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Family rigs up way to keep dog going
Family who's fallen on hard times comes up with another solution when their aging pet has trouble walking

 Robert Luken, 17, (left) and his father, Brian, of Spotsylvania made their dog, Charlee, a walker from recycled and donated parts. Charlee has hip and back issues and her vet had suggested they consider putting her to sleep.
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Date published: 12/29/2012


The Lukens family of Partlow has had to say goodbye to many of the things that defined their lives.

But as they've adjusted to the fallout from financial problems, they've vowed they won't give up--no, make that can't give up--on their aged pet.

Charlee, a hound mix, has been a part of the family for 13 years. Her "parents," Brian and Vicky Lukens, adopted her from an Orange County rescue group that brought animals to PetSmart, and she's the only dog their 17-year-old son, Robert, has ever known.

Charlee had trouble putting weight on her back legs this summer--about the time that Brian lost his job and the family had to give up its spacious home on seven acres.

After several visits to the veterinarian, which were paid for, in part, by a former neighbor, the Lukens were told it might be time to let Charlee go.

The vet reminded them the dog is getting older--she's almost 14--and she has problems with disks and nerves in her back.

The Lukens couldn't listen. They'd lost so much in the past three years because of the downturn in the economy, they couldn't bear the thought of life without Charlee.

"She's still our baby," Brian said. "I couldn't see being here without her. As long as she's not in pain, and she can get up and do her business, I don't see any point in putting her down.

"I've never done that," he added.

When things got worse and Charlee couldn't go outside on her own, Brian came up with another solution.


The Lukenses had been feeling the impact of the recession for almost three years when Charlee, who used to run like the wind, first showed signs of problems.

Brian's hours had been cut at work, then his job with a printing company disappeared altogether in July. The company he had worked for printed brochures and fliers for nonprofits, and when their donations dried up, so did their printing needs.

Vicky worked two part-time jobs, as a school bus aide and a cashier at Target, to try to make ends meet.

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