Rescued Pit Bull Defies Deformity Through Therapy Work
When Cody was a pup, he was diagnosed with a congenital deformity called ectrodactyly – or "lobster claw syndrome." Abandoned at a shelter, he was rescued by Even Chance, a San Diego-based pit bull advocacy center, which paid for surgery to help correct the deformity by fusing his two toes together.
Now, Cody lives happily with what's called a "mitten" paw – and he's found a forever home with Sulier.
"I am one of those people that feels like pets choose me more than I choose pets," Sulier tells PEOPLEPets.com of first seeing Cody's photo on Even Chance's website. "Deep in my heart, I was worried that people wouldn't take him in because he wasn't a 'normal dog' or that people would reject him."
Thankful to have been rescued, Cody is returning the favor – as a therapy dog. And the pit bull is making history at the New Leash on Life Animal Rescue's Lend a Paw program: He's the first of his breed to be certified as a therapy dog through the organization, which Sulier hopes will set the record straight about other dogs of his kind.
"Pitties are sweet, loyal dogs, and the reason they become mean dogs is because they're so loyal, they will do anything you ask them to," she says. "People need to see that they really are extremely loving dogs."
Every other week, Sulier and Cody head to the Jewish Home for the Aging in their hometown of Los Angeles. They go up the elevator – which took a little training for Cody – and visit those in the assisted living center. It's been their routine since the pooch was certified in May.
But Sulier remembers their very first visit. As she walked into the lobby of the building, a resident with Alzheimer's disease, Jenny, sat alone. "I stopped and said, 'Would you like to see the dog?' And she said, 'Come to Grandma Jenny!'" Sulier recalls. "They can't have dogs where they're living, so they're so happy to see the dogs."
Sulier feels Cody, who walks with a slight limp, has a personal connection to those he comforts. "We talk about how he needed therapy and how they're in [the center] for their therapy," she says. "We joke that he doesn't need a wheelchair anymore because a lot of the people are in walkers and wheelchairs [at the center]."
But there's one thing she won't joke about: Her love for the dog whom she now describes as her "2-year-old kid."
"He's been pretty special ever since [I adopted him]," she says. "For some reason, from the bottom of my heart, I know I'm supposed to have Cody."
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