1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Harper the puppy walking in grass
www.FlyinFurPetPhotography.com
Three weeks ago, Harper was so afflicted by a rigor-mortis-like condition that she could barely move. Today, she's walking almost like a normal dog.
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 9/23/2011 8:21:33 AM ET 2011-09-23T12:21:33

Sometimes the only humane thing to do is to put a dog to sleep. Just three weeks ago, Erica Daniel steeled herself to take that difficult step with Harper, a small puppy in her care.

Daniel, 26, fosters dogs that need serious help, and Harper had come to her in the most desperate of circumstances. On Aug. 31, a woman in Sanford, Fla., first encountered the little dog when she spotted a squirming garbage bag.

“There was a man outside the Save-A-Lot selling pit-bull puppies for $50 a pop,” Daniel explained. “This woman approached him and noticed a noise coming from a garbage bag he was holding. She asked him, ‘What’s in the bag?’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ ”

Slideshow: How swimming, and lots of love, saved Harper the puppy’s life (on this page)

The woman pressed the issue and the man opened — and gave her — the contents of the bag. Inside was a puppy so deformed that it couldn’t walk or hold up its head. Shelter workers and veterinarians grimaced when they saw the dog and came to the same conclusion: It really should be euthanized.

Image: Harper the puppy displaying "swimmer puppy syndrome"
Dolly's Foundation
This is how Harper looked when she was rescued. Born with a condition commonly called "swimmer puppy syndrome," Harper had a flattened chest wall and could not walk or hold her head up.

That’s when Daniel, a regular at the local animal shelter, stepped in. She decided to take the puppy home for one full and final day of unabashed affection. “I had to show her what it was like to be loved,” Daniel said. “I’d planned on taking her home that night, letting her sleep in bed with us, and having her humanely euthanized in the morning.”

What a difference a day can make. Today, Harper is not only alive — she’s thriving. The frisky gray puppy is gaining more and more mobility each day, to the astonishment of onlookers and medical professionals.

Harper’s rapid recovery began on that initial day with Daniel. The puppy had been born with a condition commonly dubbed “swimmer puppy disorder,” and most dogs afflicted with it don’t survive. The formal name of Harper’s disorder, pectus excavatum, causes puppies to lie flat on their chests with their legs perpetually splayed out, as if they were humans — or perhaps frogs — swimming through water.

Video: Trash bag puppy nursed back to health (on this page)

“The longer she was like that, the more she stayed in that position,” Daniel said. “It felt like rigor mortis — like her legs might break.”

  1. More in Good News!
    1. Wheeled wedding unites couple with cerebral palsy 
    2. After 25 years, two friends win $14 million jackpot
    3. Teaching by toes: Armless tutor inspires students
    4. 'Random Acts of Flowers' cheer the ill, elderly, lonely
    5. At 102, she changes oil on her 82-year-old car

Despite that, Daniel kept massaging Harper’s tight muscles, hoping to alleviate at least some of her stiffness and pain. Within just a few hours, Harper started lifting her head and looking around. Her front legs became more limber as well, so much so that she tried using them to walk and pull herself around.

Daniel’s reaction: “WHOA.”

Convinced that this determined little dog needed a second opinion, she canceled the following morning’s appointment and made a new, hopeful one with a veterinarian at the University of Florida. At first, the vet described the reasons Harper probably would need to be put to sleep. The list included the likelihood of degenerative bone disease, brain abnormalities and a severe heart murmur.

They decided to do a few tests just to be sure. And, as it turned out, the rumors of Harper’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Her organs were functioning just fine, and she had no heart murmur or serious brain abnormalities. The medical conditions she did have required treatment — but nothing that warranted putting her to sleep.

Image: Bev McCartt with Harper the puppy
www.FlyinFurPetPhotography.com
Bev McCartt of Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy & Fitness offered to provide free therapy sessions to Harper after hearing the puppy's story.

Some nice people at Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy & Fitness in Winter Park, Fla., heard about Harper and donated free hydrotherapy and massage therapy to the puppy. Harper responded remarkably well, and before long she actually started walking.

“She started out on grass, then carpet, then concrete,” Daniel said. “She still can’t walk on tile or hardwood floors, but she’s getting there.”

Bev McCartt, a Hip Dog therapist, explained that swimming has helped teach Harper what her natural gait should be.

“Her brain kicked in and by the end of her first session, she was like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ ” McCartt said. “She’s a walking miracle. She’s a real testament to a dog’s determination to get up and just go.”

