When Michelle Morrison went to visit her sister in the northern Canadian village of La Loche, Saskatchewan, she did not think she would be bringing a dog back to Alberta with her, but everything changed when she met Henry.
“There is like a weird connection that we’ve had since day one,” Morrison says of the bond she shares with Henry. “When I went to visit, my brother-in-law was telling me the story and was like ‘you should take him.’”
Henry’s story was nothing short of heartbreaking. The stray mutt was among a pack of about 10 dogs who were living on the street in La Loche where Morrison’s sister lived with her husband, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who had been stationed in the community.
“After my sister moved there, she would feed the stray dogs,” explains Morrison. “She also has two dogs of her own that she rescued there.”
The community is one of several in northern Saskatchewan facing challenges dealing with stray dog populations. While veterinary teams from southern Saskatchewan hold occasional spay and neuter clinics in the north, these communities lack regular access to veterinary care.
“Henry had been injured about a month and a half before I came for that visit,” says Morrison. She says the dog’s foot was so badly hurt that some neighbors had joked about cutting off the injured leg.
By the time Morrison came to see her sister in November 2012, Henry’s own pack was starting to turn on him. After her brother-in-law explained that he didn’t think Henry would survive the winter, Morrison headed outside to find the stray. When she picked Henry up, the connection was instant.
“Even that first night when we took him inside, it was like he kind of knew, like this is my mom and this is okay,” Morrison explains. “My sister and I brought him in and gave him a bath. He was just so sad and depressed. It was probably the first time he had been indoors, but he let us bandage up his leg. You could see that he was just heartbroken.”
After calling her boyfriend to talk it over, Morrison decided that Henry was right — she was his mom.
“The next day was the worst drive of my life. It was crazy because he’d never been in a car before.”
The drive from La Loche back to Morrison’s home in Slave Lake, Alberta, took almost 12 hours.
“We ended up pulling over at one point because he started getting really crazy — not vicious or anything, but just crying and freaking out. As we were pulling over, he puked, almost in my lap.”
When the car door opened, Henry bolted, and one family member suggested Morrison leave the dog behind. Fortunately, she was able to track Henry down and get him back into the car. When they finally made it to Slave Lake, Henry was able to see the vet the very next day.
“They did X-rays on his foot, and because it was swollen for so long the bones had started deteriorating, so they said it had to be amputated,” says Morrison. “The vet thinks that by the way the X-ray and the wound looked, that it might have been a bear trap that injured him.”
The vet also diagnosed Henry with a very severe case of lice, so the former stray was off to the groomer to be shaved prior to surgery. By the end of his first week in Slave Lake, Henry was learning how to get around on just three legs.
“He got his amputation on Thursday. On Friday, I picked him up to bring him home, and he walked right out to the vehicle.”
Morrison says the post-surgery cone bothered Henry more than the amputation and that he adjusted well to life as an indoor dog.
“He only jumped on my couch twice while I was training him!”
Although Henry is still intimidated by large men, he is doing well in his new life. He moved to central Alberta with Morrison, who is proud of all the progress he has made. This adorable tripod proves that he can do anything a four-legged dog can do — he can even lift his remaining back leg.
“If he is peeing on something that is on his left side, he still lifts up his back leg, and he will do a handstand and pee.”
Four-year-old Henry is one lucky dog. He got a new mom, a new life, and the veterinary care he needed. For the safety of communities and for sake of other dogs like her Henry, Morrison hopes more can be done in the north to deal with dog overpopulation.
“Eventually they overtake the community, and then communities have them taken out and euthanized. It’s just not a good situation for anyone.”
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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 Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. 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 +.