How Henry Friedman’s Helped a Disabled Dog Get the Literal Mercedes-Benz of Wheelchairs · The Wildest

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How Bunny the Dog Got the Literal Mercedes-Benz of Wheelchairs

Rescuer Henry Friedman helped a disabled dog go from abandoned on the street to rocking a designer whip.

by Sean Zucker
September 14, 2023
Henry Friedman and Bunny’s new/custom wheelchair from Mercedes Benz.
Courtesy of @keepingfinnand & @mercedesbenzvansusa

For the last half-decade, Henry Friedman has been living on the road spending much of his time saving abandoned dogs. Accompanied by his fiancée, Sydney Ferbrache, and pup, Finn, along with support from organizations like The Animal Pad, Friedman travels the world rescuing neglected animals and helping them find their forever homes. 

One of his latest success stories is of a small two-legged Mexican street dog named Bunny. Friedman and his team found her after she had been hit by a car and was essentially left to die, an outcome he remained nervous about through many of their first few hours together. But despite these uncertainties, Friedman, with help from The Animal Pad, Los Adoptables, and countless donors, was able to get Bunny the immediate medical care she needed. This included surgery to remove her two back legs, which were suffering from irreparable physical trauma. 

While Bunny has yet to be adopted, she’s now living comfortably in California — with one major travel upgrade. After it became clear that Bunny was going to be okay, The Animal Pad posted a video sharing her story on their Instagram. When one commenter suggested that she deserved the “Mercedes-Benz of wheelchairs” to help her get around, Friedman hatched a plan. He reached out to the luxury car brand in hopes of making this concept a reality and Mercedes gladly sponsored the tool’s design. Today, Bunny can be seen running around San Diego in style and class. Friedman spoke with The Wildest about Bunny’s journey, Mercedes-Benz’s generosity, and the uniquely rewarding experience of caring for a dog with special needs.

When you and your team initially found Bunny, you weren’t sure she’d even make it through the night. Today, she’s thriving with a new wheelchair, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. What was that journey like to witness?  

Telling Bunny’s story has been a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, more than most people even know. It was much more than surviving the first night; Bunny was fighting the odds for a while. Her bloodwork was awful, which made all of her surgeries and treatments significantly more risky. And then there was the support Bunny received from the #teamfinn and rescue community. We raised over $35K in donations.

As a rescuer, our goal is always to deliver happy endings, but when there are thousands of people invested and watching, it adds a ton of pressure to deliver — not just for Bunny, but for the audience as well. With some luck, and a ton of fight, Bunny kept beating the odds, and we got the happy ending we were all hoping for. But her story isn’t over just yet.

How did Mercedes eventually get involved?

The team at Mercedes-Benz Vans USA has always been incredibly supportive of the rescue work that I’ve done over the years. They love dogs, and they love that I do all of my rescue work from my Sprinter van.

So, when someone left a comment saying that Bunny deserved the “Mercedes-Benz of wheelchairs,” my mind immediately jumped to “that’s an epic idea, let’s pitch that to the Mercedes team and see if we can actually make this happen.” Of course, they loved the idea and agreed to sponsor her wheelchair. Like I said, previously, as a rescuer, we always want to deliver happy endings, but having the support and involvement of such a global and iconic brand like Mercedes Benz was the cherry on top.

What was the process of designing a custom wheelchair for Bunny like? 

The wheelchair was built by a small business in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, called Eddie’s Wheels. They’ve been building custom dog carts for over 20 years and are known in the dog and rescue world for their excellent design and quality. Truly, the Mercedes-Benz of dog wheelchairs.

To build it custom for Bunny’s special needs, we had to provide them with a long list of her measurements, pictures, and an outline of Bunny’s special needs. Once Eddie’s Wheels had all of Bunny’s information, it took them three to four weeks to build and complete the wheelchair. They did an incredible job and Bunny couldn’t be happier. Once the chair was delivered, we brought the wheelchair to a local van upfitter in San Diego, called SoCal Customs, to help us apply those fancy Mercedes hubcaps to the wheels. 

Bunny is proof that dogs with special needs aren’t only deserving of, but more than capable of having fulfilling lives. Why else should people not be deterred by dogs with disabilities when they’re considering adoption?

A special needs dog likely requires some extra work, but over time, that becomes just a detail of life. Like anything, you get used to it, and it becomes normal to you. So, as long as your lifestyle allows for it, I wouldn’t let the extra work deter you from adopting a special needs dog. And there’s so much upside. A special needs dog will give you and everyone around them a daily dose of inspiration. Spend a day walking around with Bunny, and you will see — she makes everyone smile.

That being said, what unique challenges do dogs in similar situations to Bunny face in shelters and during the adoption process overall?

When most people decide to adopt a dog, they start with some image in their head of what that is going to look like. That image rarely includes a special needs dog, so they are constantly overlooked. They can be viewed as broken and undesirable, which is simply not the case. For that reason, it’s incredibly important to advocate for special needs dogs and give them the extra exposure they might need to find the right person for them. Every dog has someone.

In addition to the Mercedes-Benz wheelchair, you recently got Bunny aLittle Chonk bag to carry her around in. Are there any other products or tools that you’d recommend for people considering adopting dogs in a similar situation?

The Little Chonk bag is definitely a fun one because people see “bag dogs” all over social media and love them. Bunny is the perfect bag dog. She slides right in. It means you can take her anywhere and for longer. Other good products are a drag bag; this just protects her bottom half from rubbing too much on the ground when she’s not in her wheelchair. Dog diapers work for this as well. Enrichment toys like a sniffy-mat, puzzle toys, or a stuffed Kong can provide additional stimulation for special needs dogs.

Bunny is clearly so much more than her physical ailments. What’s her personality like? 

She’s extremely friendly, social, loves people and dogs, loves to come with, takes nothing for granted, highly food motivated, and she also has a sassy side which we love to see.

How has her energy and spirit changed since you first rescued her?

When we found Bunny, it was about as bad as it could get. She was a shell of a dog, desperate. Not only has she healed, but she’s also now a dog in the United States, which is the best place on earth to be a dog. Americans are obsessed with dogs. Everywhere she goes, people smile at her. So I’m sure she’s never been happier. She loves life, she loves people, she loves dogs, she loves going out, she loves all of the new smells, etc. From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.

Anything else people should take away from Bunny’s story?

First off, Bunny wouldn’t be alive without the incredible people at The Animal Pad, Los Adoptables, and the thousands of people from the #teamfinn rescue community that donated to support Bunny’s journey. It’s worth appreciating the impact her story has had for people living with disabilities as well.

For that reason, dogs can be great ambassadors and messengers for complicated or uncomfortable topics. This story is also an example of a global and iconic brand lending its name and power to elevate a cause in an authentic and creative way. Bunny’s story wouldn’t have blown up the way it did without the support and collaboration of Mercedes-Benz. So, I hope this story is able to inspire and encourage more support from other large brands.

Most importantly, where can people go to adopt Bunny?

Bunny is available for adoption with The Animal Pad!

Note: You can DM Henry here to inquire about adopting Bunny.

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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