Pet Tips 'n' Tales

Doug, Dad, and Gizmo
Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Jack has always stood behind his son Doug's ambitious lifestyle.  After a thirty-four-year absence, Doug and his little, fluffy buddy Gizmo have rolled back into Cottage Grove in the same set of wheels Doug drove when he left town--a motorized wheelchair.

In 1974 at the age of 16, Doug became a quadriplegic after a car accident.

Shocked at the tragedy, Cottage Grove's community rallied behind Doug and his family.  They showed exactly how big a small town's heart can be and held huge fund-raising events to help Doug's parents with the mounting hospital bills.

Doug endured five months of rehabilitation.  To spur Doug along, thirty high school friends hopped on a school bus to visit him.  The driver drove the excited teens for three hours up to Portland.  "They wanted to personally cheer up Doug. It was wonderful," recalls Doug's father, Jack.

Cottage Grove High School supported Doug so he could graduate with his classmates.  To invest in this bright student's life, they built ramps to accommodate his wheelchair.  Remember, this was in the 70's, which was years before building codes required handicap access.

Doug shares, "During this time, I learned that being confined to a wheelchair was not the end of the world, but the beginning of new opportunities."

In 1976 Doug graduated from high school and went off to college where he earned three degrees; computer programming, accounting, and business information systems.

Doug and his father recently moved into the wheelchair-accessible home once owned by the Swift family.  "The Swift's son, Scotty, was the poster child for Muscular Dystrophy one year, and Jerry Lewis came to Cottage Grove to meet them.  Sadly, Scotty's two brothers, Billy and Larry, also had Muscular Dystrophy and all have since passed," says Doug.
Doug did not move back to Cottage Grove alone; he brought his little three-year-old buddy, Gizmo.

Doug's Aunt Wanda first recognized the magical connection between Doug and Gizmo.  "Doug loved Gizmo and Gizmo was originally owned by another relative.  So, a bunch of us pooled our money and bought Gizmo for Doug's Christmas gift," said Aunt Wanda.
"Gizmo is a beautiful Shih Tzu!  He is multi-colored with brown, black, and white marble markings.  Plus he has a wild Mohawk-like white patch on the top of his head," laughs Doug.  "Gizmo loves his riding on my lap. He never wants down once he gets up."

"When Gizmo was a puppy, he looked like a little gremlin in the movie Gremlins," says Doug. Then he laughs and adds, "Gizmo grew into a body that looks just like a pint-sized St. Bernard.  He even has a small keg collar that he isn't too excited to wear, but it sure is cute on him!"

In Doug's previous home, Gizmo's favorite place to sleep was on a collection of stuffed animals propped against the fireplace.   Gizmo fit in so well with the toys that their guests did not see him sleeping in the middle of them.  Doug loved waiting for the funny moment when Gizmo blinked and startled their unsuspecting visitors.

Gizmo is people-crazy. He loves people so much that when Doug's father takes the one-minute walk to the mailbox, Gizmo goes squirrely with excitement when Jack walks back into the house.

Doug is excited to be back in town and reconnect with his high school friends and relatives.  "Since 1981, I've worked for large software companies doing technical support as a troubleshooter. I now work on my friends' and family's computers fixing their software, removing viruses, and repairing them to keep myself busy."

Doug is in need of a van that is wheelchair accessible. If you know of one or want to reconnect with Doug and meet his buddy Gizmo, contact them on Facebook or

Editors Note:  When I heard about the Swift family, I asked in the community about them and learned they also have a daughter, Debbie, who works in town! So, excitedly, I phoned her and discovered it is a small world after all. Debbie has been my next door neighbor for nine years!

Debbie recalls, "I was thirteen years old when Jerry Lewis and my youngest brother, Scotty, rode in the Bohemia Mining Day Parade.  It was so much fun!  Thousands of folks arrived in town to see Jerry.  Afterward, he came to our home for lunch. Jerry wanted fried chicken, so Mum made him some.  When we were in our backyard, our neighbors were hanging over the fence to see him. Jerry waved and responded in his distinctive voice to each of them, "Hi neighbor."

"When we took Jerry back to the airport, he insisted on driving. Let me tell you, his body guards were not too excited about that!  As we passed one car, I read the lips of the lady driving and her mouth formed, "Oh, my gosh! Jerry Lewis!" laughs Debbie. "I hope that Doug enjoys his new home with his little celebrity Gizmo."
Debbie's two German Shepherds are next week's Tips 'n' Tales pet celebrities.  

Love is precious no matter where you find it; be it in a pet, family, or friends.  Doug proves the old adage, "There is no place like home."

Mary Ellen and Debbie's neighbor, Linda, includes Tips 'n' Tales articles in every holiday, birthday, and get-well card. "The stories uplift my friends and relatives across the USA, Canada, and Guatemala," says Linda.
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