July 23, 2014 at 7:28 PM ET
A tiny Chihuahua born with a genetic defect is now back in action, thanks to some ingenuity — and a little faith — from an Indianapolis veterinarian.
Amy Birk, the practice manager of The Downtown Veterinarian, said she had been about to leave for the day nearly two weeks ago when a couple came in with a dog wrapped in a towel.
"The couple was besides themselves," Birk told TODAY.com. Other clinics had told the owners they were unable to help them, and "they didn't want the dog to be euthanized," Birk said.
The couple explained that their Chihuahua had given birth to a litter of puppies — including the tiny one they were holding, now known as Turbo, whose front legs hadn't developed.
They found that when they began to wean the puppy from his mother, his litter mates were keeping him from getting any food. Which is why at 4 weeks old, the pooch only weighed in at a meager 10 ounces.
But Birk didn't see this as the end for the little guy.
"I said, 'I'm not euthanizing this puppy,'" she recalled. "Unless there had been another complication that affected his quality of life, like a cleft palate."
So the pair signed the pup over to the vet so he could get the help he needed. Upon examination, it appeared that aside from his physical disability, the pooch was otherwise OK.
To Birk, this meant great things for little Turbo. "This is a Chihuahua," she said. "They're small enough and they can do well with a cart."
But since disabled canines can't be fitted with a cart until they're 6 months old, the clinic had to get creative to get Turbo some wheels pronto.
Using a ferret harness, pipes from a toy welding kit and wheels from a Fisher-Price toy helicopter, they were able to get Turbo in motion with a makeshift cart.
And thanks to his new ride, he's made a lot of progress.
"We've been working with him every day," Birk said. "Just today, he was able to crawl over and put himself on your arm."
Turbo, who now weighs in at a healthy 1 pound, is also full of spunk, eager to roll around and play.
Birk has seen a number of dogs with injuries like this before, either due to genetic defects or accidents. In both circumstances, the dogs have worked to overcome their disabilities.
"You’d be surprised how resilient they are," she said.
And though he's on the right track healthwise, Birk is a bit wary about the number of people who've called in to express interest in adopting Turbo.
"He's not a novelty," she said. "These types of dogs need a lot more care than other dogs. ... He's got to go to a home that understands what his needs are."
For the time being, Birk is just so pleased with how far he's come. "He's got a lot of life in him," she said.