After a few weeks of combing Pet Finder, I found an ad for "Gracie Mae" at the Seattle Humane Society, which is actually located in Bellevue, WA. From the pictures and the brief description, I really thought she might be the one.
We decided to get up early and be there when they opened the next morning. (And if I'm getting up early on a Sunday to drive to Bellevue, I must have really thought she was the one.)
At the shelter, we asked to see Gracie Mae, and they told us to go find her in her kennel. We walked from kennel to kennel and didn't see her, and asked one volunteer who wasn't sure where she was. We walked the kennels again, and finally Jon saw her there, chewing a Kong. We said "Hey baby, hey girl" through the kennel door a few times. She barely looked up from her Kong, and stayed laying down, but we thought she was cute. We went to the volunteer to ask what the next step was.
The next step was to go back into the office and use the number on her kennel (lucky number: 11) to look in a binder and find her vet's report. From there we would interview for her and be able to visit with her in a dog run. We skimmed the vet's report, hoping to see that her health was perfect.
There, on the report, we read "Missing limb." What? That wasn't in the PetFinder posting, and we had just seen her in her crate and she looked fine. We thought maybe we had the wrong paper. But everything else on it matched. Kennel number, name, size. Jon asked "Do you want me to go back out to the kennel and look?" I said yes, and waited nervously in the office.
Jon came back in with a crestfallen look on his face. He nodded and said, "Yeah, a back leg is missing. Want to see it?" I walked back out to the kennel with Jon. And there she was, standing up, looking at us, and her back right leg was missing.
"What do you want to do?" Jon asked. I still liked her and at least wanted to spend a few minutes in the dog run with her and see how we got along. But, selfishly, I was disappointed. All my dreams of long dog walks and hikes... Would she be sick and disabled? I was so broken hearted 3 years ago when we put our good friend and part-time dog Murphy to sleep, and the thoughts of vet visits and illnesses came flooding back. Would we bond like best friends? Would I be adopting her because I felt bad for her?
While we stood there, the volunteer came back and checked on us. "How's it going?" she asked.
"Well, we didn't know she was a tripod, that wasn't in the PetFinder ad. And we don't know anything about how to care for a tripod. So, we're not sure."
"She's a tripod? I didn't even notice she was missing a leg," the volunteer said, "I saw her playing in the dog run yesterday, and she was running so fast I couldn't even tell."
I took a minute of soul searching, and asking Jon what he wanted to do, before I said "Ok, let's at least spend some time with her."
We went back in and went through our interview with another volunteer. They consider it "matchmaking" but it was mostly just the volunteer giving us a rundown of things we needed to know, like the basics on crate training and house training. At the end, he signed a card that allowed us to get Gracie Mae out of her kennel and bring her into the dog run so we could get to know her a little bit.
A volunteer took her out of the kennel for us and slipped a leash around her neck. And that was when I saw that she was a regular dog. She pulled the volunteer, just like any dog running out to the dog run would. The volunteer warned us that she shouldn't run around in the dog run because she had just had surgery.
(About that surgery: They went in to spay her, but found that her uterus was gone, meaning she had already been spayed. They then labeled that an "exploratory surgery," otherwise known as putting my baby through pain for no good reason.)
In the dog run, we bonded pretty well. She spent the first few minutes sniffing around and listening to other dogs barking, but after a few minutes - and some treats! - I had her attention and I was falling in love already.
(I'm guessing you didn't notice her missing leg the first time I posted this photo, but you notice it now!)
The volunteer checked in on us and asked how it was going, and I requested a few more minutes. In part because I felt like it was right to take more than five minutes to make a lifetime decision, and in part because I just wanted a few more minutes with her.
But I knew. She's not perfect, but then again, neither are we. She's perfect for our family.
When the volunteer came back, we said, "Yup, she's ours." She slipped the leash back on her and lead her back to the kennel. In the kennel, she looked up at us so sadly, her eyes said, "I thought we were hitting it off. Where are you going?" We promised her she'd see us in a few minutes and went inside to complete the paperwork.
A couple swipes of the magic credit card (Airline miles! For getting a dog!) and she was ours and ready to go home with us.
In the week since, we've learned a lot about her. She came to the shelter from the Northwest Boxer Rescue. Jon called them and found out that they had been called to a hoarder's house in California. The hoarder had 140 dogs, including some boxers. They took a van down there full of cages, got all of the boxers for their rescue, and had a couple of cages left and offered to take a few more dogs. That's how our girl got a ride to Washington State.
I can't imagine a house with 140 dogs in it. Even the shelters don't have 140 dogs.
But, she gets around great. She can run with dogs in the dog run and take long walks and jump on the furniture. (She physically can, I didn't say she has permission.) Two advantages? She doesn't jump up on people, and she has fewer nails to clip.
(That dog on the right isn't deformed, he was shaking his head really fast!)
She has a few other health problems, but they should all be fixable. She came home with worms and a parasite called giardia. The vet said these are pretty normal for shelter dogs, and easily curable. She also has a spot on her paw called a granuloma, which is basically a sore or an irritated spot. It's actually pretty hard to see, but she licks at it quite a bit. We got deworming medicine, medicine for giardia, worm prevention, and an antibiotic to clear up the granuloma on her leg. The vet said it's all fixable, although the granuloma may take a few attempts to figure out the exact cause.
The vet took a look at her teeth and noticed some fractures and guessed that she may have tried to chew her way out of something like a cage. The vet also said that she would've guessed her age to be two, and when I told her that the shelter guessed three, the vet said she could be between two and three, but maybe closer to two.
How did she lose her leg? The vet said there's no way to know for sure, but it's possible she was born that way, or it's possible it was the result of trauma (like getting hit by a car and needing to have her leg removed.)
There are a few things we have to be more careful with, having a tripod dog. First, we're a little more nervous about her getting hurt - if she hurts a leg and is down to just two, she'd be in a far worse situation than most dogs who have one "extra" leg.
We also have to be careful with her weight. A few extra pounds could make a big difference on her remaining hips and lead to arthritis. The vet said the best thing we could do to keep her joints healthy is give her plenty of good exercise.
I thought it might be fun to make a meetup group for tripods. I've been googling blogs about tripod (or tripawd) dogs and some of them have been a great comfort, to see how their dogs get around and how they deal with some of the challenges. I still might work on that in the new year. One of the blogs mentioned that, everyday you will be asked about your dog's missing leg.
And it's true. She gets a lot of attention when we go out walking. People say "Aaww, look, she's missing a leg," or ask what happened to her leg. It's tough that our only answer is that we really don't know.
I think it'd be funny, at least once, to say "What? Oh my god! Where's her leg!?!"
On the Seattle waterfront today, a tourist whose accent I took to be Russian asked us what happened to her leg, and I told him we didn't know, we adopted her that way. He then asked, "But her spirits? She is happy?" It was an interesting question. Yeah, she is really happy, and happiest when we're walking.
Some people say that she's lucky - that she got a good home, lucky that we adopted her, lucky that whatever took her leg didn't take her life. But we love her. And we think we're the lucky ones.