This is the story of Jake, a beautiful saluki with a large disability.
Jake’s story (as we know it) begins with him living with unknown persons for about 2 years – we know this because when he was taken to rescue he was well fed, and had that distinct indentation in the fur that can only come from a dog wearing a collar. Because dogs don’t have an opposable thumb we know that humans put a collar on him...
We know these must have been his first years, as when he was at Wood Green shelter he was only around 2 years old.
He was taken there because his people couldn’t be found – he didn’t have a collar on when he was found in the road - he was badly injured, and he had no microchip.
He received immediate veterinary care for his injuries, with the help of a veterinary telemedicine software, to save his life. This care included the amputation of his left leg and shoulder. After the operation, he was placed with a foster carer so he wasn’t in kennels while recovering from the major trauma and surgery.
When we met him, he was sitting on the fosterer’s sofa, obviously still incredibly sore and with stitches in the area where his front leg and shoulder used to be.
He was understandably very wary of everyone and everything; his eyes open wide, and ears pulled back, very definitely saying “don’t come near me!”, so we didn’t. However, there was something about him; something in his eyes that spoke of him being a dear soul for whom we could make space in our home – if he wanted that.
We next met Jake a while later at the kennels when he’d healed up a bit more, to follow their policy of kennel staff witnessing a meeting between humans and other household dogs. I’d taken our old girl Lass with me for the meeting.
After just a few minutes, with the dogs off lead and wandering about the enclosure with clearly no worries at all with each other, the kennel staff said “well, it’s pretty clear here – there’s no point us all standing about waiting for something that obviously is not going to happen!”
They meant that they could see there were no issues between the dogs, and so we were guided to the reception, where we signed the paperwork, and brought Jake home.
What struck me very quickly was that we didn’t really notice his leg was missing, but for other people this was a Big Thing. Sure, other people who saw him would regularly comment, or exclaim about it, but Jake just got on with it, and so we did too.
It was not uncommon for some people to offer that they wouldn’t take on a disabled dog because they’d be such an expense, or a great trouble, or their life was going to be limited because of the disability. Certainly, there were initial funny instances, like where he’d try to wee up a tree only to find he couldn’t get his balance like that, but he simply placed his legs in more of a triangle pose and took to squatting, a bit like a lady dog. He really didn’t pay his disability any heed; he didn’t look for a hand up, or any extra help, he simply got on with it, making any adjustments as he went.
Happily one of the first vets he met for his annual MOT, was a particularly open minded chap from New Zealand. He was clearly delighted with Jake, and spoke of how there really should be more people giving homes to such brave creatures, because as far as he would be concerned, as long as Jake didn’t get fat and put too much stress on his shoulder joint, both he and his remaining shoulder would be fine.
Both Jake and his shoulder were fine and remained fine for the next 12 years!
In those years he came camping with us all over – Cornwall, Scotland, Wales – and just about everywhere he went, he got people talking. He was an instant talking point for foreign visitors at an international gathering one year, and we had a number of conversations (consisting of garbled attempts at English and interesting hand gestures) that week, all about Jake.
Although he had to go through the loss of his friend Lass, he found new friends in the form of dogs as well as cats, and he was never happier than when out with His People. He even taught a rejected and dumped young collie girl how to slow down and notice things.
He outdid the expectations of the dog walkers in the park, who were surprised to find a 3 legged long-dog rushing past them at the highest speed, perhaps only coming a bit of a cropper when trying to turn sharply as he had just the one front leg to help balance out the G-forces he must have been under! Sometimes he did use his chest or face to help his high speed turns!
He really did inspire me – and many of those he met. He showed me how to carry on, how to Live And Be Happy, even if you’re not 100%.
He surpassed everyone’s expectations at every turn, except maybe the expectations of the vet who saved his life – that vet clearly expected Jake to have a good life after his trauma, as the surgery was of such high standard. This was not the work of a vet attempting a quick rush-job or just the bare minimum necessary - and it was quite beautifully done. Even his fur swirled round the operation site in a lovely pattern!
Jake certainly surpassed our expectations – we secretly thought he may have 8 or 9 years with us before his shoulder played up too much, and we were prepared for vet bills and drug bills along the way but no: we had no large bills come our way and Jake enjoyed 12 full-on years.
Maybe Jake just didn’t want to see the turning of the Mayan Calendar, as he passed after a sudden crisis on 12/12/12, aged about 14 (we think), with His People by his side.
Jake never let his disability get in his way, and he was no trouble at all. So, to answer the title question, ‘Disabled dog equals trouble?’, emphatically No.