This cat does a dog paddle — so he can walk again

Today, Harper is about 11 weeks old, and she’s holding her own playing with the seven other dogs at Daniel’s home. Daniel estimates that Harper should be ready to be adopted in about a month — that is, if she can handle parting with her.

“Right now we’re saying that eventually she’ll be available for adoption because we haven’t made any decisions,” Daniel said. “If I give her up, that will make it possible for me to foster another dog. But she’s like a baby to me. I just don’t know!”

Image: Harper the puppy sleeping upside down
www.FlyinFurPetPhotography.com
Safe and sound: Harper the puppy has thrived after receiving personalized attention and care.

This is not the first time Daniel has taken on an impossibly sad case and witnessed an incredible transformation. In April of last year, she began fostering Dolly, a pit bull that had been used as a bait dog in a dog-fighting ring. Dolly’s injuries were severe; her mouth was so swollen that she couldn’t eat. With careful attention and lots of love, Dolly recovered. Today she’s a happy girl and an American Kennel Club-certified “Canine Good Citizen.” (You can watch a YouTube video about Dolly here.)

The cat came back: 13 true ‘tails’ of survival

Dolly’s saga prompted Daniel to establish Dolly’s Foundation on Jan. 1 of this year. The organization rescues and rehabilitates homeless, neglected and abused American Pit Bull Terriers and other bully breed dogs, and it has plenty of puppies and dogs available for adoption.

“They’re just dogs,” Daniel said of pit bulls, noting the breed’s negative image. “Dogs need love, and they need homes.”

That’s certainly proven true in Harper’s case.

“The whole world was against her, but she’s such a fighter,” Daniel said. “She’s a blessing. She’s awesome.”

To learn more about the work of Dolly’s Foundation, click here and here. To help out with Harper’s medical bills, click here. To see more photos of Harper, check out this fun slideshow or visit this FlyinFurPetPhotography.com page.

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: How swimming, and lots of love, saved Harper the puppy’s life

loading photos...
  1. A sad prognosis

    On Aug. 31, 2011, a puppy was rescued from a garbage bag in Central Florida. She was afflicted by a condition dubbed “swimmer puppy syndrome,” formally, pectus excavatum. It's rare in puppies, but when it happens it causes them to lie flat on their chests with their legs perpetually splayed out. It's usually a symptom of serious neurological problems that most puppies cannot survive. Veterinarians recommended putting her to sleep. (Dolly's Foundation) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Changed circumstances

    Erica Daniel, who provides foster care to dogs in serious need, decided to take the puppy home for one full day of love and affection before she was to be put to sleep the next morning. After a few hours of being massaged and cuddled, Harper began to lift her head and move. Encouraged, Daniel contacted Bev McCartt, a therapist with Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy & Fitness in Winter Park, Fla. McCartt, pictured here, offered to treat the puppy free of charge. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A fish in water

    At her first hydrotherapy session, the puppy – whom Erica Daniel named Harper – responded remarkably well. Hip Dog therapist Bev McCartt explained that swimming helped teach Harper what her natural gait should be. “Her brain kicked in and by the end of her first session, she was like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ ” McCartt said. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Getting going

    “Hydrotherapy and massage actually build on that instinct for a dog to move,” Hip Dog therapist Bev McCartt said, adding that Harper is “a real testament to a dog’s determination to get up and just go.” (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Just the right help

    Erica Daniel, Harper’s foster mom and head of a dog-rescue organization called Dolly’s Foundation, said Harper has benefited from a mix of treatments: hydrotherapy, massage therapy and electric stimulation of her muscles. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. ‘Loosey-goosey’

    After one of her early massages, Harper got “all loosey-goosey, like we all are after a massage,” Bev McCartt said. “She just kind of melted into the pad.” Later that same day, she started to trot. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. ‘So much determination’

    “She has so much determination and grit,” Bev McCartt said. “She’s a miracle puppy. That’s how I see her. She’s a walking miracle.” (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Relaxed and happy

    Harper has thrived after receiving personalized attention and care. Her foster mom, Erica Daniel, plans to give her up for adoption in late October – if she can stand parting with her. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Unstoppable

    Harper took her first actual steps on grass, then on carpet, then on concrete. “She still can’t walk on tile or hardwood floors,” Erica Daniel said on Sept. 20. “But she’s getting there.” (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A whole new life

