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Zoey Loses a Leg But Finds a New Life as a Therapy Dog

Zoey the tripod Golden Retriever was found in a ditch after being hit by a car. Now, she visits hospitals and schools as part of Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati.

Heather Marcoux  |  Apr 11th 2016


When Zoey the Golden Retriever walks into the community center, the children can’t help but get excited. This sweet tripod dog is a popular reading partner, and her handler, Monica Janning, makes sure no tears are shed — there’s enough Zoey to go around. Dogster-Monday-Miracle-badge_49_0_0_0

“When she goes to visit kids, it’s kind of cute. At first they don’t even notice she’s missing a leg,” she explains. “It’s kind of an icebreaker for kids who are shy.”

Zoey knows what it’s like to feel shy or apprehensive. It took her a while to warm up to people after she was found on a roadside in Indiana back in December 2014. According to Janning, Zoe was close to death when a kind woman spotted her in the ditch and brought her to an emergency vet. It looked like Zoey had been hit by a car — her front left leg had been crushed.

“She was one to two days away from not making it,” Janning tells Dogster. She says Zoey’s rescuers assumed the damage to her limb was a recent injury, but X-rays revealed the leg had been broken for awhile and was well beyond saving.

“She had been living with that for months — with a fractured leg,” says Janning. “I don’t know if she had been hit again, or what happened.”

Luckily for Zoey — who was just 15 months old at the time — she ended up in the care of Golden Retriever Rescue and Adoption of Needy Dogs (GRRAND). The organization helped the pup through the amputation of her leg and found her a foster home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Zoey is now as fun-loving as she was once sad. (Photo courtesy Monica Janning)

Zoey is now as fun-loving as she was once sad. (Photo courtesy Monica Janning)

Zoey was finally safe in the hands of the GRRAND folks, but her future was far from bright. Simple things were terrifying and painful to the dog, who was still recovering both physically and emotionally.

“They could not even put a collar on her in the beginning because she would just scream,” Janning explains, suggesting that Zoey was likely healing from previous neck injuries and was susceptible to ear infections. “In fact, GRRAND had actually said that they didn’t believe she was adoptable.”

An experienced canine search-and-rescue volunteer, Janning first became aware of Zoey through the GRAAND website. A recently retired teacher, she was looking for a special needs dog she could train for therapy work. She had applied to the organization with Zoey in mind, but understood when the dog’s adoptability was questioned.

“She had so much trauma that they were dealing with,” Janning says. “Then something happened, and Zoey — [then known as] Dawn — was back up on the website. So I called and said I would like a chance.”

After that, things proceeded rather quickly, as Janning had already been approved to adopt through GRRAND.

“I eneded up going to Louisville to meet the foster parents,” she says, adding that she finally adopted Zoey in May 2015.

When Zoey first came home, it took her a while to figure out her place in the family. She had a little help from Janning’s other dogs, a black Lab named Nike (Janning’s canine search partner) and another Golden Retriever named Riley. Zoey liked the other dogs — especially Riley, who is nearly the same age.

Zoey and Riley love each other. (Photo courtesy Monica Janning)

Zoey and Riley love each other. (Photo courtesy Monica Janning)

“They got along really well — but Zoey had some issues,” Janning recalls. “She had some social issues trusting, especially men. It was weird. It was men who had beards and ball caps.”

When Zoey would get anxious, she would become submissive and urinate. Shortly after the adoption, Janning decided to take her family to Michigan for a month-long summer vacation. The time away was great for her new dog.

“We got to know who Zoey was and started working with her,” says Janning, who enrolled Zoey in obedience classes as soon as they got home.

“She was very trainable. She was doing so well that after [passing] her first obedience class, she took the AKC Canine Good Citizen test and passed it. You’re actually not supposed to take it until after the second class.”

After Zoey passed her second obedience course, Janning connected with Pet Partners, the largest animal therapy registration organization in the country. Almost exactly one year after she was found in the ditch, Zoey passed her pet partners evaluation, earning a spot with Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati.

Janning and Zoey after passing the Pet Partners evaluation (Photo courtesy Monica Janning)

Janning and Zoey after passing the Pet Partners evaluation. (Photo courtesy Monica Janning)

“She’s now working as a therapy dog, and it’s just been an incredible journey because she’s very affectionate. She just kisses; she’s such a lovable dog,” says Janning, who has taken Zoey on about 15 animal therapy outings since she passed her test.

“She does go to the VA, the veterans hospital in Cincinnati. That’s really cool because that was the main goal for me. I really wanted to be able to work with the veterans to say, hey, you can do anything — look at Zoey!”

Zoey has a lot in common with the vets she visits, but according to Janning, the triumphant therapy dog also has something in common with the kids she sees.

“She doesn’t know that she’s missing a leg. She’s faster than my other two dogs as far as catching balls and running!” says Janning.

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