of a titanium rod. He has had sixteen surgeries.
This young man grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and never has allowed his disability to slow him down. He has enjoyed participating in swimming, diving, skiing, horseback riding, sailing and skateboarding.
When Luca was fifteen, he became interested in breakdancing. Because of his disability, Luca learned breakdancing moves and modified them to create his own unique style. Luca has powerful upper body strength and he utilizes that strength along with his crutches to do his breakdancing.
In 2007, Lazylegz Patuelli created ILL-Abilities™, which is an international crew that is made up of the world’s best “ill-abled” dancers from Canada, USA, Chile and Holland. The goal of this amazing team is to spread the message that being creative, positive, and able to adapt to adversity opens many possibilities. Their words of wisdom resonate with all who see them and hear their message. “No Excuses, No Limits.”