Niko the Puppy Leads Woman to a New Purpose

In trying to accommodate Niko’s needs, Michelle discovered her purpose: building wheelchair-accessible ramps for people and pets alike.

Michelle + Niko

When Michelle opened her home to a blind dog, she never imagined that the dog would give her a new direction in life, and a sense of ambition and purpose.

"One day, I was telling a neighbor about the challenge of convincing Niko to walk down the back stairs. In quick response, my neighbor said, “Build him a ramp!” I've never built a ramp! It was an idea I took to heart."

At 48 years of age, all my children had left the nest. The stark realization came that the house was void of children’s laughter, birthday parties, and backyard BBQs. I needed to find a new purpose in life, somehow make a difference, and leave a mark that matters. Fortunately, I found that purpose in the most imperfect best dog ever: Niko!

Niko was an 8-month-old puppy stricken with blindness and seizures when I adopted him from the local rescue, Pawsitive Tails. He needed an owner who could really spend a lot of time with him learning his home, the yard, and all the specifics of the house. Learning how to live in a world of darkness was a part of what I accepted as his adopter. I knew my future was going to be his future so I wanted to make his life the best it could be. Slowly but surely, Niko gave me a new reason to get up in the morning.

My focus began to change to outward facing rather than introspective. How could I improve Niko’s life? I realized early on I needed to increase his physical activity. Regardless of time, patience, or coaxing, Niko couldn’t get over his fear of walking down the back steps into the yard. His freedom to feel the grass under his paws and to run zoomies were literally 10 feet away, but he just couldn’t manage. After several months, no amount of persuasion of any kind would convince him to take more than two steps before he would surrender to fear.

One day, I was telling a neighbor about the challenge of convincing Niko to walk down the back stairs. In quick response, my neighbor said, “Build him a ramp!” I’ve never built a ramp! It was an idea I took to heart. Soon I was online researching and learning how to build a ramp that could accommodate a wheelchair. I purchased lumber, deck screws, support brackets, etc. Day in and day out I continued my project, even in the rain. I knew if I could conquer ramp building, Niko could conquer his fear. And he did!

Weeks after completing the ramp I was visiting my 70-year-old neighbor who has a disability. I told her I had built Niko a ramp. When she saw pictures she asked, “Could you build something like that for me?” So I built a platform/ramp in her garage so she could gain access to her mobility vehicle. 

My new purpose? Building disability ramps for dogs and people. Without Niko, none of this would have ever happened. With my new goal and added income, I will leave a mark and make a difference inspired by the most imperfect best dog ever!

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share 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 Michelle won Pawsitive Tails Dog Rescue in Olathe, Kansas a 2021 Love Stories award.