Toddler Without Feet Gets Puppy Without a Paw
|Lt. Dan might have met a different fate in other circumstances.|
But his owner, Karen Riddle, knew the white German shepherd puppy born with just one front paw was meant for something special.
|PHOTO: Sapphyre Johnson, 3, meets her new puppy Lt. Dan at the Shriners Hospital for Children|
in Greenville, S.C. on April 20, 2015.
"A lot of kids don't see other children or animals that have issues like they have," said the 3-year-old's father, Matthew Johnson, beaming as he watched his little girl toss a squeaky toy to the pup.
"This was a really nice thing," he said, "and a really good thing for Sapphyre."
Of the nine pups in the litter, Lt. Dan, named for the character in Forest Gump who lost his legs, was the only one missing a paw, Riddle said.
When other breeders suggested she put him down, she knew that was never a consideration. Many of her dogs have become therapy dogs or gone to people with special needs, she said.
|PHOTO: In an interview with the Greenville News, Sapphyre's mother said that her feet were amputated|
due to a birth defect to allow her daughter to be fitted for prosthetics.
"So I decided to call Shriners Hospital," said Riddle, whose father was a Shriner.
Sapphyre has been a patient at the hospital since she was just three months old.
"When I was seven months pregnant, they did an ultra sound and told us she may be missing some fingers and toes," her mother, Ashley Johnson said of the birth defect that also left the child missing fingers.
"They don't know what caused it," she added. "But she had just two really long toes on each foot. And when she was 1, we had them amputated so she could be fitted for prosthetics."
|PHOTO: Lt. Dan, a German shepherd puppy, was born without one of his front paws.|
"The first time I showed her a picture of the dog, she looked at it for a moment, and she said, 'That's my puppy. He's just like me,' " said Shriners child life specialist Elaine Hardin. "He's a special dog and he's going to a special child."
Watch the video above to see Sapphyre and Lt. Dan play at the park.
The dog will help Sapphyre make friends and explain her disability to other children, Hardin said.
"In the future, I could see Sapphy at her first show-and-tell in school and she could bring in her dog and explain about her dog and herself," she said. "Everybody loves dogs and they'll want to know about her dog that's special like her."
Lt. Dan will be someone for Sapphyre to talk to, to help her exercise and motivate her to move, she said.
Although they've only been pals for 24 hours, Johnson said Sapphyre and Lt. Dan make the perfect pair.
"He follows her every step she takes, everywhere she goes," said Johnson. "It's like they’ve known each other forever.
"We always want Sapphyre to know that being different is not bad," she added. "People, even pets, no one is exactly the same. That would be boring. I think it’s good for her to see that."