Adopted Dog Helps Teenage Gymnast Spring Back to Health

Parker’s energetic puppy presence gives his family a fresh look at life.

Lindsey + Parker

When a concussion brings Lindsey’s gymnastic life to a standstill, an adopted puppy named Parker helps her find her footing — and inspires her and her family to help other pets and people.

"When Parker joined our family, his energetic presence brought an elation that had been missing in my life. Parker's unconditional love lifted me out of misery. He leaned on me when he sensed sorrow and encouraged me with a gentle paw and chin rest."

The thumping sound is what I remember. My body was lying limp on the ground. My eyes opened, but I could only see hazy blackness. Excruciating pain seared through my head and down my neck. I willed myself to move, but my limbs remained immobile. Muffled voices and scuffling surrounded me. Despite 10 years of gymnastic training on the uneven bars, I lost my grip in one momentous swing. My body flew through the air like a ragdoll and my head crashed against an iron floor support.

I was whisked to the emergency room for a CT scan. My brain struggled to process a dizzying array of sounds. A doctor whispered to my tearful mother. I was 13, and my dreams of being an elite gymnast were shattered. That day marked my spiral into depression. I felt empty. I became quiet and withdrawn. Day after day, my insides were numb and lifeless.

“No, no, no!” my mother laughed. “No dogs!” My sister and I had always wanted a furry companion, but the answer was always an emphatic “No!” I smile that a moment of parental weakness brought us to Pets In Need: I had fallen into a deep depression after my concussion, and my parents were looking for a distraction for me. My mother and I were having lunch one spring day when we spotted an animal shelter, and my feet were instantly glued in front of a window with a scrawny puppy clamoring at the glass. That puppy was Parker.

My heart felt like it had been pumped with happiness because of the skinny pup. My mother had to pry me off the window to go home. That unplanned visit to Pets In Need ignited a firestorm in me, and I started an enthusiastic campaign to make Parker MY dog. I studied him on his webcam and absorbed his every move. I used every persuasive tactic. The moment my parents finally relented was golden.

When Parker joined our family, his energetic presence brought an elation that had been missing in my life. Parker’s unconditional love lifted me out of misery. He leaned on me when he sensed sorrow and encouraged me with a gentle paw and chin rest.

When I finally returned to gymnastics, I felt sweet gratitude for my faithful friend. Parker’s presence in our home seemed to make our household a better place. We became a foster family and animal activists. During the COVID-19 pandemic, my sister and I started our Mask for Causes charity. Our first project was to fundraise for and donate 1,000 face masks to protect the wonderful volunteers and staff that support Pets In Need.

They say that adopting a dog saves two lives — the dog you adopt, and the one that is saved by the spot they freed up in the shelter. Parker’s adoption saved three lives, including my own, and hopefully protected 1,000 more during the pandemic.

Each year, Petco Love Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Lindsey won Pets In Need in Redwood City, California a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.