NORTH VERNON, Ind. — A puppy suffering from a condition that worsens his back legs finally received the gift of mobility last week.

At not even a year old, Phoenix has faced an uphill battle since birth. The German Shepherd has spina bifida, a birth defect involving one or more of a dog’s vertebrae that can affect its ability to walk.

When Phoenix moved in with his foster parents Mark Smith and Sandy Moore six weeks ago, the family worked tirelessly to get him a wheelchair. The North Vernon couple has nearly a dozen dogs, and while they knew they were unable to keep Phoenix, the family and their friends were dedicated to helping him.

"I emailed every rescue that had a wheelchair with a dog," Kathleen Herrin, a family friend and Phoenix's honorary "foster aunt," said.

Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to owners who need wheelchairs for their dogs, answered the call, creating a custom-made set of wheels for Phoenix to play with.

"He's got a lot of determination to hang in there and to live," Smith said. "He's got energy and spunk and personality."

Phoenix the dog gets his wheelchair
Courtney Hayden, WHAS11

As Phoenix continues to learn how to use his new wheels, Smith and Moore are hoping to find Phoenix a permanent home — one that might let him help people with disabilities similar to his.

"We would love to see him go to a rescue or be a service dog and maybe visit hospitals," Sandy Moore, Phoenix's foster mom, said. "We think he could show kids with disabilities that you can have a wheelchair and still play."

Moore said the family is also hoping to give back to similar dogs, raising money for more dog wheelchairs for Gunnar's Wheels Foundations. You can check out the fundraiser here.

If you're interested in adopting Phoenix, you can call his foster parents at 812-528-9711. To donate to Gunnar's Wheels Foundation, visit their Facebook page.

►Contact reporter Sara Wagner at Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Sara) and Facebook.