    Harper has been holding her own and playing happily with the seven other dogs at Erica Daniel’s home. “My dogs really egg her on,” Daniel said. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. ‘Dogs need love’

    “Pit bulls are just dogs,” said Erica Daniel, noting the negative image of Harper’s breed. “Dogs need love, and they need homes.” (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Help from new friends

    Harper has benefited from an outpouring of support from a variety of Central Florida residents. Flyin Fur Pet Photography donated photography services when capturing these "day in the life" images of Harper. All money raised from sales of Harper's photos will be directed toward Harper's medical bills and the work of Dolly’s Foundation, Erica Daniel’s dog-rescue organization. (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. No worries

    “The whole world was against her, but she’s such a fighter,” said Erica Daniel, Harper’s foster mom. “She’s a blessing. She’s awesome.” (Flyin Fur Pet Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Video: Meet Harper, the beloved handicapped puppy

  1. Transcript of: Meet Harper, the beloved handicapped puppy

    MATT LAUER, co-host: We're back now at 8:46 with a puppy thrown in the trash who's getting a second chance at life thanks to the kindness of strangers . Harper was born with a rare disorder and -- disorder -- and could not walk. But look at her now. We're going to talk to the woman who saved her in a moment. But first, Savannah Guthrie has Harper 's story.

    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, anchor: To most people, a dog learning to swim isn't a big deal, but for little Harper it's nothing short of a miracle. Harper was born with a rare disorder that wouldn't allow her to stand or lift up her head. It's called swimmer puppy syndrome. Her owner put her in a trash bag to throw away, but Harper got a second chance when a woman noticed someone selling puppies out of a cardboard box.

    Ms. ERICA DANIEL (Dolly's Foundation): Noticed a bag, a trash bag , on the side of it, on the floor next to them, and the bag was making noises. She asked what was in the bag. He declined to answer.

    GUTHRIE: Inside the bag was baby Harper . The woman took the pup to Seminole County Animal Services . They called Erica Daniel , who runs a pit bull rescue called Dolly 's Foundation .

    Ms. DANIEL: They did not think she'd survive either and our original vet had told us that she wouldn't survive. But we weren't willing to give up on her.

    GUTHRIE: Erica called some friends and got Harper into doggy rehab where she gets massages and hydro therapy.

    Ms. BEV McCARTT (Hydro Dog Therapist): The swimming is really to teach her the natural gait that dogs have. It seems to be working, it seems to -- it seems to have clicked with her neuro pathways and she's like, 'Oh, OK, this is how I'm supposed to do it.'

    GUTHRIE: It is working, take a look at Harper 's first doggy steps. Here she is at 11 weeks, getting stronger every day.

    Ms. DANIEL: I think she's determined. She wouldn't be here -- she wouldn't have survived this long if she didn't have the determination that she does because she's a fighter, I mean she's fighting to survive and she's amazing. We love her.

    LAUER: Erica Daniel and Harper are with us now in our studio. Erica , good morning. Nice to see you.

    Ms. DANIEL: Morning.

    LAUER: She wants to go to sleep so badly, this dog. How is Harper doing?

    Ms. DANIEL: Harper 's doing awesome. We had no idea her -- how quick her recovery would be, and she's walking almost like a normal dog now, she's able to take on concrete and tile now, too.

    LAUER: I had not heard of swimmer puppy syndrome. What exactly is it? What causes it?

    Ms. DANIEL: We hadn't heard of it either. It's actually, from what we hear, is a symptom, it's not necessarily a disease or anything like that.

    LAUER: So it's a symptom of another disorder.

    Ms. DANIEL: Right. She has, from what we found out, a brain abnormality and a heart murmur, so we think that may have been what caused the swimmer puppy syndrome.

    LAUER: You rescue dogs for a living, you've seen some animals in bad situations. How would you characterize the condition Harper was in when you first saw her?

    Ms. DANIEL: To be honest, I took her home expecting to euthanize her the next day because of how horrible the condition she was in.

    LAUER: So what made you not do that? What gave you hope?

    Ms. DANIEL: I spoke with some friends, we saw some -- she started to move her head around, you know, she could -- started to lift her head and started to try and crawl, and just a couple hours of just massaging her on her own just, you know, amateurly.

    LAUER: I mentioned she's a little on the tired side now, but you have a leash. Can we just see a little bit...

    Ms. DANIEL: Sure.

