A pawfect pup
Watching the dog in the Facebook video, I choked back tears. The previous day, she’d had all her legs amputated below the knee, but her tail wagged and her eyes were bright and trusting.
‘This dog needs us,’ I squealed to my husband, Richard, 44, and daughter Megan, 12.
It was January 2016 and Chi Chi, about three years old, was in an animal hospital in South Korea.
She’d been found by a rescue charity in a rubbish bag, left for dead outside a meat farm.
Her paws were bound together in preparation for slaughter – dog meat is a delicacy in South Korea – but the bindings had eaten into her flesh so, instead of being killed, she’d been dumped.
By the time she reached the Nabiya Irion Hope Project, an animal welfare group, the only way to save her life was to amputate.
I lived in the USA, but the next day, I called the animal hospital where Chi Chi was.
‘We want to adopt her,’ I said. Caring for her was hard work, the rescue manager warned. Changing her bandages took half an hour a day.
We made a video about life with our three dogs – Maggie, the 12year-old black Labrador, and our two beagles, rescued from labs, Harry, 12, and Kipper, 10.
Then we were introduced to Chi Chi via Skype.
She was dragging herself around on her tummy, but was so friendly, licking her vet’s hands and enjoying belly rubs.
Next time we saw her on Skype, she was hobbling along.
‘She’s so determined,’ I cried, impressed by her courage.
Two months later, Chi Chi flew to our home in Phoenix, Arizona. When the van pulled up at our house, and Ju, Chi Chi’s carer from South Korea, placed her gently on our lawn, I knelt beside her.
‘Hello, Chi Chi,’ I said, stroking her soft fur. She rolled straight over for a belly rub. She was home…
That first night, my hubby, Richard, slept downstairs with her. Then we moved her to our bedroom.
Being close to people, despite everything she’d been through, obviously made her feel safe.
And our dogs were so gentle with her, clearly realising she was disabled. Still, doing her bandages took a bit of trial and error – after our first effort, she walked five paces and they unravelled!
‘Sorry,’ we gulped as she looked up at us, confused and lopsided.
So, we put our daughter Megan’s red baseball socks over the bandages and secured them around Chi Chi’s shoulders.
She loved lying in the garden on sunny days, but it was obvious she wanted to explore further.
However, if the bandages unravelled on the pavement, she could damage her stumps…
So, I bought a dog stroller to take her out and about. Then, after seeing her on local television, a canine physiotherapist offered to help us out.
‘Good girl,’ I clapped as she swam around his doggy pool.
Next, the therapist’s friend made Chi Chi some temporary foam prosthetics.
As soon as I’d strapped them on her legs, she was ready to go.
‘Slow down,’ I laughed as she pulled me along the street, thrilled.
Still, she needed prosthetics that would last a lifetime, so we crowd-funded to raise the £2,700 we needed for a proper set.
They arrived in September 2016, and Chi Chi got the hang of them in no time.
Kipper the beagle got a shock when he stole her squeaky toy
– a naughty habit of his – and she zipped after him and pinched it straight back!
Every morning, Richard carries Chi Chi downstairs and straps her boots on.
‘Now you’re Super Dog,’ he tells her, and she’s off – scooting out to the garden.
Her can-do attitude and love of people made me decide to train her as a therapy dog.
When she qualified, I was so proud.
The first place we visited was a ward for patients who’d recently had amputations.
Chi Chi greeted everyone in turn, tail wagging.
‘She’s had four legs amputated, and I’ve only lost one,’ a woman gulped. ‘If she can keep going, I can, too.’
Chi Chi really is an inspiration. She may have lost her paws, but she has the biggest heart of any dog I’ve ever met.
Nothing holds her back – we’re privileged to have her in our lives.
She goes for gold every day!
Elizabeth Howell, 46, Phoenix,
Now she’s a Super Dog!
Our poor girl after her surgery From Korea to the US, Chi Chi’s found a home
We crowdfunded to buy her prosthetics
Footless and fancy-free! Chi Chi’s raring to go