In mid-May of this year, I responded to a request from the East Bay SPCA to provide a short-term foster, one week’s time, to a pit bull puppy whose leg had just been amputated, for reasons still unknown to me. She was to be returned a week after I picked her up to have her cherry-eye surgically fixed. Having just left my full-time job where I traveled too much, and having recently started working from home, I was finally available to care for a dog in need. So, I said "sure!" Our family already consisted of two golden retrievers, Romulus and Juno, both rescues. Our girl Juno was a former puppy mill line worker who inspired my animal advocacy work. I started volunteering at the East Bay SPCA and signed up to foster pets in need.
Juno, our puppy mill girl, is extremely shy and is a special needs dog in her own right, so we hadn’t considered "taking on" another dog, particularly one with a disability. That said, Nala fit in quite naturally into our home in that first week, and in fact, seemingly due to her sweet and outgoing nature, we noticed some positive changes in Juno! When the week was up, we reluctantly took her back to the East Bay SPCA for her cherry-eye surgery, and I expected to see her next during my volunteer shift. Little did I know that we would meet again a little sooner.
While the SPCA staff person lovingly took Nala from our hands, my husband casually mentioned that we would adopt her. I just didn’t expect her to remember those words a week later when Nala healed enough to be put up for adoption. The East Bay SPCA called me and said that if we’d like to adopt her, we could come by. So we discussed it, and discussed it some more and went to see her. We visited her several times in the week that passed, until we finally decided to bring her back to the home in which she belonged ... ours. We had worried about managing three dogs — about conflict, how to help a tripod, and of course the fact that she’s a pit bull was a big consideration. At the end of the day, it was really about how much we really did care for that little girl, so we made the leap.
Once back home, the dogs greeted her as if they were saying ... "Where have you been, and why were you gone so long?" She settled right back in. There were some transition pains during the first month as Romulus and Juno helped Nala understand "the ways of the house" using teeth and voice. Once Nala understood the rules, she was more than happy to abide. She and Romulus, who is 9 years old, play together like puppies every day. It’s clear that they adore each other and Romulus is a much happier dog. She cuddles with Juno on the couch, as Juno isn’t much for puppy play. The three dogs get along famously and it really hasn’t been as much work as I anticipated to care for three dogs. Other than not overfeeding her and adding a few rugs, Nala needs very little to help her manage as a tripod.
Nala was quite small when she came to live with us at her tender age of 6 months. She hadn’t yet developed the strong back legs that now propel her, so we got her a stroller. On walks, she would walk a bit, then get tired and stroll for a while so that Juno and Romulus could get in their exercise. In just a few months time, she was walking the entire time, albeit a little more slowly, but she has incredible speed for a dog of her size and, in particular, one with three legs. People on the trails are always astounded by her agility, sweet personality, and beautiful, soulful eyes. We very rarely get any comments about her being a pit bull.
I think that missing a leg has actually given her a leg up on being more approachable for people who would be otherwise reticent to say "hello." People regularly say that they are inspired by Nala because she is clearly not bothered in the least by her missing front limb. She is a great gift to us, and she is providing the gift of inspiration to others. We are grateful to have her in our lives and would never turn back.
* * *
The East Bay SPCA in Oakland, Calif., launched Club Second Chance in 2008. The program raises life-saving funds for specialty surgeries, medications and behavioral services to help these very special dogs and cats transition to happy new lives. Many of the animals are over the age of 8, with medical or behavioral issues. The East Bay SPCA devotes extra time and resources to help them get adopted.