    LAUER: ...of how she's walking? I mean, not to put her on the spot here.

    Ms. DANIEL: She's...

    LAUER: If she lays down spread eagle, it's not our fault. Look at her. Now is this a case where you think as Harper gets older she will be running and...

    Ms. DANIEL: Oh, she runs now.

    LAUER: So she has a normal life . Uh-oh .

    Ms. DANIEL: No, she's...

    LAUER: I thought Harper was going to do something very normal there.

    Ms. DANIEL: She runs now. She's got kind of a funny walk, but yeah, she runs almost like a normal dog. It's normal to us because when we saw her she couldn't walk at all, she was just splayed out on her belly.

    LAUER: I know we featured this story on today.com and you started getting some emails from people who were curious about adopting Harper . Where does that stand?

    Ms. DANIEL: Harper , because of the hard work that our organization has put into her, she'll be adopted to somebody within our organization, so she's not available for adoption, no.

    LAUER: What's the message? What do you want people to take away from this story?

    Ms. DANIEL: Our message is -- the most important thing to us is that pit bulls are just dogs, they're, you know, every dog deserves to be evaluated individually and, you know, give them a chance. That's our passion is rescuing the breed that, you know, everybody hates, but they're amazing to us, we love them. They're just dogs.

    LAUER: Well, you've done a great job with Harper . Erica , thanks so much. It's nice meeting you.

    Ms. DANIEL: Thanks so much for having us.

    LAUER: Appreciate it. Up next...

    Ms. DANIEL: She's...

    LAUER: Hey, that's mine. Up next in TODAY" S KITCHEN , delicious Mexican-inspired meals. But first, this is TODAY on NBC .

Explainer: True ‘tails’ of animal survival

  • It's tough out there for a...

    NBC News
    A cat who went missing for nine years. A beagle who went missing for five. An enormous, affable hog who survived a serious truck accident on the way to the sausage plant — thereby avoiding the fate of being turned into sausage.


    These and other amazing tails — er, tales — of survival are contained right here in this slideshow. Some feature reunions with long-lost family members thanks to the miracle of microchips. Others spotlight the acts of kind-hearted humans. All of them will make you smile.

  • A dog's four-year, 1,100-mile journey

    NBC News
    A missing Missouri dog is found four years later and four states away.
    Who knows exactly where Mickey the Boston terrier went, what he ate, how he traveled and who he met during his four long years away from home? Well, Mickey does — but he's keeping his secrets to himself.

    The pup disappeared from his backyard in Kansas City, Mo. — and about four years later in 2007, his owners were stunned to receive a phone call from an animal shelter 1,100 miles away in Billings, Mont., saying that Mickey had been found and identified with the help of a microchip. Mickey's family said their dog no longer knew his name when he came home, and his teeth bore signs of wear and tear — but other than that, he was fine, and they were thrilled to have him back in their lives.

  • Oh Fudge!

    Image: Ashlea Boon with Fudge the kitten
    SWNS
    Ashlea Boon with Fudge the kitten.
    Attention, pet owners: Here’s a cautionary tale about leaving washing machine and dryer doors open. Ashlea Boon of Somerset, England left her dryer open in August 2010 — and Fudge, her tiny new kitten, hopped inside the machine and curled up on a soft duvet cover for a cat nap. Boon had no idea Fudge was in there when she switched the dryer on to give the bedding a refresher spin.

    Fudge spun with the blanket for a five-minute cycle. When Boon removed it from the dryer, she was horrified to see her tiny kitten collapse lifeless on the floor.

    “She was limp and wasn’t moving,” Boon said, according to the British newspaper the Daily Mail. “She was just dead when she came out. She was very limp and just lying on the floor. I was very shocked. It was horrible.”

    Boon, a nurse, rubbed Fudge’s belly in an effort to revive her, and she started breathing again. She then rushed Fudge to the vet, who feared the kitten had brain and vision damage. But after being treated for 24 hours and given steroids, Fudge bounced back. She’s doing just fine today.

    “It was really emotional and horrible,” Boon said. “I would warn anyone else with pets to be aware when leaving the tumble dryer door open.”

  • Gone with the wind, saved by a psychic

    Chihuahuas are tiny little dogs, and at 6 pounds, Tinker Bell the Chihuahua was especially small. So perhaps it won't come as a huge surprise to learn that a 70-mph gust of wind was able to sweep the little girl off her feet. That's precisely what happened to her in April while she was minding her own business at a Michigan flea market.


