Many hearts are breaking right now. Herc was so very special to us and I’ll always remember his trips with Gina and I for his aqua therapy with our Board member, Lori Jobak, as well as our trips to various groups to show him off. He absolutely wowed the gang at the Paul Mitchell School as he did at so many of our fundraisers. Hercules could always be counted on to steal the show. Those of us who loved Herc are so very thankful for all that Dr. Tari Kern and her husband, Chris, did for our sweet boy as well as for 4 Paws 1 Heart. He was our Canine Mascot over these many years and now he is with our Feline Mascot,Chance. Always in our hearts. – Diana, Gina, and the 4paws1heart Board.

4paws1heart.org/donations P.O. Box 84, St. Clair Shores, MI. 48080

Hercules 1/1/2012-5/12/2024

P.S. Please follow the journeys of both of our mascots on our website.


What do you say when a part of your heart leaves? I suppose you share that special soul with the world.

Hercules came into my life as a broken puppy with big dreams. He had a rough beginning, suffering numerous injuries in his original home. A concerned citizen reported a puppy, who couldn’t walk to Animal Control. His removal from that situation started a domino effect, allowing him to literally touch hundreds of lives. He was a special, sweet boy, who was loved by so many before I ever met him.

His first love was Gina, who received him the day Animal Control freed him. She cared for him selflessly through 4 Paws 1 Heart, a wonderful rescue group (newly formed at the time) which provides medical care for stray and abandoned animals in need. His new story began there and he truly knew love for the first time. There were fundraisers to cover his anticipated medical expenses and all who met him fell in love with his spirit. Newspaper articles and news stories followed. Visits to specialists were set up with the hopes of repairing his poorly aligned fractured limbs. Court dates were attended to seek justice for the wrong done to him. So many people showered him with love and Hercules never forgot it. His reunions with Gina were amazing and joyous, regardless of the duration of time between the visits.

Hercules entered my life after two people shared his newspaper article with me. He needed rehabilitation care and Pawsitive Steps was in its infancy. The specialists had determined that it was too late for surgery to help our little hero and his rear legs would remain as they were. There was talk of him needing a wheelchair, but he proved everyone wrong. Herc was supposed to be my rehab foster puppy. However, I failed as a foster and he became my forever rehab guide. I have stated that a cat sent me to vet school and a dog sent me to rehab, but Hercules was rehab and he taught me so much over the years.

This little puppy became one of my greatest teachers, with so many lessons to share. How to strengthen the tissues that could be healed without injuring the damaged areas further. How to occupy the puppy brain while resting the body. How to find the joy in little victories. How to modify exercises to accommodate his handicaps. How to make rehabilitation fun and functional. How new treatment modalities might be useful in different situations. How controlled play can teach the brain and heal the body. How to identify challenges and overcome them. How little improvements can slowly change the world. How to exceed expectations and thrive despite physical limitations.

Hercules taught others too. He became the CEO (Canine Executive Officer) at Pawsitive Steps, going to work regularly. He was the first to try the new underwater treadmill before the clinic officially opened. He tried out all the new rehab equipment. He was the 5th dog to receive an orthotic device at the practice. His custom orthosis helped correct his limb length discrepancy, leveling his pelvis and spine. He could walk more comfortably for longer distances and run faster with it. He loved to show off his fancy shoe while out on walks, making ordinary moments educational opportunities. He showed kids that being different was cool. He demonstrated therapeutic exercises for new team members, veterinary students, guests at clinic open houses, and even conference attendees when we had a booth in the exhibit hall. His rehab journey has been shared in state and national veterinary presentations, showcasing the benefits of proactive preventative rehab care over time.

The lessons changed as we aged together. Which frequency of care worked best for the activities that took place to make the muscles sore. What type of massage felt best on rainy days wasn’t necessarily the same as after a summer walk. As his vision changed and hearing failed, we learned how best to communicate and keep him engaged. Mental engagement helped soothe the feeling of being trapped inside his head when those senses dimmed. Most importantly, that regardless of age, the puppy was still inside there and zoomies were still possible!

With all that stated, Hercules was not perfect, but he was always perfectly himself!

He counter-surfed because he could! The first time it happened, my husband recalls that Dr. Kern was very proud of his skills because rehab worked, while Mom was very disappointed with his decision. Hercules found many activities in life that were self-rewarding over the years, much to my dismay!

Hercules didn’t share well with others. Everything was about the Herc! If someone else was getting attention, he would sneak in to steal a bit more than his fair share. His favorite game was keep-away because playing fetch was beneath him. If the toy squeaked in both directions (on the squish and the expansion phase), it needed to be repeated constantly.

Herc knew how to play the crowd. He recognized the sound of a camera shutter and posed well. He could charm food from strangers in the most unusual places. His fan club was broad, including all ages. He had trading cards to share at events, schools, and his numerous walks in town. Kids collected them, after he licked their faces clean.

He never believed in boundaries. Why limit what you could do and where you could go?? Hercules had an awful “come” command. Everything else apparently was more interesting than returning to a cue. It took losing him to fully understand why. He was the world’s dog and he was really only on loan to me.

Hercules left us suddenly, but didn’t suffer. Cancer silently grew in his heart until he quickly was not himself. The diagnosis took us by surprise, leaving no time for long good-byes. Herc never would have wanted it to be any other way.

Hercules, I miss you so much already. My teacher, my friend, my heart.

Hercules has returned to the Universe, free of all the issues that made him the World’s dog. Run free sweet boy. We will meet again.

– Forever loved by Dr. Kern/Mom and Dad

You are welcome to see Hercules Facebook Photo Album here:


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