PeteyA feisty little Terrier by the name of Petey is showing everyone at the Marin Humane shelter how he gets about fairly well with only two good legs. Petey was born with his rear legs badly deformed and not very useful for the type of running and playing that every spirited dog enjoys. He has taught himself to be remarkably agile despite this problem.

In games of chase in grassy paddocks at the shelter, Petey keeps up with doggie playmates in a way that is heartwarming to see.

But his human friends at the shelter have decided that “fairly well” and “remarkably agile” are not good enough. They are determined to give five-year-old Petey as full a life as possible by helping him become even more mobile than he already is. He is quick and sprightly on a soft lawn or a carpeted surface but gravel and asphalt could hurt him. He needs lots of help there.   

His friends also want to show the public that this little guy with the odd gait is still a loving, lively, sofa-snuggly pet, who could be a regular member of the family – definitely a candidate for adoption. Petey is responding to their efforts like the star performer that he is.

Petey WheelsMarin Humane has a long history of helping and placing dogs with issues in forever homes – dogs that have lost legs because of accidents or medical issues, blind and deaf dogs, dogs that have been grossly ill-treated and neglected. There is no room for self-pity in the animal world. They find their own inner strength and skills to cope – and shelter experts help them along in that process.

I remember when a dog whose front left leg had to be amputated fell over repeatedly when he tried to pee against a paddock tree. I overheard an animal care technician whisper to him: “Don’t worry – you’ll soon be peeing like Captain Marvel.” And – Shazam! – he soon was. He became a balancing marvel.

Petey is unique. His deformity is severe enough to require more than  encouragement. The shelter has provided him with a stroller – an infant’s carriage – and he has learned to sit in it calmly like a very good boy while being wheeled to the grassy paddocks for rollicking play dates with other shelter dogs.

His human pals have a further double-pronged plan in action: (1) to make Petey even more comfortable with custom-made rear-wheels designed to his specifications by a company that has helped thousands of dogs, and (2) to show possible adopters as often as possible that Petey is a can-do sort of guy and a bunch of fun to hang out with. Petey Stroller

To make the second phase work Petey gets taken out in his stroller to meet the public at every opportunity. He has found many admirers among the sunbathers and hikers at San Francisco’s Crissy Field and he has been an attraction at shopping malls in Marin County were he proudly displayed his Marin Humane credentials. More outings are planned. If you see a handsome young beige-colored Terrier being wheeled along in a snazzy blue stroller anytime soon – his “chariot” – it will be our Petey. He will graciously allow you to pat him.

So this is Petey’s story – the story of a dog with spirit and personality. It is also a story about shelter staff and volunteers who will do everything they can think of to help animals in their care – even when the problems seem insurmountable.

Not much is known of Petey’s early days. He was born in Mexico, rescued there and brought to the Bay Area, eventually ending up at the Marin Humane shelter.

When he arrived, the veterinary staff examined him carefully in the hope that his legs might be surgically repaired or improved, but through consultations with local specialists they found that nothing could be done. His severe deformity at birth resulted in his lower rear limbs being twisted so much that the patellas were at the back of the knee joints rather than the front.

Petey BenchApart from his legs, Petey was in good health as a new arrival and he immediately demonstrated his spirited determination to bounce around regardless, so it was decided to put him up for adoption. Maybe that special someone with understanding and experience would give him a home. However, in foster care, Petey displayed some behavior issues that need to be addressed – issues that are not uncommon in shelters.

He showed signs of food guarding and he also tended to guard the people that he recognized and liked. It seems possible that Petey was bullied by his littermates as the runt puppy – the way that nature deals with physical challenges  – and that guarding behavior is his survival response. It is also possible that he might have lived rough on the streets in Mexico and that the difficulties he dealt with every day also caused him to guard what he struggled to find. We will never know all that Petey has been through.

The guarding appears to have become less marked recently, perhaps because he is fed regularly and without any food fears or tensions in the process. Many different people on the shelter’s paid and volunteer staff have been tending to Petey – feeding him, checking up on his health, or providing the TLC that is so important in preparing dogs for adoption. Maybe he is starting to relax more because all the humans he has met here have been so nice to him.

Petey with FriendVolunteers were also told that Petey seemed to dislike and fear men and would bark when they approached. As a Dog Pet Pal, I decided to test that behavior and – yes – he barked and threatened when I entered his shelter run slowly and sat down in the furthest corner from him. We stared at each other for several minutes and I removed my baseball cap in case it looked too menacing. His growling began to subside and he stopped showing me his teeth. After a while, he decided to sniff at the treats I tossed his way and I talked to him in the best high-pitched voice I could manage. When I reached over eventually to attempt a pat he tensed up but did not move away, and finally accepted it. Minutes later, he came over to ask for another treat from my bag and soon after he was on my lap.

I ended up getting a face kiss from Petey – and I have the selfie to prove it.

Something similar happened in a dog-savvy foster home with four dogs where Petey was sent to get out of the shelter environment for a while and to help with his socialization. His “foster mom” (as these wonderful folks are called) was warned that Petey might not like her husband. But the opposite was true. He soon started to go to the man of the house for affection and play. They became close.Petey Stairs

Petey also astonished his hosts when he made his way up a 13-step staircase to search for his foster mom. He made the journey all on his own – defying the expectation that he can live only in single-story homes.

So Petey is rather special at the shelter. He has won many admirers with his feistiness, love of play, excellent behavior when he is placed in his chariot and wheeled out into the world, and with the calm way he has started to greet strangers. And besides – he is also very good-looking!

A number of shelter volunteers have become his special friends. They devote much time to him and give him lots of what all shelter animals need – affection, comfort and confidence. They organized and paid for the doggie wheels he is slowly learning to use properly so that he won’t have to swivel his rear legs awkwardly to join in fun and games. They are his back-up team – and Petey loves them.


In the effort to help find the right family for this remarkable dog, Marin Humane has waived his adoption fees. Everyone is looking forward to the day when they will go outside to wave goodbye as Petey is driven away to his new home and new life.

They are also dreading the prospect of saying adios to their little amigo from Mexico.

Petey Outing