Today I have an amazing guest I actually got the opportunity to interview on Pets Overload about an amazing rescue called Fetch & Releash. Michelle is one of the loveliest human beings I’ve ever met, so I’m truly excited to have her on the blog today!
Hey Michelle, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed with us again, this time about your own cutie Pepita! Do you mind telling us a little bit about her?
Of course, talking about Pepita is my favorite thing to do! She is a three-legged dog from the Streets of Meixco. Unfortunately, like most street dogs, much of her past is unknown. What I do know is that she was found on the street after being hit by a car and had been taken in to a dog shelter in Mexico. Due to her accident, her right hind leg had to be amputated. The timeline is unknown but it was from there that Fetch & Releash took her, along with a few other dogs, to their new lives here in Canada. I always joke that we’re quite alike in that we’re both incredibly shy and slow to trust but once we come around, we really let our personality shine! I describe her mix to be the body of a whippet, the fur/nose of a lab, and a diva attitude that would give Mariah Carey a run for her money.
How did you meet Pepita and how long have you had her?
I was looking for a rescue dog online, through “Pet Finder”. I liked that their webpage gave me the ability to modify my search options, whether it be for the type of dog I’m looking for or how far I’d be willing to travel. I got into the habit of doing that regularly and although I saw a lot of dog’s that had potential, I never had that “ah hah!” moment until I came across Pepita’s photo. She instantly caught my eye, and not because she was three-legged (you couldn’t tell at all in the photo). I can’t say exactly what it was that made me go “this is the one”, but I remember feeling that upon seeing on her photo. She was obviously cute, but it was her beady puppy eyes that drew me in – they were soft and gentle, but had a look of fear. Upon reading her biography I thought we would be a great fit for each other. It mentioned that she was three-legged, too, which just made my love for her stronger. We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary and we’ll be celebrating her annual adoption day at the end of this month!
Having a dog who needs special care can be scary for a lot of pet owners, what is some advice you can give them?
I think it really differs from dog to dog, but my main advice would be to find others who are in a situation alike to yours. I reached out to a few people over social media that I noticed had “tripawds” as well – completely random people, most living in the United States. I let them know that I was a first-time owner with a three-legged dog and was just looking for some insight with their experience(s). I am firm in believing that a life is a life. A dog is not any less of a dog because of it’s trauma; physical or emotional, just like we as people are not any less of a person because of our own physical and/or mental struggles. In fact, it’s through these struggles that we grow and find our strength. “Special needs” dogs are just as deserving of a home as any other regular dog out there, and I can guarantee that your life will be just as enriched if you were to adopt a “normal” dog. (What is normal anyways?!)
I understand that Pepita is your first dog ever (congrats! She’s adorable!) did you have any second doubts when adopting her because of her “needs”?
Thank you! I actually had no doubts – just extreme eager. My only “doubt” (which was more so a worry) is that I assume down the line she may face some issues and thus expenses due to her condition, but I am okay with that. She does incredibly well on three legs and clearly learned how to adapt herself to properly do so. She walks most of the time with her back leg in the middle and spine on a curve, so a lot more pressure and weight goes into the back leg. However, of all the skills I’ve learned to master over the years – being able to predict the future just isn’t one of them. I would never, in any situation, stop myself from doing something because “I know how the outcome will be” – we never truly do. I try my best to take and appreciate each day as it comes without worrying or stressing too much about the future.
Do you feel like her being “three-legged” hinders her in any way?
Hardly so! The only thing it really affects is her ability to run long distance – so I let her know early on that running marathons weren’t allowed. She’ll oftentimes lose her balance and tumble to the side, take a breath then get back right up again. Oh, and she is SUCH a speed demon! She can out run most dogs (until she loses her balance, of course) so I can’t even imagine how fast she would be if she had all four legs. Another reason why I believe she’s got some Whippet in her – because boy-oh-boy, she can run! She can jump into SUV’s, run up a flight of stairs, and give paw like any other four-legged dog. I sometimes question if she realizes or remembers she’s missing a leg! She surely never acts like it.
I’m glad that her being “three-legged” isn’t an issue in her life, and she is healthy and happy! What would you say the hardest thing about her is?
Her high anxiety – I would say this is more of a “special need” than her lack of a fourth leg. It is a work in progress, a journey that we will always be on together and some days will be easier than others – but they’re always all worth it. I recently hired a one-on-one trainer to help give me the tools I needed to better understand her behavior and how to help it. Prior to that I did a TON of researching – everything from reading tips and tricks, to joining support groups, to watching training videos online. I don’t think her anxiety will ever completely go away especially when it comes to big/loud vehicles, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to just give up on her. We work on desensitization training daily and I’ve received compliments from friends, family and neighbors on how well she’s improved. I see it too, and she makes me the proudest dog mama ever.
How do you manage her anxiety?
