By Tails staff
It’s hard to overlook Faith the dog. The special pooch, who has her own website and two books, appeared on Oprah, and received an honorary commission in the U.S. Army, was born with only two functioning legs. Things were looking grim from the get-go for Faith, but luck would have it that she caught the eye of a loving human family who took her in and taught her how to walk upright. Now she’s a canine celebrity who uses her fame to inspire, motivate, and help others.
Ask anyone who is an animal lover, and chances are that at some point in their lives a furry, feathery, or scaly creature has moved them in a way that has had lasting effects. A dog became a best friend during a difficult time; a therapy pet helped a little girl conquer her fear of reading aloud; or perhaps a dog with three legs ran just as fast as his canine playmates, proving that when life hands you lemons, you really can
Faith isn’t the only pet in the limelight who has overcome an obstacle and gone on to help others. Take Willy, for example. This little Chihuahua was abandoned with paralyzed back legs and severed vocal chords. Fortunately, he was given a second chance at mobility in the form of a K-9 Cart. “Wheely Willy” became the celebrated wheelchair-bound pooch with his own children’s book, How Willy Got His Wheels. Now a therapy dog, Willy is proving to his patients that a physical disability should not keep happiness from any life. Then there’s Speedy, the little kitten who could, who zips around a Pennsylvania animal clinic in a specially designed cart made of K’NEX toys, putting smiles on visitors’ faces. Molly the pony also leaves a smile wherever she goes—with her positive attitude and a tiny smiley face engraved on her prosthetic leg. Molly was abandoned during Hurricane Katrina and attacked by a dog. As a result, her right leg had to be amputated. But Molly remained a fighter through it all and now has a children’s book and her own foundation, remaining an uplifting presence to those around her.
Although a website and a book deal are great ways to reach out to a larger audience, many of our own animal friends encourage us on a smaller level, perhaps even on a daily basis. We asked Tails readers to share their stories of inspiration. Here are a few of our favorites:
After Rita Green adopted her Chow/Golden Retriever mix, Puma, from the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago four years ago, she told her that, from here on out, every day was going to count. At the time, Green says Puma was demoralized and lacking spirit, but now she is an inspiration to many through Tailored Dog, Green’s new clothing line for large dogs. Green launched the line in September after years of searching for visors and coats that would fit large dogs. But the designer duds are special in another way—they are manufactured by the Chicago Association for Retarded Citizens.
“It’s an incredible thing to watch—these people are working, they get paid, they have a purpose,” says Green. “When Puma goes there, they get so excited and animated. It’s heartwarming.”
Green says wearing the stylish hats, visors, and coats helps Puma feel needed and boosts her self-esteem. Puma never leaves the house without something on, even if it’s just a bow. Puma serves as a model for the line as well as the inspiration. “Without Puma, none of this would have ever happened,” Green says. “I’m just so lucky to have her.”
Her name may be Dizzy, but the love of this special-needs cat is nothing if not sure-footed. Of her wobbly little tuxedo cat, who was almost euthanized on account of her cerebellar hypoplasia, guardian Dina Mohl, an Animal Control officer in Teaneck, NJ, says, “Everyone said it was a lost cause, but I feel there are no lost causes, just loss of patience.” A developmental disorder that impairs motor skills, cerebellar hypoplasia has affected Dizzy’s ability to eat and walk. When Mohl first took Dizzy in, she would constantly hit her nose on the bottom of her food dish and split open her lip when trying to eat. Mohl took a month and a half to litterbox train her, which she did with a tip from her grandmother, who suggested a high-sided litterbox. Soon, however, Dizzy taught herself to eat while lying down. And now, according to Mohl, “Dizzy doesn’t walk; she marches.”
A four-footed example of the old saying, “Still waters run deep,” Dizzy didn’t so much as purr until the night that Mohl’s apartment was flooding from a bursted pipe. Dizzy awoke Mohl with her insistent meowing. According to Mohl, “I got out of bed and stepped into 3 inches of water. … If Dizzy hadn’t awakened me when she did, I would have lost almost everything I owned.”
Sherry Johnson of Santa Clara, CA, brings her service dog, Lucy, with her everywhere—from meditation retreats to her job in a maximum-security jail. As someone with multiple sclerosis, Johnson relies on Lucy for stability, strength, and security.
“She works hard. She’s consistently going,” Johnson says. “She’s a kindred soul. She’s amazing.”
But what’s especially amazing about Johnson’s service dog is her breed—she’s an English Bulldog. “I get stopped every day. People can’t believe it,” Johnson says with a laugh. “Any dog can provide service to someone if you can teach them.”
Lucy always brings a smile to everyone she meets, even the stern correction officers.
In early December, Johnson became the clinical manager of a new 56-bed residence facility and wellness program for parolees. Although Lucy is not allowed to interact with the inmates in the maximum-security jail, once Johnson moves to the new facility, she’ll be free to mingle with the parolees.
“A lot of these people, they have nothing, no one to love them. Just having a pet in the atmosphere is a big deal. It’s nothing that’s been done that I know of,” Johnson says. “I have no doubt she’ll change so many lives there.”
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