Coco almost never got a chance at life. Because she was born with a deformed front paw, her breeder nearly had her destroyed at birth. But the young pup managed to escape an early death only to find a sad life being passed from one home to the next. Finally, at the age of 18 months, she was surrendered to the Golden Retriever Rescue of Wisconsin and adopted by our family.
Coco’s paw doesn’t keep her from doing anything she wants. She’s very exuberant and loves to run and play and chase balls. She loves everyone and anyone who will give her attention. She also loves to snuggle up with people and uses her paw like a hand to pull someone in to cuddle. Although an accident of nature deprived her of a normal paw, it more than compensated her with a beautiful face and sweet, loving disposition.
Coco is changing people’s views about disabilities, her first success being my own family. Initially, their reaction was "we don¹t want a crippled dog," but I persisted because I knew Coco was the dog for us. What I find interesting now is that nobody in the family even mentions the paw anymore. I believe their reactions are typical of how people generally regard those with disabilities. At first, we’re put off by someone who’s different. But we stop seeing the disability once we begin to see the whole person. Although my family no longer notices the paw, it continues to draw attention from other people who ask, "What happened to your dog’s paw?" This gives me the opportunity to subtly educate them about disabilities in general. To Coco, her paw is not a disability. Since she was born with it, it’s completely "normal."
As a registered nurse, I work for a hand surgeon who specializes in helping children with hands affected by birth defects or accidents. After she’s completed her Good Citizenship and Therapy Dog Certification, Coco will become a therapy dog at the children's clinic. This little dog with the misshapen paw will have the chance to help kids deal with their own hand problems. The puppy that started life as a breeder's throwaway looks forward to a future career as a therapy dog and a purpose in life.
- Carol Guenther