Jenny Reader wasn’t sure that a new dog could replace the gap that her beloved pup, Dexter, left when he passed. But when she stumbled upon Woody, a tenacious Chihuahua with three legs, one eye, and a colossal heart, it was love at first sight.
“My husband, Keith, and I love tripods because they embrace life so much and don’t let missing a limb stop them,” she says. “When I saw Woody, I knew a one-eyed, three-legged dog must be extra special and wanted to meet him.”
Before meeting the Reader family, Woody was abandoned at a high-kill shelter with a gouged-out eye and an unfixable leg. He was rescued by Noah’s Bark in Torrance, California. After having surgeries to remove his leg and eye, Woody spent time in a foster home getting healthy enough to be adopted.
As Woody bounced from place to place, everyone who crossed paths with the little dog fell in love with him and rooted for him to find a good home. Reader connected instantly with the pup at a Best Friends adoption event, and the little dog became especially close with her 4-year-old daughter, Penny.
“She hugged his crate and wouldn’t let go,” Reader says. “All the volunteers held their breath, hoping we would adopt him—and we did. Even at a young age, Penny didn’t see anything abnormal about him, just a good dog that needed a lot of love. She was, and is, right.”
The family took the 5-year-old dog home in January and since then, he’s been a cherished part of the clan and an inseparable sidekick to the Reader’s 12-year-old Chihuahua/miniature Dachshund mix, Isa.
“They tear around the house together for a few minutes each morning until they mutually decide it’s time for a nap,” says Reader. “They both have heart murmurs so it’s the perfect combo to have crazy play for a short time and then sleep the rest of the day.”
Woody “the three-legged wonder dog,” as his family affectionately refers to him, is just as agile, active and mischievous as his four-legged canine counterparts. And he has so much determination that his family often forgets that he is disabled.
“Occasionally, I remember he is missing an eye when he has to turn his head more frequently in the car to see out of both windows—but don’t be fooled—he runs faster than any of us and you forget there is anything different about him very fast,” Reader says.
She jokingly refers to him as part Chihuahua, part mountain goat (for his uncanny ability to balance on three-legs on her head), part gazelle (for his ability to leap across the entire family while they’re sitting on the sofa or lying in bed) and an all-around good boy.
And though he’s had a bit of a rough past, Woody doesn’t show it. Reader says he is super trusting and loves to have a good time, regardless of his missing limb and eye.
“Most people think he is amazing or are timid around him, thinking he is wounded,” says Reader. “But they soon get over that when he bounds right up to them.”
She especially enjoys talking to kids about her pup, as they have a lot of questions about why he is missing a leg and an eye. The moment presents the perfect opportunity to talk about why people should consider adopting less-than-perfect pets. She says the typical reaction from children is to feel sorry for Woody, until she explains that he is able to run, play, and cuddle just like any other dog.
“When [kids] realize that he isn’t feeling hurt, they are real champions for him,” she says. “He shows them it’s our differences that make us special and helps teach them that there are a lot of variations of what is considered ‘normal. He inspires people, and we’re very proud.”
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.