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Rescue Profile: When a Three-Legged Dog Hops Into Your Heart

How a cranky three-legged Shih Tzu turned out to be just the dog this writer needed.

small white dog in pirate halloween costume
Photography by: Monica Weymouth

I didn’t intend to come home with a dog.


Like most people at the farmer’s market that morning, I was there for tomatoes, maybe some squash, and definitely a croissant. Noticeably missing from my shopping list? A dog.


But then something fell across my feet.


At first glance, it looked like a dirty, matted rug—except that it was moving. And whimpering a bit. Once the little pile of fluff began drooling on my toes, I realized that it was—loosely speaking, at least—a dog.


Murphy, the SPCA volunteer explained, was enjoying his first day out of the shelter since his surgery. He was turned in the month before after being hit by a car, and his back leg had to be amputated. Still recovering, he tired easily and couldn’t walk for long. As if on cue, the little mop looked up at me with big, dewy saucer eyes and let out the world’s most pathetic sigh.


[ADOPTING: What to Expect From A Shelter Dog]


Technically speaking, when an amputee shelter Shih Tzu curls up on your feet in front of hundreds of people, you have two options. But in reality? Well, in reality, you just adopted a dog.


That first night I made Murph a cozy nest of blankets before heading to bed. But a couple hours later I awoke to the sound of three paws pitter-pattering down the hall. Then approaching my bedroom. Then jumping, easily and gracefully, onto the foot of my bed. In a sign of things to come, Murph army-crawled up between myself and my husband, stretched out as much as possible, and settled in for the night, licking the last of the croissant crumbs from his beard.


It took me awhile to come to terms with it, but I’ll give it to you straight: Murph is a sneaky little jerk. In the 10 years since that fateful day at the market, he’s bitten every member of my extended family, my friends, my neighbors, and, for good measure, a couple kids. He steals food, pees on couches, cheats at Monopoly, and never picks up a tab.


Murph is, in short, the worst roommate on Craigslist; the guy you think twice about inviting to your wedding.


I’m not sure what I expected of Murph when I decided to take him home. Mostly, I felt bad for him and wanted to help him recover. But unlike (most) dogs, humans are rarely so selfless—there was a part of me, I suppose, that expected this down-on-his-luck dog to adore me in return for the free room and board.

small white dog looking up next to coffee cup
Photography by: Monica Weymouth

Dogs are funny, though—they have a way of knowing what you need before you do. Just as wolves approached our ancestors and proposed a hunting partnership, I like to think that Murph spotted me and said, “Listen, lady—you and your cozy life could use a gremlin like me.”


Because the truth is, I didn’t need a sweet lap dog. A true product of Catholic school, I was already pretty good at sitting down and being quiet.


Say what you will about Murph—and plenty have—but the little guy is a survivor. Although not what most would call a “good dog,” he has a fierce spirit and an outrageous amount of confidence for a 12-pound, three-legged teddy bear. Murph knows what he wants, and he always finds a way to get it, whether that be a home or a cheeseburger.


[DIY: Craft Your Pup One of These Treats Straight from the Heart]


Murph is no Lassie, true. But as it turns out, he’s pretty good at coming to the rescue. Over the course of 10 years, seven addresses, three jobs, one divorce and countless “what am I doing with my life?” moments, he’s taught me that if you know your worth and aren’t afraid to get yappy every once in a while, you’ll make it through to the other side.


Is he a model special-needs rescue dog? Let’s just say I don’t expect The Dodo to be profiling him anytime soon. But in his own little way, Murph has been an inspiration.


These days, although he would never dream of asking for it, Murph needs a hand hopping up into bed. Which is understandable—although we’re not sure of his exact age, he’s well into the double-digits at this point. But I’m happy to say that he still doesn't, and I suspect never will, need any help stealing the croissants.