A canine-do attitude drives 2-legged dog
By Adam SchragerDenverPost.com
Among Tami Skinner’s three Shelties, it’s easy to pick out the youngest. He’s not just the smallest or the one knocked down by his brothers while playing catch in her backyard. Three-year-old Dare has a more obvious distinction.
He has only two legs — the front and back limbs on his right side.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How does he walk?’ ” said Skinner. “He just walks. He just goes because nobody’s told him he can’t.”
He has adapted to life with half the capacity of a normal dog without giving up anything in the process. For example, he leans against a wall to drink his water and eat his food. He uses the ground to help balance any bone he wishes to chew. And when he plays with his brothers, he’ll get tired from running a little quicker and lie down to rest before using his two limbs to push himself up and get back in the game.”I’ve never treated him as a disabled dog,” Skinner said. “He’s special, but he’s not disabled.”
Skinner likes to tell people that Dare stands for Daredevil. But the truth is that Colorado Sheltie Rescue, which saved him, wanted to dare people to see his face and hear his story before they would deny the reality behind the puppy mill where he was born. His back left leg was chewed off before he was a week old, and his front left leg was caught in a cage, fractured in multiple places and dislocated at the elbow. After receiving no medical treatment for weeks, he was given up by the breeder because no one would buy him.
“I can’t even imagine how much pain he was in,” Skinner said. “(Yet) he has the attitude ‘I can do anything (other dogs) can do.’ . . . He has a spirit you cannot deny.”
From the moment she adopted him, Skinner knew Dare’s purpose transcended simply playing with a tennis ball and that her obligation to him transcended carrying him outside to go potty.
They became an animal-therapy team through the American Humane Association and travel the Denver metro area to bring support, comfort and inspiration.
At the King Adult Day Enrichment Program, Rochelle Rotruck dropped her pottery clay — which she had been kneading to help joints stiffened by multiple sclerosis — to embrace her “grand baby.” He visits the Denver facility weekly.
“He gives you an incentive to try and do better no matter your disability,” Rotruck said, holding Dare on her lap. “Like the day I was feeling sorry for myself because of my (joints), and then Dare came in and I forgot all about it.”
Every other week, Skinner takes him to the Fletcher-Miller School in Jefferson County for special-needs children. She reads to the class, and Dare sits on kids’ laps — and when he starts licking faces, there’s not a frown to be found.
“He’s just like them,” Skinner said. “He accepts them for who they are and doesn’t treat them any differently because of their disabilities.”
Once a month, he visits an amputee clinic at Presbyterian St. Luke’s, where patients share stories about the loss of an arm or a leg.
“A lot of times, we can accomplish more than we thought we could,” said Dr. Howard Balan, a psychologist who facilitates the group. “(Dare) tries and tries and tries, not knowing he should stop trying. I doubt Dare has these obstacles in his own mind, while we humans, we can put these obstacles right in front of us.”
Skinner says the overall message Dare can share is this: In a world where there are all sorts of reasons to complain about our lot in life and to stress out about trying to solve our problems, if a two-legged dog can figure it out and live a happy life, so can we.
“I look at him and think, nothing I have ever experienced in life, ever, has met up with what he has experienced in life,” she said. “And he’s happy, wrestling, playing with his brothers like nothing’s wrong, so why am I being a sourpuss?
“Get on with life, enjoy it. You only get one.”