The trap was probably set for a coyote, but the paw it captured didn’t belong to one. A shared genus was about all the prisoner had in common with the snare’s intended target. Unlike the coyotes and other animals who called the Canadian woods home, Panda — a 4-year-old Puggle–French Bulldog mix — wasn’t used to feeling the soft forest floor beneath her feet. The paw that stepped into the snare had spent years standing on wire cages. When a human walking through the woods came upon the trapped dog, her droopy underside told the story she couldn’t: In a rural area known for puppy mills, Panda sure looked like she had come from one.
“We don’t know how she got out — if she escaped or if she was sent packing on her own,” explains Stephanie Gallo, who adopted Panda on June 30, 2015. “Without the Good Samaritan who found her, she would probably be dead in the forest.”
According to Gallo, that kind passerby freed Panda and took her to the Quinte Humane Society in Belleville, Ontario. Recognizing Panda’s damaged paw would likely need to amputated, the shelter worked with T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue, a foster-based rescue in Toronto, to take over her care.
“T.E.A.M. arranged for her amputation, they did it while she was still out in Belleville,” explains Gallo, who hadn’t seriously considered adopting a pet before coming across Panda online.
“I just kind of stumbled across her picture on a dog rescue site. I wasn’t looking for a dog, but her face just caught my heart,” she says.“I knew that if I applied for her and they decided that I was the one for her, then it was meant to be.”
Panda had been with T.E.A.M. for about two weeks when Gallo put in her application for the tripod — she says hers was the first application the rescue had received for the dog. Gallo believes Panda’s missing leg probably deterred potential adopters, but for her, a tripod was just the right speed.
“A lot of people look for dogs that can be active with them and their family — not that I’m not active, but it’s to a point,” she jokes. “I knew she probably wouldn’t like to walk that much.”
Panda was only a couple weeks out from her amputation surgery when she came to live with Gallo, and she definitely wasn’t up for any exercise at that point. Luckily for her, Gallo had a little red wagon with Panda’s name on it — literally. It was time for Panda to be be pampered. According to Gallo, the rescued pup was very sweet, but also very unsure of the world around her.
“She didn’t walk very much, she didn’t do very much,” Gallo recalls. “At the beginning, she had no interest in other dogs, no interest toys.”
A year on, and Gallo is now running out of room for Panda’s ever-growing toy collection.
“Now she’s a completely different dog than when she arrived on my doorstep. She has so much energy. She loves people,” Gallo explains. “She’s a dog now. When I got her, she was a shell of a dog — she looked like one, but she wasn’t really a dog. Now she’s just kind of normal.”
These days, Panda is up and moving and goes for three to four walks a day with Gallo. She says despite what people think, taking care of a three-legged dog isn’t much different from caring for a non-amputee.
“Special needs doesn’t mean that they’re more difficult to live with,” she says. “The biggest thing that we struggle with is just that Panda can’t walk very far.”
Despite all the progress Panda has made in other areas, the now 5-year-old mixed breed still doesn’t like having her feet touched — something Gallo believes is related to standing on wire crates for the first four years of her life.
“I would just like everyone to be aware of where their dogs are coming from,” she says, recognizing that not everyone turns to a rescue when looking to for a canine companion. Gallo says she hopes stories like Panda’s will make potential puppy buyers at least consider adoption — and support only ethical breeders if rescue doesn’t work out.
“Just be educated, know where your dog is coming from, and don’t support puppy mills,” she pleads, adding that her heart hurts when she thinks about where Panda came from and where other dogs like her still are. No one knows how the overbred dog ended up in alone in the woods, but Gallo is glad Panda got out — however it happened.
“It just makes me so happy that I found her and that I can give her a home.”