Last year, the Atlanta-based service dog nonprofit organization, Canine Assistants, welcomed a litter of golden retrievers into the world. Most of the pups would grow up to be service dogs, but one pup would be sitting out of the training, a result of being born without his left hind paw. Instead, Pirelli has a hope-filled life as a spokesdog for disability awareness while awaiting his very own carbon-fiber prosthetic paw.
According to veterinarian Dr. Kent Bruner, the injury was likely caused by the umbilical cord wrapping around the paw and cutting off blood flow to the limb before birth. Pirelli was fitted with a temporary prosthetic paw while he grew through the puppy stage.
Pirelli travels around Georgia, visiting schools as a “spokesdog” to spread a message of acceptance. He’s captured the hearts of many and has inspired kids who have physical and mental disabilities just by being himself.
With the help of Groupon, who offered to match up to $25,000 worth of fundraising done via the deal site, and fundraising efforts made online by Canine Assistants, Pirelli will be fitted with a state-of-the-art carbon-fiber paw, very similar to the one worn by elite runner and Olympian Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee with prosthetic legs who competed successfully against able-bodied runners. Once Pirelli has reached full-size, his prosthetic paw will be put in place surgically by a team at North Carolina State University’s veterinary school.
What is unique about Pirelli’s surgery is that the prosthetic will be implanted into the bone, meaning that there will be no need for straps or padding to secure the new paw. Once healed, the implant will be permanent, and the only thing that will be done in the future is occasional replacement of the retread paw as it wears down. The Hangar Clinic, which is the same company whose prosthetic work that inspired the movie Dolphin Tales, is constructing the prosthetic.
“Pirelli is just an exquisite example that life isn’t about how you get from place to place, or what you see or hear. It’s so much more than that,” said Jennifer Arnold, the founder of Canine Assistants. “Imagine the impact Pirelli will have on students when he enters the classroom and says in his own way, ‘Let’s redefine normal!’ ‘Forget the foot. Love me, I’m a dog!’ is a perfect example of how everyone should approach disabilities, and we are excited Pirelli will soon be helping us spread the word.”