When Lisa Chong went to Thailand in 2018, she didn’t think she’d be bringing home a dog. She is now the proud pet owner of a disabled pup known on social media as @frida_strong and co-founder of The Frida Project, a nonprofit supporting paralyzed pets.
It all began in December 2018 when Chong and her best friend, Trisha Wan, were waiting for their flight at Bangkok International Airport.
Suddenly, they noticed a thin German Shepherd on display in the pet shop nearby.
“We fell in love with her right away,” says Chong.
They soon learned that Frida’s front legs had been nearly severed by barbed wire, but her hind legs were still intact, so they decided to take her home with them.
At first, Chong and Austin weren’t aware of Frida’s severity of injuries. However, as the veterinarian cleaned her up, they found she had a fractured and dislocated back that damaged the nerves to her bladder and bowels.
Her rear legs were also paralyzed as a result of the injury. “She was just in this horrible place by herself.
No one was around her,” says Chong, who helped Frida make a full recovery in the weeks after she arrived in New York City.
Chong realized the best way to ensure Frida’s continued healing was to bring her back to the United States after caring for her in Thailand.
The main reason, according to Chong, is that bringing Frida home to America allows her to receive more physical therapy and treatment.
Even when Friday was still an infant, she wanted to see Friday walk again, so she founded The Frida Project, a 501(c)3 non-profit aimed at helping these dogs get the support they deserve.
Frida returned to America, where she stayed with Chong while the pair worked on strengthening the pup’s back legs through physical therapy, which included swimming and underwater treadmills as well as at-home exercises.
While the physical therapy helped Frida’s mobility, it was not enough to allow her to walk unassisted.
Then, after finding Derrick Campana, an orthopedic surgeon, Chong was thrilled to learn that there was a device available that might help Frida get back on her feet.
“We thought, ‘Let’s give it a try at the last resort.’ And he nailed it,” says Chong. “She took her first steps right away.”
Frida Project was started by Austin and Chong after Frida’s recovery to help paralyzed animals and educate others about stray dog rescues like Frida’s.
“It’s certainly a steep learning curve, but we’re getting there,” says Chong. “And it’s really exciting to see.”
If it weren’t for Frida, Chong believes her life would have taken a very different path. She was inspired to devote more time to working with disabled animals as a result of Frida’s presence in her family.
But Frida’s message doesn’t just apply to other creatures; her tenacity in the face of adversity speaks to people too.
Chong says that after her recovery, Frida does not have pain anymore. She lives a happy life. Without pain, Frida’s personality is now more like the funny girl she is. Chong says that without pain, “she’s a girl with a fighter spirit.”