Dog with deformed paws has plenty of love to share

Tigger, a 2-year-old pit bull with congenitally deformed front legs, is waiting for reconstructive surgery to help him keep up with other dogs.

SALEM, ORE -- Tigger is 55 pounds of enthusiastic, tail-thumping love.

But he could be forgiven for not being so sweetly spirited. The brindle-colored Staffordshire bull terrier mix was born with a condition called ectrodactyly, also known as split hand or lobster claw.

Whatever name is put on it, it is heartbreaking to watch this smooth-coated dog, who should be active and agile, try to walk. And try he does, say his foster family, Eve Good and Troy Riggs, who live on acreage near Albany and have five other dogs and a few cats.

"I'll take the other dogs out for a walk, and Tigger will jump up on his back legs and wag his tail and get excited," Riggs said. "He'll take off with us, but after anything more than a few steps, he stops because he knows he can't keep up. So he'll just patiently stay behind. Sometimes he whines, and that's hard on us."

Tigger's front paws are a good six inches shorter than his hind ones, and they end at the joint of what humans would anthropomorphically call a knee. He has paws that are turned in and gnarled into burly nubs. What few pads he has are stripped raw and there are gaping maws in the middle of the knots.

His defects, said veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Warnock, an orthopedic surgeon at the College of Veterinarian Medicine at Oregon State University, are congenital. He was born with the shortened and deformed front legs.

So the first questions most people ask Good and Riggs, are "Why wasn't he put down before now" and "Wouldn't that have been the humane thing to do?"'

They are questions that should bother Good and Riggs, but their obvious passion for this dog lets the couple answer with kindness instead of causticness.

"His original owner loved him, but that owner lost his home and couldn't care for him, so he put him up on Craigslist," Good says. "That was about a year ago, and he was turned into Savin' Juice Medical Dog Rescue in Brooks."

Good said a veterinarian for the medical dog rescue was considering amputating the paws and giving the dog prosthetics, but Good and Riggs asked to foster the dog, agreeing that Good would stay home with him during the day, and since then, they have been determined to see if they could find another permanent solution to the dog's disability.

That was a little more than a month ago, and Good has been relentless in her pursuit of a way to let Tigger have the life she said he deserves.

For more on this story, click here.

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