The good ol’ saying, “a tired dog is a happy dog” is always true! I do my absolute best to tire her out in the mornings before I go to my 9-5 job. Prior to this month, I had my parents taking her Monday through Friday while I was at work so she was living quite the spoiled life. Now, I dedicate roughly an hour in the mornings to working on her desensitization training. We start by walking a nearby trail, and if we’re lucky (and by lucky, I mean early enough!) that no one is in the fenced in field, I let her off for a good run. It’s her absolute favorite thing to run around off-leash; she will run back and forth, circles up and around me, roll in the grass, and let all that energy out. Whereas she started out awful on the leash (I’m surprised my arm is still in its socket) she now happily trots alongside me with little to no pulling, unless a loud noise spooks her or we’re getting close to home. At which point, her excitement takes over and she’s charging to get back. Through my trainer I was provided the tips I needed to help ease her anxiety by being a strong and firm leader, a job I take very seriously. I’m also very protective over her in that I’m weary of overactive dogs and children approaching and always enforce the importance of respecting her personal space.
Does Pepita have any favourite toys she plays with?
She is so funny when it comes to toys… and by funny, I really mean picky! At first, she was genuinely baffled by toys and showed no interest in them, only confusion. But she loves anything that makes a crinkling noise or has a high pitch squeak. Floppy ears are a bonus too, that way she can latch on with her mouth and shake the poor thing around like the beast she is. Special shout out to the Kong – best purchase ever! I’m not sure who’s more amused with it, her when she plays or me as I watch her.
What do you think she’s doing when you’re not around?
As any diva must do, she is getting her beauty rest! As soon as I get out of bed in the morning she’ll make herself comfortable wherever I was, head resting on my pillows. Her energy level is well suited to mine. She loves playtime- going for runs outside or playing with her toys inside, but also enjoys just being lazy and cuddling up by my side. We’re both couch potatoes and so it works out quite well.
What is some advice you wish you had before you adopted a pupper?
Life ain’t rainbows and sunshine, so don’t adopt a dog looking for it to make your life into that. While they undoubtedly do bring a lot of joy into your life, they – much like children, also bring a lot of responsibility. I can’t stress enough the importance of patience when it comes to adopting, especially a dog with special needs. I think humans sometimes expect too much from a dog without giving them anything first (and no, I don’t mean a handful of treats). Give them patience, love, direction and then reward. Give them the time they need to heal from whatever it is they’ve been through. Do not just trust your journey but choose to own it instead. It was months before Pepita let her personality shine, and boy does she know how to shine. I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into when I got her however, I know now it was truly meant to be. With all my heart I believe that there is no one better for her than me, and me for her. We’re just two lost souls finding our way through this world together, learning and growing for the better each and every day.
If you could adopt another pet, what would it be?
That’s a hard one! Given my current situation I am unable to commit to having another dog in the household. I’ve been tempted to foster, specifically a senior dog as I think their companionship and energy level would be great for Pepita, but it is a huge responsibility and I want to be at a point in my life where I feel I’m truly ready and have the time to take it on. That being said…. I’ve been absolutely itching to adopt a cat lately!!! I am both a cat and dog lover, and I would love to have another furry friend in the house for Pepita and myself. However, Pepita being comfortable at home is my main concern – she is so happy in her home here and I would never want her to feel put out. I’m just here to pay her bills, what can I say!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a pet owner?
To see things through – finish what you start, because you truly never know what the outcome may be. It’s quite common and quite egotistical of us humans to assume we know how things will play out. When I met Pepita for the first time, it went HORRIBLE. Seriously – it couldn’t have gone worse. She spent the entire time shaking, cowering in the corner and barking at me anytime I tried to get close. I sat on the ground with some of her kibble in my hand, hoping that would let me get even just ONE pet in – but nope, not a chance. By the end I felt defeated, and I felt discouraged over bringing her home to say the least. I didn’t feel the strong immediate bond that I had been expecting to however, I couldn’t shake the feeling of having to adopt her. I wasn’t sure why I had such a strong urge that I absolutely had to have Pepita especially considering how discouraged I felt after the meet and greet, but I did. I trusted my gut, went with my intuition and proceeded with the adoption. When she first came home to me, she was confused – sweet, excited in a way, but definitely unsure of her surroundings. I gave it time, I remained patient, and as she slowly but surely began to warm up with me through her cuddles and licks, it truly made it all worth it. It made me realize why I had that strong urge to adopt her, why I felt the need to proceed despite the initial meet and greet. I guess deep down I knew she just needed someone to show her kindness and compassion, to be a leader but a friend, to be patient but firm, to give her the unconditional love she’s been longing for – and I knew I could be that someone.
Anything you want to leave our readers off with?
One absurd thing – it’s an actual statistic that black dogs are less likely to be adopted as they supposedly don’t photograph as well and/or standout like other dogs may. Well, let me tell you. Both Pepita and I take serious offence to this! Pepita would like everyone to know that she in fact photographs incredibly well. She’s got a killer smile and a luscious coat of fur, I’m her personal photographer as well as groomer so I would know. Please, don’t adopt a dog for reasons in vain. Adopt a dog because you want to better a life while enriching yours, and find the best fit for what you and the dog can offer each other – not how well they will photograph. Dog photography ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be anyways! It’s a tough job and the participants will often straight up ignore you – a rude bunch if you ask me.
Thank you again to MIchelle for being part of this amazing project! We’re so happy to have her and Pepita on the blog. If you’re interested in a feature about your pet(s) let us know through the submit page!