Abandoned in a freezing foreclosed home with his siblings during the fierce Nebraska winter, Naki’o was nearly dead when rescuers came across his body, literally frozen into a puddle. And even though he would live to see another day, all four of the Red Heeler cattle dog’s paws required amputation from frostbite, leaving Naki’o hardly able to walk.
Half of Naki’o’s tail, and parts of his nose and right ear were also removed after the rescue. But at A Puppy’s Voice in Fort Collins, Colo., where the healing Heeler and his siblings were sent to be cared for and brought back to full health, Naki’o gained a new friend.
Christie Pace, a veterinary surgeon who visited A Puppy’s Voice rescue looking for dog to adopt, found a dog the shelter had named “Stubby,” and soon inquired.
“I wasn’t sure what type of dog I was looking for at the time, but then I came across Naki’o and I read his story and saw his picture and instantly fell in love,” Pace told The Dodo. “I wasn’t searching for a dog with a disability, but I’ve always had such a huge heart for these animals.”
I’m so excited to be in CA to attend the Putting For Pups charity event for the No To Dog Meat org tomorrow! I will be at both the daytime golf event and the evening gala and hope to meet some new furiends and celebrate this wonderful mission for such a pawsome organization!! Check out www.puttingforpups.com for more info! #nakio #bionicdog #puttingforpups #notodogmeat #compassion
It was Naki’o, of course, and Pace adopted him later that day.
“He came into the exam room and was the happiest little guy you could meet,” Pace said. “You didn’t even recognize his disability at first because he was so happy and was kissing me. It was love.”
Naki’o was only 4 pounds when Pace took him home, and capable enough to move that weight around on his stubs. But after he started to grow, movement became much more cumbersome. Pace, drawing on her 9 years experience as a veterinary technician and surgical facilities access, was able to take Naki’o into work and X-ray his legs as they developed.
No small amount of surgery would restore movement to young Naki’o. So, Pace began looking to outfit the dog with prosthetics so Naki’o could once again walk. She raised enough from clients and friends for a single prosthetic boot for her dog, but soon realized it would take much more than she had planned.
Stepping in to get Naki’o up and moving, OrthoPets, a company that makes custom orthotic and prosthetic devices for pets, donated the other three boots.
“He looked like a baby deer getting up to walk for the first time,” Pace said. “Then he realized he could go anywhere he wanted! So he had his first walk down the street. He even broke the hinges off his front prosthetics because he ran so fast and took a sharp turn.”
As Naki’o grew stronger, his prosthetics were adjusted to fit his more active lifestyle. Now at full size, Naki’o is settling in comfortably to his permanent legs.
“He is the happiest dog you will ever meet,” Pace said. “He doesn’t allow his disability to define him; if he wants something he will find a way! He is always smiling and always so comforting to me and others.”
This dog’s unbreakable spirit has been inspiring to no one more than Pace, who has since began her own rescue operation. Nakio’s Underdog Rescue has been saving and adopting out dogs with special needs since 2011.
Naki’o has been enjoying the attention as well. His instagram account, nakiothebionicdog, details the colorful canine collage that is the Pace family. There are three small blind dogs and one who moves around in a wheelchair that accompany the spring-stepped Naki’o now.
The Animal Rescue Site wishes the best for Naki’o, Pace, and the rest of the furry family. As heartwarming as their story is, click the button below to read about a senior dog who was tied up outside for 15 years before anyone bothered to care.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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