With popular hashtags such as #adoptdontshop or #rescuedismyfavoritebreed taking over our social media timelines, there is no doubt that in the last few years people have begun to choose to adopt instead of buying from a breeder. The myth that rescue dogs are dangerous is slowly being disproved through various adoption stories; stories filled with new beginnings, big changes, fun adventures, and unconditional love.
Now to be fair, the unknown can be scary. It can be uncomfortable, testing our patience and strength in various ways. And when you adopt a dog, it’s somewhat like that – there is a lot of unknown. There isn’t much known about the history of the dog if any at all, and you never really know how long it will take for the dog to adjust or what obstacles they may have to overcome. But if there is one thing that is true about the unknown it is that when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you will be rewarded in ways you never imagined possible.
Since adopting my own special needs dog it has occurred to me just how many people may perhaps overlook adopting a dog with special needs out fear, or a lack of exposure and understanding to what exactly being an owner of such a dog would entail. Perhaps there is a fear that the dog will not be like “other” dogs in that it will not be playful or joyous (the BIGGEST myth), or perhaps the fear comes from a personal doubt in being able to properly care for or provide for the dog. Whatever your fears may be, I want you to understand two things; first that your fears are valid, and second that your fears are just that – fears. You can and will overcome it, should you choose to.
It is also important to know that these ‘special needs’ dogs are JUST as loving, playful, smart, mischievous, crazy and lazy as every other dog out there. Unlike humans, dogs do not have the ability to feel pity for themselves or look on their past with sadness. They may have lost some confidence or trust but through the love and patience of the right person that can all change. And in return they will give what every dog is best known for – unconditional love and companionship.
This story isn’t that of my own, however. This story is the adoption story of a special needs tri-pawd dog, this is a story of Hope.
I first came into contact with Leslie and Doug in August of 2018 when I was assigned in my role as a volunteer with Fetch & Releash to coordinate their adoption process for the obvious; Hope was a shy, timid three-legged dog who was found in a construction yard in the Dominican Republic with a severely broken front leg, likely the result of being hit by a car. Her medical team decided after careful consideration that amputating the leg would give her the best chance at a normal and pain-free life, and so she underwent surgery prior to travelling to her new home, Canada. I instantly felt a level of protection for Hope that I hadn’t felt in the adoption coordination process of any other dog and it became incredibly important to me that I set Hope and her potential owners up for success.
Since being adopted, I’ve been lucky enough to watch Hope’s progress on Instagram. I have been so positively influenced and motivated by the selfless love that Leslie and Doug have for Hope, even before having met her. They help share the message that I constantly want to reinforce, which is every dog is worthy and deserving of a loving home.
Leslie and Doug were kind enough to agree to answer my questions below; detailing their experience with Hope, how she’s improved their lives, and what it’s been like for Doug – a first-time dog owner.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your adoption story to help shed light on what it’s like living with a three-legged or “tripawd” dog. Do you mind first telling our readers a little bit about Hope, and what her personality is like?
In a nutshell, Hope has been the perfect addition to our family. She’s a range of different personalities, from one extreme to the other – energetic, quiet, playful, cuddly, lazy, you name it. Hope’s personality really is the epitome of a dog that provides ‘unconditional love’, the bearer of kisses every time we come home from work. We repeat the same notion in answers below, however: we never think of her as disabled.
What was it that initially attracted you to Hope, and did you have any fears or concerns in adopting what’s known as a “special needs” dog?
There was definitely some reservations about Hope and the condition that she was in. Doug had never had a pet of any kind before, let alone a ‘special needs’ dog – he had never heard the term tripawd before, either. You always imagine your dog fetching and running through a sprinkler on a hot summer day, etc…the unknown about our new member of our family was less about the physical and more about the acclimatization to her new home and to us. We were super intrigued by her bio and she seemed like she would be a perfect fit for us, however, after meeting with her at the foster home, it was love at first sight. Adopting/rescuing a dog was something that we wanted to do so that we could provide a second chance, knowing that there would be a special bond between us, almost in the form of gratitude.
When I checked in during the adoption process to reinforce that Hope may take longer than other dogs to settle in given her situation, you sent a response that was one of confidence and reassurance- strongly stating that you knew you could provide the right home for Hope. Is there anything in particular that made you so sure Hope was the one?
Not sure if there was anything that really stood out for us but we agreed from the beginning that we would take all the necessary measures to adapt to her and to be patient with Hope – it ended up paying off in dividends in the long run. There was a moment(s) on the first or second day where Hope was very timid and showed us that she was a street dog at heart, avoiding kisses and running away when certain objects were being picked up in the yard. It was a little disheartening to think that this dog, or any dog for that matter, would have been mistreated or neglected – she stayed burrowed in her bed and avoided eye contact for those first few days. While those memories are starting to fade, she came around slowly and now the kisses and the cuddling are non stop! When you bring a new family member home, the first rule of engagement is to show patience – it sounds like a cliche but it is so true when we think back about Hope’s first car ride, or lying down in an actual dog bed, or gobbling up her first dinner like it was her first meal in weeks, etc. She came as advertised which we felt was very important and shows transparency in what we could expect from Hope, not just in the days to come but forever.
Even though you haven’t hit your one-year adoption-versary as of yet, it seems as though Hope has settled right in. Do you mind telling any potential adopters, especially those who may be thinking of adopting a three-legged or special needs dog, what this transition period has been like for your family and Hope?
