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Spirit, Eli and Aoibhe

  Spirit Eli Aoibhe


In early 2005, I received an e-mail about two German Shepherds in need in California. One, Sara, had been hit by a car and was paralyzed, the other, a female with no name had hindlimb deformities and was in a shelter. I struck up a dialogue with a rescuer, interested in the girl with the deformities, but somehow we lost touch. The Ruby Refuge eventually rescued this girl, who they named Spirit and started looking for a forever home for her. How we made contact I don’t remember, suffice it to say after several cross country e-mails and phone calls, an adoption application and several weeks of trying to arrange transport, Spirit came to stay.

Initially it was believed that Spirit had one off congenital defects – this proved not to be the case. Over the following years, I got to hear of other affected shepherds who thankfully had homes/rescue. That was until November 2007, when I saw a posting on a German Shepherd board about a whole litter of affected pups (some bilaterally, some unilaterally) in Tennessee. I wrote to offer support and found that one pup was still looking for a home. By Thanksgiving, Eli, then 16 weeks of age, had found his home.

2008 saw a dramatic increase in the number of affected dogs I was hearing about, averaging a dog a week. Amongst the e-mails was one from Jessica, the owner of the Ruby Rrefuge. Now working at Utah Humane Society she told me about a 5-6 week old German Shepherd, just surrendered, who had legs like Spirit. She was not going to be put up for adoption, but was able to come to me, in large part because of Spirit. In August, Aoibhe, a tiny bundle of fluff came home.

While these dogs all look very similar, having three together I can see how different they in fact are. Spirit and Aoibhe easily get to their feet, and always stand to move. In complete contrast is Eli. He was bred to be a show dog and is very large, long and heavy boned, which is a definite disadvantage when you have hindlimb anomalies. Eli has always had trouble standing and maintaining his balance when walking, and I needed to use a sling to support him for several months. Where Spirit and Aoibhe walk (bunnyhop) and run with “normal” dogs, Eli typically only manages 50 – 100 yards. Currently I am working on adapting an old wheelchair that I have to allow him to get out and experience more of the world. Inside he rarely bothers to stand, instead pulling himself round in a sitting position with his front legs – whether this is his choice or not I can’t definitively say, although my guess is he is somewhat lazy as he certainly can get on his feet when there’s something he wants.