Elliot was just over 8 weeks old when a Metro Animal Services officer discovered the puppy in a park hunched over in an odd position. He displayed an obvious exuberance but seemed unable to jump or sit. His chin remained bucked forward and his front legs stayed bent, even as Elliot tried to maneuver and play.
Unable to care for a canine with special needs, Metro Animal Services contacted Kelsey Westbrook of Saving Sunny, an organization that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes animal victims of abuse, neglect and those that are in danger of euthanasia. Elliot more than qualified. “He was down on both elbows,” recalled Westbrook. “He looked like he was swimming. He was just a puppy that wanted to climb all over you.”
Westbrook and a colleague took the dog to Metropolitan Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Service for a diagnosis and prognosis. There they learned Elliot had a congenital birth defect. “Dr. (Benjamin) Neat told us, ‘If this was my dog, I would try. The only reason you should consider euthanizing him is for financial reasons.’ ”
Then and there, Westbrook decided investing in Elliot was the right thing to do. “If we were going to move forward, it had to be for his quality of life and his future. … After (talking with) Dr. Neat, we knew we had a chance to give this dog a chance at a good life.”
After consulting further, Westbrook agreed to the decision to allow the doctors to operate on Elliot. They would pin his front two legs straight with the hopes that they would heal themselves, but 30 minutes after she’d dropped the pup off for the operation, Westbrook received a phone call telling her the surgery wasn’t going to work. Unsure what to do, she loaded Elliot into the car and took him home.
In the days and weeks that followed, Westbrook watched as Elliot seemed to get better. “The right leg was starting to repair itself because of the quality of life, good nutrition – and it’s only getting better,” she said.
That’s, in part, to Elliot’s new home with James Saling and Angela Micek, an occupational therapist who works with her four-legged family member just as she does her human patients.
“We adopted him on Derby Day (2012) and have had him ever since,” said Saling. “It’s great to come home and see him every day.”
Micek often takes the 10-month-old to work. “I work on daily tasks and every day living (with human clients). Having a dog with special needs isn’t really too far from working with people with special needs,” she said.
“They see Elliot and they’re inspired,” added Saling.
“We pretty much treat him like a normal dog. People say, ‘What happened to your dog? What’s wrong with your dog?’ There’s nothing wrong with Elliot. He was just born that way.”
Bark N’ Benefit
Little Eatz hosts Bark N’ Benefit Saturday, Sept. 15 from 7 to 11 p.m. for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Saving Sunny at River Bend Winery, 122 S. 10th St. Tickets include dinner, dessert and a drink ticket. There will also be a silent auction and live entertainment. For more information visit www.littleeatz.com or call 502.417.6255.
About Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The mission of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is: cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services. The key priorities will ensure that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society helps blood cancer patients live better, longer lives.
About Saving Sunny
Saving Sunny is named in honor of Sunny the pit bull who was thrown from the Clark Memorial Bridge in July 2009 and miraculously survived the 80 ft. drop into the Ohio River. Patrons and staff at Joe’s Crab Shack on the riverfront witnessed the unimaginable act and raced to the waterside to call to the dazed and struggling dog, who was soon pulled from the water by a Louisville Metro Fire & Rescue team who happened to be training on the river that day. Kelsey Westbrook, a server at Joe’s Crab Shack, adopted Sunny on the spot and gave her a name that reflected her happy and trusting disposition as she greeted the crowd who waited for her on dry land.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune