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ALBANY, Minn. - Technically the dog making its way down Forest Avenue is pure German Shorthaired Pointer. But you're forgiven if you conclude a bit of Walmart greeter slipped into River too.

River is Albany's best known canine.

Up more driveways than a meter reader, River never misses an opportunity to interact with humans while out on his frequent walks with Herby and Carol Mader.

"A lot of friends," says Leon Stueve after River stopped for the first two visits on a recent day. "He's a friendly dog."

River is a four-legged friend – who also happens to have been dealt a bad hand.

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River was out for a walk with Carol, when two larger unleashed dogs pounced. "I wasn't really scared or anything, until they started attacking," said Carol.

The dogs bit deeply, several times, into River's back, possibly exacerbating an earlier injury suffered when River was hit by an ATV.

"He has no use of the back legs at all," says Herby.

The dog known around Albany for his frequent walks now does so on two front legs and two back wheels.

"He's trying to look for somebody who's outside right now," explains Carol as River walks, his head turning from side to side surveying lawns and driveways.

The Maders' daughter Molly Swanson first brought River home. She had him trained as a pheasant hunting dog. He was good at it.

The hunting ended the day River was injured.

"Probably a lot of dogs would give up, you know, where he's not," say Herby.

Turns out River was just transitioning to his new passion: brightening the days of everyone he encounters.

"River touches everybody's heart," says LuAnn Jopp after meeting up with River on a downtown sidewalk. "Everybody has to come by and pet the dog."

River's veterinarian Dr. Wendy Womack calls River "a regular icon in Albany."

She says River's overall health is good for an 11-year-old dog and gives the Maders credit for their caring approach to his injuries. "They're very devoted," she says, noting many pet owners would opt to put a dog like River down.

Instead the Maders took over most of River's care. Since they are retired, they felt they had the time to do it – a challenge for their daughter who lives in the Twin Cities and works fulltime as a nurse.

Among the adaptations they've made to accommodate River: a ramp built on their deck allowing River access to their home's back door.

"We feel like we were blessed to be able to take care of him," says Carol.

Carol and Herby take River on his long walks through Albany four to five times per day.

His tires are worn out. Herby has rotated them four times in the past year. "We did order another set," says Carol.

But the one thing River never seems to wear out: his welcome.

"He knows when I'm coming, he comes. I always see him every day, twice a day, three times." says Ron Koczur, who greets River from his wheel chair. Ron lost a leg to diabetes.

"Even though he's lost of a couple limbs he's, still happy and proud," smiles Ron.

Carol says River seems more concerned about the people around him since his injury, "and he pulls out the people, I think, that are hurting. It's just like he senses they need attention."

Every town should be so blessed to have a River roll through it.

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