Josh the Special Needs Goldendoodle Is the Inspirational Dog the World Needs Now
Josh the goldendoodle lives life big. He's joyful, rambunctious, and reminds us all that we should be loud and proud about whatever we've got goin' on. The 5-year-old pup is also a special needs dog, who inspired his dog mom, Kimberly Elliot, to start the Be Like Josh Foundation. His nearly 300k followers on Instagram know him as Josh the Doodle, but this happy, fluffy pooch is more than just a social media influencer—he's an inspiration to everyone he meets IRL and online.
An unmistakably curly-coated pup, Josh enjoys hanging out with his humans and fellow animal friends. He also has a neurological condition known as cerebellar hypoplasia, which means he was born with an underdeveloped cerebellum. Elliot (who is also Josh's self-described "service human") explains it as his brain being able to understand what's happening, while his body struggles to execute movements.
To get around, Josh uses a specially made set of doggie wheels to romp in the yard, a harness that Elliot uses to help him get up, and a doggie backpack where he snuggles in for hikes on his human's back. He goes camping, hangs out at the beach, and enjoys walks from the comfort of a cart his humans pull so that he can experience the world just like any other dog.
Despite his physical limitations, Elliot tells Daily Paws that Josh is an easy, agreeable pooch who is up for anything and loves adventures and the outdoors. "He doesn't seem to be fazed by his physical challenges. He's just an amazing, vibrant soul," she says.
Josh first came into Elliot's life as a puppy, when she'd been perusing animal rescue sites and noticed a photo of a red goldendoodle puppy alongside an explanation saying the pup needed a foster home who could host a special needs animal. Elliot and her husband were up to the task, and agreed to foster Josh until he could find a forever home that could meet his needs. But once Josh arrived at their home as a foster, unable to walk and barely able to get up, Elliot says he was still excited to be there despite his physical limitations. It would be a foster fail that would change all of their lives in incredible ways.
"We knew that including Josh in our lives was only going to be a challenge if we couldn't think outside of the box," Elliot says about their first few days together. "We decided, 'We can totally do this. Josh can stay forever.'"
Creating a Better, More Inclusive World for All
After Josh entered their lives, Elliot transformed into a major advocate for dogs with neurological disabilities. She launched the Be Like Josh foundation as a way to raise awareness for dogs with special needs. And with Josh by her side as an ambassador, she is able to reach thousands of people through their popular social media posts and community events. This dynamic duo and the other animals in her care are on a mission to promote inclusivity for all, and push back against ableism in all forms.
The purpose of the Be Like Josh organization is two-fold: They rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home dogs who are living with neurological disabilities. If that weren't enough, Elliot and her team also operate a community outreach arm that teaches love and acceptance for all animals and people, oftentimes holding events at schools where Josh himself is the star of the show—there to play, snuggle, and inspire kids to be kind and embrace all people and animals regardless of their differences.
While Elliot and Josh are excellent advocates for dogs with disabilities, this team is also a fantastic reminder that we all have a thing or two to learn from our canine companions. "[Be Like Josh means] be who you are, be all that you are, and live out loud. It's the idea that you don't have to be perfect or typical, you don't have to explain yourself. You can just exist in the world and be proud of what you've got going on."
Despite his physical limitations, Josh still loves others unconditionally—the way all dogs do. Elliot says this daily dose of limitless love is part of what makes the two of them such a great team.
"I'm better with Josh ... because he has revealed so much to me. He has completely unraveled every self-limiting belief I've ever had," Elliot says. "I have so much gratitude for this journey and for him."