Never underestimate a three-legged dog
Caring for dogs with physical disabilities
When I approved the caregiving drop-in request to feed a German Shepherd mix, I wondered why such an active breed wasn’t listed for an hourlong walk. I’d owned a German Shepherd before. I knew how much these dogs enjoy a good, long walk (and petting). I shrugged and headed out the door.
While I usually avoid larger dogs (more than 50 pounds) without a meet-and-greet first, every blue moon I’ll take my chances. (Truth be told, I’ve had far better luck with big dogs that are assumed to be aggressive—like the pit bull that leaped up to lick my lips before I could stop her—versus small dogs who have a Napoleon complex—the Shih Tzu that tried to bite me for taking off her harness.)
When I walked in the door, the German Shepherd mix glanced up at me but didn’t move. I recited the command that the owner requested, and the dog stood up. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me at first. She was standing on three legs.
I blinked and remembered what my mother always told me: “Don’t stare at someone’s disability.” I immediately looked away, as if the dog was human—and gave a damn. I reached into my own bag for a leash (I like soft-padded leashes better than other versions) and squatted down so the dog could come to me. I almost jumped back when the dog leaped up and marched over at full speed. Within seconds, the dog had a harness and leash on, and flew out the door so fast that she beat me to the steps. I was not expecting this three-legged dog to be so quick. I can only imagine what she was like with four legs!
This experience taught me a valuable lesson, a similar lesson I learned from a Pit Bull/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who had to take so many types of medication in one day that I had to keep calendar reminders. I’d boil a sweet potato and talk her into eating it because reaching inside of her mouth to make her swallow the pills wasn’t working out. She’d spit them across the room like sunflower seeds. In both cases, both dogs were massive and not even slightly threatening.