If we were betting people, we’d put money on Hope in a short distance race against any dog in the neighborhood – her disability is really an afterthought to be quite honest. Her gait is a little awkward when she is walking slowly, but the walks in the morning and in the evening are her opportunity to show off her fluid strides and break out into a light jog. We don’t baby her or restrict her from doing normal dog activities, so there really isn’t an opportunity for us to dwell on her disability. She literally can do everything a four-legged dog can do, from jumping on to the bed or into the truck, chasing after squirrels (held by the leash of course), or running away from other dogs at the park that gets a little personal with their sniffing. We use her Instagram page to inspire others to learn about dogs like Hope and to let down their guard with regards to adoptions and rescues, and most particularly with special needs dogs. And, as far as friends and family are concerned, well, let’s just say that they now call ahead to visit her and spoil her and basically ignore us these days.
I know as a three-legged dog owner myself I am often met with hesitation from other people towards the dog’s abilities in comparison to that of a four-legged one. Do you ever find yourself on the receiving end of such comments and, if so, how do you respond?
People in general are amazed and shocked at the same time, but after seeing them on a regular basis, they too seem to forget about the novelty and Hope becomes just a regular dog. Hope is receptive to kids and adults petting her and is never going to be phased by any of the glancing looks that come her way or any of the commentary. Doug will sarcastically answer back at times when someone states the obvious: “she only has three legs”, and he’ll say, “OMG, she had four this morning!”. For those that ask, we will tell them about where Hope originally was from and that her leg was amputated back in the DR after likely being hit by a car. One thing I’ve come to notice about people in general is that there are ‘dog people‘ and then there are those that aren’t – more often than not, we’ll get a lot of AWWWHHH’s and SHE IS SO CUTE’s when we go out for walks.
Doug, I know this is your first time as a dog owner. Do you mind telling us how your experience has been as not only a first-time dog owner but that of a three-legged rescue dog?
I come home from work and she greets me with a wagging tail and kisses – it is honestly the best feeling on earth. We plan our days around being there for Hope for feeding and walking, and it honestly is not a burden whatsoever – I’ve lost a few lbs. over the course of the past few months from all the walking so it’s definitely a plus. She sleeps in her own bed when we’re in the apartment but on the weekends when we’re at the house, you’ll find her snuggled up under the blankets and sharing a pillow with either myself or Leslie. Neither of them like my snoring but Hope is usually out like a light and doesn’t budge until we get our day started the next morning. Her disability is never an issue with me. I consciously will do everything within my power to make the balance of her life with us, amazing – what she had to endure back in the DR will never happen to her again. She’s basically the dog version of Daddy’s girl, and I’m proud to dress her up in colourful rain/winter jackets every day, feed her the best food possible, and show her off to all of our friends and family.
I know you mentioned Hope doesn’t let her disability hinder her attitude at all, do you mind explaining this more?
Because she was raised as a street dog and a mama to at least two litters of pups that we know of at a relatively young age, we know that she’s had to fend for herself and her pups in whatever way possible to survive in the DR. There’s a mental fortitude that she exudes each and every day when she’s out walking or at the dog park – she’s a tough cookie and her missing leg does not hinder her at all. One of things that Leslie will say to friends about Hope is the fact that she does not know how ‘to be a dog’ – she is not motivated by treats, or will fetch a ball or play with toys, ever. It was never in her DNA or upbringing so she’s definitely different from other dogs in that respect, so we take baby steps with teaching her and conditioning her. However, her mobility and everything physical about being a dog, is as good as any other dog, those with four legs included. I mentioned Hope’s Instagram page and one of the recent posts is of her and I running towards Leslie – thankfully she was only going half speed, otherwise, I would not have been able to keep up. The best thing about that video post – her tail was wagging from start to finish, even in mid stride.
On behalf of all the three-legged, special needs, shy and/or black fur dogs – thank you for sharing your story and showing how each of these “different” dogs is just as worthy of a loving home. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to leave the readers off with?
Well, we’re going to have to get Hope and Pepita together in the near future – can’t wait to put a posting on Instagram when that happens!
Leslie and I are both grateful for all the work you do for Fetch and Releash, along with the organization and tireless efforts to find homes for all these great dogs, also, with Samantha who fostered Hope when she first arrived to Canada, and, all those back in Punta Cana that took Hope in and gave her this opportunity to find us. We had always talked about owning a dog and back in August, Leslie texted me with a simple, “I found her”. I wasn’t sure who she was talking about and if anyone I knew was lost and then the second text was an attachment with a series of dogs up for adoption. I saw Hope and laughed when I saw those ears, sticking out like a small aircraft…almost like Dobbie from the Harry Potter movies. Oh those ears – they’re so endearing now! Yes, she has three legs and does not look like a typical dog (we don’t know exactly what her breed makeup DNA is), but we love the spirit in her and the fact that she is somewhat of an underdog (pun intended). She’s brought so much joy to our world and now I tell her how beautiful she is, every single day…a dog like Hope may be different on the outside but they will love you back with so much gratitude and happiness in return.
Whatever small part(s) we can do to advocate adoption and rescuing of animals, you can count us in.
From the bottom of my heart, I am so incredibly thankful to have had met Leslie, Doug, and in due time- Hope. Their positive and selfless attitude has made a difference in not only that of Hope’s, but mine as well.
If you would like to help out, head on over to www.fetchandreleash.com to find out the many ways you can make a difference. If you’re not able to adopt, don’t worry! There are many other ways you can help out; from fostering to volunteering at events or educating about the importance of adoption, every little bit counts.