    What may come as more of a surprise is that Tinker Bell flew completely out of the sight of her owners, Dorothy and Lavern Utley, who turned to a pet psychic for help. They said the psychic directed them to a wooded spot almost a mile away from the flea market — and, what do you know? There was Tinker Bell! After two days on her own, she was hungry and dirty but otherwise fine. Dorothy Utley said the little dog "just went wild" when she saw Utley.

  • Should I call myself a cab, too?

    AP
    Talk about planning ahead. The owners of an African grey parrot in Japan spent two years teaching the bird to recite his full name and address in case he ever got lost.

    And that's just what the parrot did in May 2008 when he escaped from his cage and had to be rescued from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. He spent a night at a police station, where he stayed quiet as a church mouse — but after he got transferred over to a veterinary hospital, he started chatting it up. "I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird announced to the vet, and he also spelled out his address and sang songs to the delight of the hospital staff. Because the address the bird provided was flawless, he was easily reunited with his family.

  • Kitty rescued from PVC pipe

    NBC News
    Myra Amado of Wareham, Mass., heard crying sounds in her backyard for several days in June 2009, but she just couldn't identify the source of the cries. She finally checked an out-of-the-way area near her shed, and — gasp! What was that peeking at her out of a section of T-shaped PVC pipe? The head of a tiny orange tabby kitten!


    The 6-week-old feline was wedged inside the pipe so tightly that Amado had to call firefighters for assistance. Two hours and a dollop of vegetable oil later, the kitty was free from the pipe and on her way to a nearby animal shelter, where she was treated for dehydration and a broken paw. The name given to her by her rescuers? Piper.

    Video: Trapped kitten rescued from pipe
  • No swine before its time

    Stephen B. Thornton / Arkansas D
    Picture this: An enormous, 800-pound hog is riding in a truck in Arkansas along with about 90 other pigs, unaware that he's bound for the slaughterhouse — (but maybe slightly suspicious). There's an accident on the journey, and the truck flips. About 60 of the pigs survive. This one escapes.

    Not only does he escape, but he survives on his own for an entire week before deciding to take a dip in LeAnn Baldy's swimming pool. Baldy was stunned when she happened to notice that her pool was overflowing in June 2009. She was even more surprised when she saw the immersed hog cooling off in the water and enjoying a drink.

    This "ham on the lam" was spared a second journey to the sausage plant because slaughterhouse officials had no idea what he had been eating during his week on his own.

  • Reunited after Hurricane Katrina

    AP
    This is one of those stories that can make your heart hurt, even though it involves a happy reunion between a man and his dog. The drama began when Jessie Pullins had to evacuate New Orleans with his family in August 2005 as Hurricane Katrina approached. He figured he'd be gone a day — maybe two at most — so he left his Labrador-shepherd mix J.J. with a generous helping of food and water.

    Of course, Pullins was not able to return right away. J.J. ultimately got rescued and adopted by two sisters in California who cared for him deeply and wanted to keep him. After legal wrangling, the sisters returned J.J. to Pullins in 2009. The saga is detailed in "Mine," a PBS documentary about pet-ownership disputes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

  • 'Dead' pet cat returns... nine years later

    Fame Pictures
    Gilly Delaney of Birmingham, England never quite believed it when she was told in 1999 that her pet cat Dixie had been killed by an oncoming car. She always had a feeling the cat might return home — so much so that she nixed a move to Malta that she and her husband had been considering.

    And sure enough, in 2008, animal shelter workers showed up at the Delaneys' home — with Dixie! They had found the cat wandering less than half a mile away from the Delaneys' home, and they identified her because she had a microchip. The Delaneys were ecstatic. "Dixie's personality, behavior and little mannerisms have not changed at all," Gilly Delaney told the Daily Mail newspaper. "She is still a happy, contented cat who just wants to sit next to you on the sofa and have a fuss. She hasn't stopped purring since she came back through the door."

  • A 'flush' with death for tiny puppy

    TODAY
    Kids do the darndest things. Especially 4-year-olds who are playing with itty-bitty puppies. Daniel Blair, 4, of Middlesex, England, decided to give his 1-week-old cocker spaniel puppy a bath in the toilet in June 2009 because the puppy was muddy. And then — oops! — Daniel flushed the toilet!

