Gary Walters and his partner, Amanda Giese, pulled into their driveway in March of 2015 expecting the customary excited greeting from their Boxer, Duncan. Usually the first of the Panda Paws Rescue pack to welcome the humans home, the two-legged dog was unusually quiet. Instead of rushing to Walters when he entered the house, Duncan just leaned back and fell over. To Walters, it looked like something out of a cartoon, but it definitely wasn’t funny. He’d always known this day would come, but that didn’t mean he was ready to say goodbye.
“I ran over and picked him up, and he was still alive, but then he just kind of arched his back again and just peed everywhere and died in my arms,” Walters recalls.
At Giese’s direction, Walter put Duncan on the ground and watched as she performed CPR on the dog. After a few agonizing moments, life returned to Duncan’s body.
“He took a breath, and his tail started wagging.”
In true Duncan fashion, the dog had survived against all the odds.
His full name is Duncan Lou Who, and thanks to a viral video, he is the most famous member of Panda Paws, their in-home rescue for special-needs dogs in Washington. The exact cause of his collapse that night is unknown, but likely related to the way his body is formed. The two-legged dog’s organs are cramped and compromised in his rib cage. He has already lived longer than was projected when he came to the rescue three years ago with a hind-leg condition that could have been fatal.
“They were fused underneath him in an X shape, and the options were to euthanize him or amputate the legs,” Walters explains. “They were twisting his spine, and eventually they would have twisted his spine enough that it would have severed something and then he would have been in horrendous pain.”
After Duncan’s back legs were removed, Giese and Walters began looking for a very special home to adopt him into. At one point, they thought they’d found the perfect family for Duncan, but when his potential adopters came to visit, everyone got the feeling that Duncan was already with his forever family. Walters says that was the beginning of a special bond he didn’t expect. Many of Duncan’s fans don’t realize that although Giese is the public face of Panda Paws, the dog is actually a real daddy’s boy.
“I am definitely his person, and he is definitely my dog, without question,” Walters explains, adding that Duncan’s celebrity status hasn’t changed him, but the dog’s personality has. He says Duncan has taught him a lot about resilience, determination, and patience.
“That’s the one thing people don’t understand about Duncan — he’s a handful. He’s a Boxer with two legs, but he’s still a Boxer.”
The energetic dog is constantly adapting to make the most of his body. Very few dogs Duncan’s size can replicate his post-amputation success. According to Walters, most double hind-leg amputees will never walk upright with the ease Duncan does.
“He’s literally one of a kind,” he explains.
Due to his unique physiology and a metabolic disorder, Duncan burns twice as many calories as other dogs. Although he weighs 24 pounds, he must eat as much as a 60-pound dog. Walters and Giese are constantly assessing and tweaking Duncan’s diet to keep him at his ideal weight.
“If he’s too light, that’s unhealthy for him from a metabolic standpoint. If he’s too heavy, it’s too hard on him from a joint and muscle and bone standpoint,” Walters explains.
By reaching his third birthday this July, Duncan has already outlived what many predicted. His Instagram account and email inbox are full of comments from people who are channelling some of his resilience to overcome obstacles in their own lives.
“He has proven to just be a very inspirational creature,” says Walters, who has read many letters from those his dog has helped from afar.
In addition to helping humans, Duncan is also helping his fellow dogs by changing the public perception of differently abled pets for the better. Walters appreciates how Duncan has changed the world — and changed him. He knows that next time Duncan may not come back to life, so he doesn’t take one moment for granted.
“We only get to spend a very little amount of time with him, so let’s enjoy it while we can.”