Leo—A Special Needs Dog, Loving Life on Two Legs

Almost five years ago, a wonderful thing happened—Poppy joined our family. Not only did we gain an adorable dog, but we also joined an amazing community— the Fetch & Releash dog rescue. Through this incredible group, we get support, advice, and what I most love, hearing inspiring stories from other adopters. One such story came from Chanelle Singer.

Chanelle grew up with dogs and cats, and has always been drawn to animals. She says,“Animals have such beautiful energies and are so loving.”

In 2013, she moved out on her own and adopted Tizrah, a cat. At the time the vet thought Tizrah might be nine years old, but they were unsure as to her exact age, because Tizrah had lost most of her teeth.

The incomparable, Tizrah!

2020 was an eventful year for Chanelle, and not just because of the world-wide pandemic. Chanelle got married in September and a ten-year old Pitbull Mastiff joined their family.

Kirby belonged to a neighbour who could no longer care for him. Chanelle and her husband, Justin, had been thinking about adopting a senior dog, because it’s often difficult to find homes for older dogs. They had gotten to know Kirby for about a year and found him to be a sweet and friendly dog. So, when they heard about their neighbour’s dilemma, Chanelle and Justin stepped in and adopted Kirby.

Chanelle & Justin

Unlike Chanelle and Justin, Tizrah was not as happy about the new addition to the family. Although Kirby had many many pounds on her, Tizrah made it clear she ran the house. When they first met, she gave Kirby a warning swat and that was it. Kirby quickly realized his place. Whenever Tizrah entered the room, no matter where he was, Kirby would move to give her a clear path.

Sadly, Chanelle and Justin had less than six months with Kirby.  Unbeknownst to them, Kirby had a tumor and passed away.

Sweet Kirby

Though the experience of adopting a senior dog left Chanelle and Justin heartbroken, it didn’t sway them from their decision to continue adopting senior dogs. They wanted to give a dog the best life possible for however long the dog had.

When they were once again ready to welcome a dog into their home, Chanelle found Leo on Pet Finder. As soon as she saw his picture and read his profile, she decided, ‘That’s my dog!’

Leo’s Profile Picture

Originally, from India, poor Leo had been hit by a train. Miraculously, he survived, though the accident left him without a front left leg and back left paw.

Fetch & Releash heard about Leo and decided to rescue him. He was supposed to arrive in Canada in March of 2020, but the pandemic delayed his arrival until September.

Chanelle and Justin were a bit nervous about taking on a special needs dog, but decided they were up for the challenge.

The adoption process took about a month. One of the things I love about Fetch & Releash is their commitment to ensuring that each of their dogs is placed in the right home. They screen potential adopters to make sure they can provide for the dog’s emotional, physical and financial needs. 

In November, Chanelle and Justin were approved to adopt Leo and right away they began prepping for his arrival. They installed carpeting over all the floors, because understandably, Leo is afraid of floors. They also made sure to block off all the stairs.

When Leo first arrived, he was nervous and stayed in his bed. He did welcome pets and belly rubs. But after two weeks, Leo was joining in the family cuddles.

Chanelle and Justin are learning what it takes to be a parent of a special needs dog. Having only two legs affects not just Leo’s mobility, it also affects the way he eats. At first, Leo could only eat off a snuffle mat because he needs to lay down when he eats. But recently, he has been able to eat from a bowl, though he still has to lie down.

Leo also suffers from extreme separation anxiety. Even if he is left alone for five or ten minutes, he whines the entire time. He is not good in a crate. Since he hates being in the car, taking Leo along to run errands is not possible. There was one time Justin was out of the house and Chanelle was taking a shower. Leo had become so upset about being left on his own, he chewed a ruler into little bits.

Chanelle and Justin now plan their entire week so that one of them is always with Leo. They both work from home but errands, showers etc. are all scheduled ahead of time.

Though adopting Leo has been an adjustment, Chanelle says the good moments far outweigh the difficult ones.

The most dramatic improvement is Leo’s mobility. When they adopted Leo, Chanelle and Justin were told he wasn’t good on a leash, didn’t like to walk on concrete, and only had the stamina to walk for 10 to 15 minutes at the most.

Following these guidelines, they would take Leo into their big backyard and allow him to walk around on the grass. They soon discovered that the backyard wasn’t enough for Leo. On a snowy day, taking his lead, they brought him into the front yard. Leo loved it! Despite only having two legs, Leo enthusiastically jumped and played in the snow.  

Soon it wasn’t just snow he was walking on— Leo showed interest in walking to the end of the street, even though it meant walking on a concrete sidewalk. Once this goal was accomplished, Chanelle set her sights on Leo being able to walk around the entire cul-de-sac.

They started by walking one-third of the way around and slowly increased the distance. Whenever Leo reached his limit, he would sit and whine, which was Chanelle’s signal to pick him up and carry him home.

In about a week, Leo was walking all the way around the cul-de-sac! He can even walk on a leash. Chanelle says it’s so rewarding to watch Leo defy every limitation put on him.

The legs on Leo’s right side of his body have to bear his entire weight. To help him balance, Leo has been shifting his back, left leg to the centre of his body, which can lead to hip problems among other things. Because of this, Chanelle and Justin decided to have a prosthetic back paw made in hopes that Leo would be able to bear some weight on his left side to give him more balance.

To help pay for the approximate $1,500 price tag, they set up a Go Fund Page. Leo has become quite well known on the street, and the community has been very supportive. Chanelle and Justin had decided that regardless of the amount of funds they raised, they were going to get Leo the prosthetic, even if it meant paying for the entire bill themselves.

Happily, the full $1,500 was raised and Leo will soon be getting his prosthetic paw.

Leo patiently getting his prosthetic paw fitted.

It is such a joy to see Leo’s updates on the Fetch & Releash’s Facebook page. I can’t wait to see more videos of Leo as he continues to enjoy his life with his forever family.

When asked if there was one thing she could change in the world, what that would be, Chanelle’s answer—”I wish people would not overlook special needs animals and elderly animals. They’re just as in need of love as a new puppy, sometimes even more loving and grateful! Adopt. Don’t shop!”

To learn more about Leo, follow him on Instagram @leo.the.pariah