    Daniel's mother, Alison, told Britain's Daily Mirror that she was convinced the puppy had drowned. Not so, however. A drainage company used a special camera and found the wet, startled and very alive puppy about 20 yards from the house. Four hours later, the puppy was out and safe. "I'm so, so sorry, " Daniel told the Daily Mirror. "I won't do it again."

    Video: Puppy survives trip down the toilet
  • 'Please Rocco, come home'

    TODAY
    After the Villacis' beagle Rocco strayed from their yard in Queens, N.Y., in 2003, the whole family was devastated — but no one took it harder than little Natalie. The 5-year-old cried for extended periods, and she never parted with the dog's favorite toy, a stuffed cat.

    And then in 2008, more than five years after he had disappeared, he turned up 850 miles away at an animal-control office in Georgia. He was reunited with his family because of his microchip. "When my mom told me they found Rocco, I cried hysterically — just like I did when they told me he was lost," Natalie told the New York Post. "Every time I would see a dog on the street, I would say to my mom, 'Maybe Rocco will come back.' She would say that he probably isn't going to come back. I would say, 'I know, but maybe he will.'...At night, I would wish, 'Please Rocco, come home.' And now that wish came true."

  • Somebody help this poor doggie

    This is the story of an impossibly small Chihuahua and an impossibly large barbecue fork, and it is not for the faint of heart.

    It happened at a barbecue in London, Ky. Somehow a huge barbecue fork broke in two and went soaring through the air — and its 3-inch prongs lodged deep inside Smokey the dog's head. The 12-week-old puppy barked in pain, ran off and disappeared into a wooded area for two full days before his frantic owner, Hughie Wagers, managed to find him.


    A trip to the vet, Dr. Keaton Smith, revealed that the fork had impaled the dog's brain. Smokey was operated on immediately. During a TODAY interview, Wagers told Matt Lauer that his pooch "did wake up weird" from the surgery, but Smith expects Smokey's brain to recover completely since he's still a pup.

    Video: Chihuahua impaled by BBQ fork
  • Tossed turtle makes 670-mile journey

    TODAY
    Ten-year-old Carley Helm thought it was OK to bring her new friend Neytiri, a coin-sized turtle, back with her on a flight from Atlanta to her home in Milwaukee. And so did AirTran Airways personnel — at first, that is.

    But, after Carley and her reptile friend were on board, flight attendants ordered the turtle off the plane. 

    The Helm kids set Neytiri in an airport trash bin, after calling their father William to come retrieve the animal. When he arrived, he wasn't able to find Neytiri. Turns out, another AirTran employee had already fished the turtle out of the trash, handed it off to a co-worker, who then took it home as a pet for their son.

    Jennifer Forbes, a cruelty caseworker for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, learned of the case and ran interference for the family. Eventually, Neytiri was retrieved and made the 670-mile journey to be reunited with the Helms.

    Video: Girl reunited with turtle tossed in airline flap
  • David, Brooke and Jake – together again

    PeoplePets.com
    Whether you're rich or poor, famous or unknown, the heartbreak of losing a pet can be devastating — and the thrill of being reunited with that pet can be the best feeling in the world.

    Just ask celebrity couple David Charvet of ABC's "The Superstars" and Brooke Burke, the Season 7 champion on "Dancing with the Stars." They were distraught when their chocolate Labrador retriever Jake went missing for nine long months – until they got a shocker of a phone call informing them that Jake was fine and ready to be picked up.

    "Someone found Jake in our town, had no idea who his owner was (Jake had no collar) and gave him to a neighbor who took him in and cared for him," Burke wrote in her blog on ModernMom.com. "The man took Jake to a vet for a random check-up and for blood work. After telling the vet the story of how Jake came into his life, the vet decided to scan Jake. David had an identity chip put in Jake as a puppy. ...

    "Thank God for honest people who are selfless enough to do the right thing. I hope something wonderful happens to [Jake’s rescuer] ... for caring for Jake and letting him go."

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. TODAY

    slideshow See the best of the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

    11/27/2014 4:30:58 PM +00:00 2014-11-27T16:30:58
  1. Katie Tate, Laura Langan Spoerl,

    Why are you thankful this Thanksgiving? Show us! #WhyImThankful

    11/27/2014 1:41:45 PM +00:00 2014-11-27T13:41:45
  1. TODAY

    video Martha Stewart, Giada answer turkey questions

    11/27/2014 1:15:27 PM +00:00 2014-11-27T13:15:27