In honor of National Puppy Day, this week’s Monday Miracle is a pup who has been beating the odds since the day she was born. Her name means “miracle” in Russian, and little five-month-old Chuda has certainly earned the title as the sole survivor of a litter plagued with severe birth defects.
“She is astonishing us on a daily basis,” says Lisa Decker, the director of MisUnderstood Siberian Husky Rescue (MUSH) of Indiana.
“We weren’t expecting her to walk,” she says. “It’s not a productive walk, it’s not a normal walk, but it’s definitely the Chuda walk.”
These days, Chuda is a headstrong puppy, but when Decker first met her, she was just a lucky little newborn in need of rescue. The pup was only a few hours old when Decker got a message from a fellow rescuer who’d noticed a concerning posting in a community garage sale group on Facebook.
“Somebody was offering a Husky they’d found who had just given birth that morning to four puppies. She couldn’t keep them and wanted somebody to pick them up,” says Decker, who contacted the poster, despite the fact that she was in another city.
Decker explained why such young puppies shouldn’t be separated, and the dangers of giving dogs away for free online. The woman said she suspected something was wrong with one puppy’s mouth, and from what she described, Decker believed the puppy probably suffered from a cleft palate.
“I said if she would allow our rescue to take them, I would contact the vet, and she could drive them directly to the vet,” she remembers. As a MUSH foster home began preparing for a litter of puppies, the Facebook poster arrived at the vet clinic to drop off mama dog Juneau and her babies.
“The vet texted me to say, ‘I want you to sit down. I’m getting ready to send you some photos,'” Decker recalls.
“She said, ‘You were misinformed when you were told about the puppies problems. I need you to sit down, and these are going to be hard to look at.'”
When the pictures arrived, Decker was shocked to see two puppies with severe cleft palates, missing limbs, and deformed hindquarters.
“The severity of the deformities was pretty breathtaking. None of the vets at the clinic had ever seen a litter quite this severe.”
According to Decker, several vets have since come to consensus that Juneau must have gotten into something toxic very early in her pregnancy.
On the advice of the vet, Decker and the team at MUSH made the heartbreaking decision to euthanize the two most severely deformed puppies. Another pup had died before even arriving at the vet’s office.
“And then we had Chuda. At that point, taking pictures of her, we didn’t appreciate any other deformities. Other than her flipper paw we were good to go.”
Little Chuda and mom Juneau were whisked off to a MUSH foster home, where they were in the care of an experienced Husky handler.
“It’s a 24-hour-a-day job with Juneau and Chuda. Mom herself has some behavioral and emotional issues,” Decker says.
As Chuda grew, it became apparent that she was not developing normally and was suffering from more birth defects than previously thought. Her spine, ribs, back, legs, tail, and hips were all affected.
MUSH needed to get Chuda in to see a specialist vet, and it started a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for some of Chuda’s medical costs as the list of physical challenges got longer and longer.
“She has a mild form of spina bifida. The shape of her chest is part of the spina bifida,” says Decker, who adds that Chuda’s chest deformity isn’t obvious in photos, but is clear to anyone who pets her in person.
“Her ribcage severely bellows in and is flat. It pushes her heart and other organs a little lower, towards her diaphragm, so everything she does takes a lot of energy. It’s more work for her heart, it’s more work for her lungs.”
Because Chuda also has a condition known as “swimmer puppy syndrome,” she cannot stand or walk normally. MUSH has been helping Chuda get the physical therapy she needs and has helped her get into custom carts — but Chuda (who is half Siberian Husky, half Golden Retriever) definitely inherited some Husky stubbornness and would rather walk than roll.
“She’s figured out that if she stands up and she leans on a wall for her bad hip, she could hop along that wall and not fall down,” explains Decker, who adds that Chuda’s walk has eventually evolved to not involve walls.
“As she’s starting to use her back legs more, we want to see if that’s not maybe a realistic option. Maybe with more physical therapy, maybe she can use her back legs until she gets to an age or a weight where she can’t.”
Unfortunately, due to the way Chuda’s chest cavity is situated, it’s not safe for her to go under anesthesia now. Even if surgery would help her back legs, Chuda likely wouldn’t survive it. It’s possible that her chest may shift as she grows, making surgery possible, but the vets can’t guarantee that will ever be an option.
“They don’t know what the future holds,” says Decker. “She could be with us for 10 more years, she could be with us for 10 more weeks. We don’t know.”
Chuda’s long-term health may be a question mark, but one thing is certain — this little puppy is determined. Recently, her foster mom got the shock of a lifetime when she walked up a flight of stairs and turned around to find little Chuda right behind her, climbing away.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.