In spirit, Linus is just like any other puppy. He barks, he plays, he yearns to please, and he has an insatiable appetite. He likes to follow his foster mom around the house and gently rest his chin on her foot wherever she stops, but his favorite thing is playing tug-of-war with his seventy-pound foster brother who drags him all over the house as Linus squeals with joy.
But as much as he wants to be, Linus isn’t like other puppies. He has a host of congenital defects that limit his ability to be a truly normal puppy. Instead of dealing with these issues head on, his breeder decided Linus should be shot—whether to spare Linus the pain of a crippled existence or merely for his own convenience, we’ll never know. Thankfully, a neighbor stepped in and offered to bring Linus to Southern Pines Animal Shelter, hoping at least to save him from a painful death.
Linus came to us covered in sores and infections from being left in a dirty kennel for weeks and was totally unable to walk. We initially thought he had Swimmers Syndrome because of how he laid flat on his chest, his legs all akimbo. After doing some research and watching some videos recommended by our vet, we began doing water therapy with him and hobbling his legs to give him more support when he tried to stand, and we built him a small track with close sides and a lot of traction so he could practice walking in his foster home. We were hopeful that with some time and therapy Linus would be able to eventually walk on his own and live a normal life.
However, his radiographs soon told us a different story. Due to poor breeding practices, Linus was born with a severely deformed spine and legs, and most of his joints were completely out of socket. In addition to his orthopedic deformities, he also has an enlarged heart and several other minor issues like cryptorchidism and hernias that will eventually require surgeries to repair. Hearing the news that his issues went way beyond mere Swimmers and seeing the X-rays of his mangled legs was like a punch in the gut. But we haven’t lost hope.
For now, Linus is happy and comfortable in his foster home. He sleeps and snuggles and eats and plays, and for now he isn’t in any pain. But that could change as he grows and has more weight on his joints. Our hope as he gets older is to get him in a front-wheel wheelchair to offer him some support and so that he can do his doggy things more normally. Eventually, he will need surgeries to repair some of his orthopedic issues like an FHO to put his back legs back in their sockets and surgery to repair his hernia.
In the meantime, we are focusing on keeping him comfortable. He is going through boxes and boxes of wipes and bottle after bottle of shampoo to keep his belly clean and infection-free. He’s eating high quality puppy food to keep him healthy and lean (so there’s not too much weight on his already compromised skeleton), and he’s getting lots of therapy and basic obedience training. His foster home is providing him with the socialization that he was deprived of in his first home. He’s learning not to bite everything that moves and that barking 24/7 is totally overrated. Treats are better.
Whether it’s playing tug with dogs ten time his size or working up the courage to take his first true step, Linus proves time and again that he may be little but he will always put up one heck of a fight.
We are so thankful to Dr. Davis at Davis Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Mayfield III at Animal Medical Center, and all of their wonderful staff members for being so kind, encouraging, and level-headed throughout this journey. There may be a long road ahead of us, but Linus is lucky to have so much support along the way.