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A new leg for Nemo

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Foster parents and Deer Creek Animal Hospital give rescued canine a new leash on life

By Ramsey Scott

Everyone loves an underdog.

Nemo, a dachshund-beagle mix, was found abandoned in a box-store parking lot in Joplin, Mo. But even though a good Samaritan rescued the 3-month-old pup, his future didn't look bright. Nemo was born with a deformed right front leg. Instead of a normal leg, he had two small legs attached to each other, a useless appendage.

Abandoned dogs with severe deformities usually don't get adopted, and in many cases they are euthanized.

With just three functioning legs, Nemo had to adapt, like all good underdogs do. He developed a three-point stance like a football lineman. His left front leg became overdeveloped so it could propel his body forward.

When Nemo ran, he pushed himself forward with his front leg and then swung his body around to the side, almost like a crab.

“He never got the memo that he has three legs. He's lightning-fast,” said Idledale resident Doug Kalish, Nemo's new owner.

‘He’s too cute’

A volunteer with Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue who was visiting Joplin had spotted Nemo in the parking lot and brought him back to Colorado. Then Nemo’s picture was put on Facebook in the hopes that someone would adopt him.

Kalish and his wife, Julia, contacted the rescue group and said they'd provide a foster home until someone could be found to adopt Nemo.

The couple didn’t plan to adopt him themselves — they already had two big dogs and weren't really fans of smaller canines.

“That plan lasted 10 minutes,” Kalish said. “He's too cute. We're failed fosters.”

Being cute always helps when you're an underdog.

But that's not the end of the story for Nemo. Now he is trying to learn to walk again.

Or, more accurately, to learn how to roll.

Kalish and his wife took Nemo to Deer Creek Animal Hospital in Littleton to see what could be done about Nemo's leg.

“You don’t see stuff like this. You'll see some strange deformity from time to time, but this is the first time I have ever seen anything like this,” said Dr. Daniel Brod from Deer Creek. “He already was showing signs of pain in that good leg.”

So Brod sent the Kalishes to OrthoPets, a company in Denver that makes orthotics and prosthetics for animals. Martin Kaufmann, co-owner, started designing something that he thought would let Nemo be the dog he was meant to be.

Kaufmann settled on the idea of a wheel that would allow Nemo to run, one of his favorite pastimes. He designed a harness and wheel using parts from a baby carriage.

“The lady at Walmart looked at me really weird when I was walking around with a bunch of stroller parts in my arms,” Kaufmann said.

To make room for the device, one of Nemo's deformed legs was amputated by Brod.

Nemo got to test his new wheel on Dec. 20. At first, Nemo didn't know what to think; he tried to run away from the wheel. But slowly he began testing the wheel more and more, building up speed. Until he wiped out.

A few treats later, though, he began to lean on the wheel more and more, gaining speed with each pass down the hall.

An underdog never stays down for long.

Over the next few weeks, Nemo hopefully will begin to fully adapt to his new prosthetic. Kaufmann doubted it would take him long before he is accustomed to it.

“I can't wait to see him run with this thing,” Kalish said.  

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22.