Other breeders advised Karen Riddle of Greenville, S.C., to euthanize a white German Shepherd puppy who was born without a right front paw.
No way. Riddle realized the 9-week-old puppy would be the perfect companion for a child with a disability — and she was right.
“I decided to call Shriners Hospital for Children,” Riddle told GreenvilleOnline. One of its patients happened to be 3-year-old Sapphyre Johnson, who had been born with a birth defect that left her without some toes and fingers. She had been at the hospital since she was 3 months old, undergoing multiple surgeries.
“They don’t know what caused it,” Sapphyre’s mom, Ashley Johnson, told GreenvilleOnline. “But she had just two really long toes on each foot. And when she was 1, we had them amputated so she could be fitted for prosthetics.”
When Sapphyre was shown a picture of the puppy, “she looked at it for a moment, and she said, ‘That’s my puppy. He’s just like me,'” Shriners child life specialist Elaine Hardin told GreenvilleOnline. “In the future, I could see Sapphy at her first show-and-tell in school, and she could bring in her dog and explain about her dog and herself. Everybody loves dogs, and they’ll want to know about her dog that’s special like her.”
On Monday, Sapphyre was able to leave the hospital for her home in Tennessee with new prosthetic legs and the new puppy, who will be her therapy dog. The Johnson family named him Lt. Dan, after the character in “Forrest Gump” who loses his legs in the Vietnam War.
“It was awesome yesterday,” Riddle told ABC News Tuesday. “We said, ‘Sapphyre show him your feet,’ and, oh boy, she threw off her prosthetics and her socks, and said, ‘Look!’ Then Lt. Dan put his paw up at the exact same time.”
Ashley Johnson told GreenvilleOnline she thought what Riddle had done was “wonderful.”
Also wonderful: Shriners Hospital for Children, which made Sapphyre’s prosthetic legs, has promised to make a prosthetic paw for Lt. Dan when he’s fully grown.
Photo via Twitter