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Dog has front legs amputated, and still loves life: 'She is thriving'

by Arin Greenwood / / Source: TODAY
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Noel loves the same things as any other dog: napping on the couch, romping with other dogs and jumping into bed to spoon with her favorite humans.

What makes Noel different is that she has no front legs — not that she seems to notice much.

"Dogs are capable of so much more than we give them credit for," Zach Skow, founder of the nonprofit dog rescue group Marley's Mutts, told TODAY. "Just like people."

In late November, Noel was brought to a California animal shelter by someone who'd found the badly injured young dog, who appeared to have been hit by a car.

"She was brought to us by a good Samaritan — injured with two broken front legs," said Nicholas Cullen, director of Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield.

The shelter's veterinarians tried splinting Noel's legs at first. "But upon a recheck one of the breaks had become infected and needed amputation," Cullen said.

 A good Samaritan found Noel after she'd likely been hit by a car, and brought her to Kern County Animal Services. Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue

Not long ago, animals coming into this shelter didn't stand much of a chance of making it out alive. Pets needing significant medical care would have faced even tougher odds.

Cullen said things have changed a lot over the last half-decade, when the shelter went from euthanizing approximately 70 percent of its animals to saving 70 percent of them.

 "There are consistently so many wonderful stories of compassion and lifesaving efforts that are made in shelters across this nation that go untold," said Nicholas Cullen, director of Kern County Animal Services. "And if more people knew what lengths people like my staff go through each and every day to save just one animal's life, it might encourage them to get their animals spayed or neutered, or decide to volunteer at a shelter, or donate to a shelter." Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue

"We have since instituted a completely different organizational mindset," Cullen said, "of making a significant effort to save each and every animal that comes to us."

Still, while shelter staff did their best for Noel — one of the supervisors even took the pup to stay at her home for a time — a private rescue group would have more resources to devote to the hurt little dog.

Marley's Mutts stepped in to help about a month ago.

 Zach Skow, founder of Marley's Mutts, with Noel Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue

Two days after Skow brought Noel into Marley's Mutts, he was faced with a tough decision. Despite initial hopes that Noel's other front leg could be saved, her veterinarians now advised that either she needed another amputation or would have to be euthanized.

Even though Skow had reservations about leaving a dog with only two legs, Noel seemed to want to live.

 Zach Skow was thrilled with how quickly Noel adapted after her amputations. Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue

It quickly became clear that amputation had been the right decision, Skow said.

"Noel has amazed me with her approach towards life. She is moving right along — no pity, no hesitation, no regrets. She has a disability but it's not going to prevent her from being happy. We can all take a page from her little book," Skow wrote on Instagram.

"She hasn't just adapted. She is thriving," Skow told TODAY.

Noel is healthy and well now. Walking on her two hind legs isn't the most comfortable way to get around, though, so she's got a custom wheelchair on the way. She's also had an adoption application put in by one of Skow's neighbors — if he can bear to give her up, they'll have "joint custody," he explained.

Skow has some big plans for the spunky little dog. He'd like her to be trained to work with Marley's Mutts' therapy dog program. He thinks she'll inspire people in a big way, by helping them see that "I am capable of adjusting to any obstacle," Skow said. "The therapeutic effect she has on people is immediate."

 Noel was spoiled rotten with presents and love at Christmas. Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue

Skow knows this because he's been through some tough times himself. He is a former alcoholic and drug addict who credits dogs with having helped save his life a decade ago. He finds comfort and inspiration in Noel now, too, and he knows others will feel the same.

"She is a constant reminder to me," he said. "I'm missing my front legs and I am making this work."