A lady, her dog, and a Radio Flyer

Written By: David H. Braunstein

Driving down the streets in Pelham Manor these days, one might happen to see a rather unusual sight. Unusual, if your definition of unusual is the sight of a well dressed, middle aged woman pulling a little red wagon down the sidewalk of Highbrook Ave. “It’s a real Radio Flyer,” says Ingrid McNulty, when asked about  the little red wagon she’s pulling.

Well, even though it’s unusual to see a lady pulling a Radio Flyer down the streets of Pelham, is it really newsworthy?  The answer is yes, if you take a closer look to see exactly what cargo Ingrid is hauling in that little red wagon. Ingrid is giving a ride to  her 14 year old, 55 pound dog, Chloe. Chloe is a Black Lab, Chow, Bassett Hound, Corgi mix. “Quite an unusual combination, ” says Ingrid, adding, “she is a very unique dog, with a difficult past. Chloe is a rescue dog. She was severely abused, abandoned, and rescued from a highway median strip in Vermont.” She has, until very recently, been leading a very happy life in Westchester county.

When asked where she found an original Radio Flyer Ingrid responds, “It’s the same wagon I used to pull my two year old son in when he was a little boy-eighteen years ago. The wagon has just been sitting in our garage ever since.”

That well used and much loved little red wagon has been repurposed and outfitted with a small mattress and blanket for the ‘princess’  as Ingrid calls Chloe. Everything to make her beloved dog comfortable on their daily runs around Pelham.

“Why do I do this you ask? Every day, curious people stop and ask me that very same question when they see me on the street.”  These friendly inquires  come from  a surprising and unexpected  variety of pasersby – workmen in their trucks on their way to jobs, baby sitters pushing strollers, women in cars, other dog walkers, even Jehovah’s Witnesses.  

“I usually tell these people that Chloe has a bad paw and can’t walk very well. I take her out in the wagon so she can get some fresh air, feel the sun on her face and  change the scenery so that she’s not in the house all day.  I also tell them that Chloe has bone cancer in her right front elbow and is unable to use that leg. It is very painful for her and she lets out a yelp if I mistakenly touch it, even if lightly.”

What they don’t know is Chloe’s nights are often  filled with restlessness, panting, and anxiety. “I spend many nights sitting up with her, talking to her, rubbing her back trying to calm her down,” says Ingrid, “so we can both go back to sleep.  Often I’ll carry her outside at three or four in the morning just to let her sit in the cool grass.”

“Only a few  months ago Chloe and I used to take long walks, twice a day. Chloe has many friends in the neighborhood-other dogs and cats who know her.  She also had her favorite go-to spots. Being cooped up in the house all day seemed to make her depressed. She missed all her familiar outdoor smells, all those scents other dogs leave behind on trees and posts and fire hydrants-the smells that dogs like so much. So, I figured that if Chloe couldn’t get to those spots on her own, I would take her to them.”

“Now, twice a day, I gently pick Chloe up, I carry her out to the wagon, place her on her blanket and we start on our usual route. When we get to  a spot that I know she likes, I lift her out of the wagon and place her gently on the grass. I let her enjoy the warm sun on her old bones. She rolls in the leaves, rubs her back on the grass, and then I load her back into the wagon to go to the next place. Our walks usually last an hour or so. Chloe will sit in the grass, roll in leaves, smell the secnts around her and when she musters her strength, she gets up on her three good legs and does her business.”

“My back is always aching and my knees are are constantly sore,” says Ingrid. “Some people have said I’m being cruel to her. The most offensive comment I’ve heard is she’s only a dog. I have no patience for insensitive people like that. They are obviously not pet people. They don’t get it and unfortunately never will.”

“On the other hand, pet owners who pull over and stop for a closer look when they see such a cute dog lying in a wagon say, ‘ I would do the very same thing,’” says Ingrid. “Pet parents don’t even need to ask why I do this. We don’t say a word to each other. We just exchange smiles, perhaps a tear, and you know they know.”

‘Can I take a picture of you to send to my sister to show her I’m not the only one who would do this?’ asked one woman.

“Chloe sees a lot of friends on our walks-Jack the beagle,  Pippa the mutt, a friendly husky and several curious cats. When they come up to the wagon to exchange sniffs and say hello, Chloe perks up. She’s happy. Well aren’t you happy when friends come by for a visit?” says McNulty. “They love Chloe and she loves them. She always identifies with the mutts the most.”

“It’s not just Chloe enjoying it out here. I also missed our long walks together and I was getting depressed-not seeing the spring flowers, blooming trees, the moon. I missed smelling my favorite scents-the freshly cut grass, the flowers and the sweet morning air. I mised my exercize, and my quiet time alone with Chloe.  Now, thanks to the Radio Flyer, neither of us has to miss any of that any longer.”

“I’m so thankful this was such a snow free winter,” said Ingrid. “That really saved my life.  There were a few trips down Heywood Road, however, where I was slipping and sliding, and thought we’ll never make it home in one piece. Snowy days were particularly difficult for Chloe as well. Besides slipping on the ice, the snow prevented her from getting to her scents. It was very frustrating for her when she was sniffing for a favorite spot but couldn’t fine it because it was burried under the ice and snow. That’s something most people wouldn’t think about unless they were used to walking dogs.”

Chloe’s long term prognosis isn’t very good. After all, she is an old lady-a very senior citizen – and and her bone cancer has been very aggressive. That was until Ingrid found Dr. Jiu Jia Wen of Westhampton. “Every few weeks,  I’ll load up Chloe and her red wagon in the back of my SUV,” Ingrid says, “and head out to Westhampton to Dr. Wen.”

Dr. Wen trained in Chinese Herbal Medicine. He placed Chloe on herbal therapy, which is giving her relief for now, taking away some of the pain and some of the inflammation. In fact, at our checkup last Sunday, Dr. Wen said her tumor had actually shrunk. Dr. Wen has given Chloe one more happy summer out on the East End. Dr. Wen has been a savior to so many animals that patients come to Hampton Veterinary Hospital from all over the tri-state area for his herbal treatments.

“I’m hoping Chloe and I will be wheeling down the streets of Remsenberg and Southampton this summer, with her red Radio Flyer. But I know the time is coming when my son’s little red wagon won’t roll down Heywood Road any more and once again it will be parked in the back of our garage,” Ingrid says. “Chloe and I will both know when that time has come. I know I will be so very sad, for a very long time, but I will find comfort in  memories of  our walks together with all the nice people, and four legged friends, we met along the way.”

“It’s  the little things in life that you do for someone that often have the biggest impact,” says Ingrid, a very spiritual person. “A nice walk, some fresh air, and some wonderful scents might seem like a little thing to some people, but they are a very big thing for Chloe”.

If you believe as Mahatma Gandhi did, that the greatness of a society can be judged by the way it treats its animals,  you must also believe that Ingrid McNulty is  high society.