Resilient rescue husky ‘whole again,’ looking for new home after receiving prosthetic leg

ST. GEORGE— Kira’s early life was normal and simple. Born in a breeder home, the Siberian husky puppy thrived until the day a car door slammed on her leg, forever changing her gait and her life. 

At three months old, her left paw severely damaged, Kira’s breeders gave her away. Unable to put pressure on her broken paw, she learned to hobble on three legs, using her injured limb for balance while her paw began to awkwardly bend under her leg.

Three years later, Kira’s owners surrendered her to the P.A.W.S. Adoption Center in St. George, which has rescued over 9,000 animals since 2013. 

“They just didn’t want her anymore. It’s hard to put that in words that sounds nice, but that was the truth,” said Lulu Hart, P.A.W.S. operations manager. “They just flat out didn’t want her.” 

After being rescued, P.A.W.S. veterinarian Dr. Cameron Norton X-rayed Kira’s paw and determined it was causing her a lot of pain. They made the difficult decision to amputate the paw, but leave her leg since she had learned to rely on it for balance. 

Kira plays using her new prosthetic leg, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Lauren Posey, St. George News

Shortly after her surgery, local prosthetist Brian Hamrick, who occasionally does prosthetic work for animals including horses and goats, heard about Kira’s story. Hart brought Kira to meet Hamrick, who felt an instant connection with the dog. 

“She’s so great,” Hamrick said. “If I didn’t already have so many dogs, I would have adopted her.” 

Hamrick fitted Kira for a prosthetic leg, valued at approximately $2,000, at no charge to the shelter. 

Kira needed to undergo one more surgery, which involved removing more of her leg before being fitted for a new one. While healing, the resilient pooch lived with experienced P.A.W.S. foster Amber Foster. 

Once healed from her surgery, Kira was given a temporary prosthetic leg while Hamrick designed her new, waterproof, spring-loaded running foot — designed to enable a more active lifestyle. 

Kira received her new leg last week; within 48 hours, she was using her prosthetic leg to balance. Although it took time for her to put weight on the prosthetically-enhanced leg, she soon started to figure out how her new leg works. 

“She is a true athlete. She runs like the wind, she really is an athletic dog and hiking for her is just a pleasure,” Hart said. “For them to step up to the plate and say ‘Let’s make this dog whole again,’ and give her this opportunity, was really amazing. … To be able to do that, and go through this process, and watch this dog go from a dog who had three and a half legs, to four legs… and (now) watching her run on all fours is a pretty amazing experience.” 

While P.A.W.S. volunteers fell in love with Kira during her two months with them, they realized she needed to find a home with someone experienced with the needs and behaviors of huskies. 

Clinic manager of Hanger Clinic Brian Hamrick and veterinarian Cameron Norton with Kira on the operating table, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Lulu Hart, St. George News

“Kira is really a sweet dog. She loves humans, she loves affection, she’s just gorgeous to look at, so spending time with her is a real joy,” Hart said. “She’s just stunning. She draws everybody into her world.”

P.A.W.S. reached out to Arctic Rescue based in Payson, Utah, a rescue specializing in fostering and adopting out arctic breeds, including huskies and malamutes. 

Through Arctic Rescue, Kira was placed in a temporary home with Lauren Posey, who has five other huskies and 18 years of experience working with huskies.

Kira is still awaiting a permanent home. 

“She is such a strong dog. she acts just like any other dog that has four paws, and it’s really not much extra care,” Posey said. 

Kira is still adjusting to her new prosthetic, but Posey has kept her active, hiking and playing fetch with a tennis ball, one of the husky’s favorite activities. 

“You have to earn her trust. Which is true, especially with a husky breed, and so I’ve taken things slow with her,” Posey said. “We’re trying to get her to put weight into it. Because she spent three years without putting weight on her paw, it’s going to be a little bit of a training process for her.” 

Animals who receive prosthetics experience similar struggles and adjustment periods to humans. Adding to that difficulty, however, is that animals can’t verbally communicate how the prosthetic feels, or the problems adjusting, to their prosthetist. 

“They can’t talk to us and tell us what they feel and how they’re doing,” Hamrick said. “It’s more trusting for them; they have to learn to trust it. She had a paw that was bad for her whole life, and she couldn’t put weight on it because it was too painful. So now that paw is gone, but she still has to trust that what she’s coming down now isn’t going to hurt.” 

To mitigate any alignment issues or discomfort for prosthetically-enhanced animals, Hamrick studies the unique gait, running style and anatomy of the animal.

Kira plays using her new prosthetic leg, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Lauren Posey, St. George News

“It took her a little while, but she adapted and within about 24 to 48 hours she was running on it,” he said. “So she adapted really really well.” 

Being able to run and hike is especially important for Huskies, who tend to be super active and athletic. Maren Gibson, the founder of Arctic Rescues, said that in addition to needing a great deal of exercise, huskies are known to be highly intelligent. However, those qualities sometimes make the breed prone to having behavioral issues such as digging, resource guarding, jumping and running away, which can make it extremely important for husky owners to be prepared and know how to work with them. 

“Even though cute little Kira is missing a paw, she’s still a husky. So it’s good if we can get her into a home that’s going to kind of understand their mannerisms and dynamics,” Gibson said. 

Because huskies are generally regarded as beautiful animals, many people adopt them without realizing how much attention and involvement they require. Gibson first started Arctic Rescue after seeing how many huskies were ending up in shelters because people couldn’t handle the work that goes into owning one. 

Arctic Rescue is caregiver to nearly 100 arctic dogs a year while working to find them a permanent home. They work with potential adopters before, during and after the adoption process to ensure they’re prepared to care for the animals. 

Rescues like P.A.W.S. and Arctic Rescue are volunteer-based. Those interested in donating, volunteering, fostering or adopting can find more information online at dixiepaws.org and arcticrescue.com

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Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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