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A two-legged dog finds a mission in life

There is an industry of rolling aids for disabled pets. But peanut butter on the end of a spoon and tossed gummy bears got Faith up off her chest and walking.

Faith's owner, Jude Stringfellow, 46, says her son found Faith as a puppy five years ago. The chow mix had a shriveled front left leg that flopped behind her and had to be removed, and a legless, partial right front paw with two nails she still hates getting clipped.

For Stringfellow, Faith has grown into a calling and a job. She gave up being a teacher in Oklahoma to take Faith on the road to appearances at events ranging from pet expos to Oprah. Her focus, Stringfellow says, is spreading Faith's message. "I want people to understand that you can be imperfect physically and still be perfect through your soul, through your spirit."

Even without the positioning of Faith as essentially a 27-pound self-help book — "If a dog can do it, so can a person," says Faith's agent (yes, she has one) Mike Maguire — the experience of seeing a wiry dog with a furiously wagging tail and a nose-height of 40 inches confidently strolling through a mall can generate some unexpectedly personal and jarring encounters.

"That is so awesome!" said Marika Robinson, a 16-year-old server in the food court in a mall in Manassas, Va., last week.

Then, amid the gasps, Robinson said: "My mom died last year. That would have put a smile on her face. She loved animals. She loved animals. ..." She began to cry.

Faith has that kind of effect on people.

All the walking, and excitement, gets tiring. Faith often folds herself down for quick breaks, and Maguire and Stringfellow alternate carrying her around their necks some of the way between appearances.

Gregory Hammer, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said dogs generally carry about 60 percent of their weight on their front legs. Any extra load can increase the wear and tear on hip or knee joints. "But I'm sure this dog has compensated very, very well," Hammer said. "The dog doesn't know that it only has two legs."

Some of Faith's new fans, such as Yuliya Aranovska, 18, manager of a teen clothing shop, still wonder about this enterprise.

"You start thinking, What does the dog think about it?'' Aranovska said. "I'm not sure. But I know that he's happy to be alive."

A two-legged dog finds a mission in life 04/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 12:02pm]
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