Thanks to social networking, a friend of mine posted the link to The Crooked Dog Blog along with an image of an adorable little puppy holding up a thank you sign.
The posting contained everything required to suck me into it: a cute puppy who is apparently crooked, therefore gimpy. I couldn’t resist.
That is where I first “met” Jessica (mom), Sam (daughter), Shelbie (daughter) ,Jason (dad), Jackson (son), Cole (son), Bella (a tripod pit bull), and Johnny the crooked dog.
The blog started in July 2011, and is pretty sparse on details, but rich and full of pictures and text blurbs that just draw you into the family, compel you to read further, and want nothing more than to reach through the screen and cuddle with cute Johnny!
I noticed they are fundraising for Johnny’s care, but there were a lot of questions that needed answering that would help myself and others freely donate to the cause of making Johnny less crooked, and so I reached out to Jessica, who gladly accepted my interview offer!
Gimpydogs: Before we get into Johnny, tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Jessica: Well, I always say I’m a blessed girl and there’s really no other way to describe my life other than blessed. I’m married to my best friend, life is so sweet when you’re going through it with your best friend.
I have four kids…four hilarious, warm, incredible, beautiful kids. My four dogs are Toby (he’s about 15) he’s my “old man” he’s going deaf on top of other problems but he’s my shadow. This old dog loves me more than my husband and kids put together (really), Reggie our little crooked legged terrier is the smartest thing ever! He sneezes when you tell him “God bless you”. Bella our 3 legged pit who melts my heart everyday when she begs for apples (her favorite). And of course, Johnny who drags my heart around with him everywhere he goes.
I have my own grooming salon here at home so I’m one of the lucky people who gets to bring their dogs to work (which I think should be allowed everywhere, people would be happier and more efficient!) So my dogs spend most mornings under my table watching me groom other dogs. I really wouldn’t change a thing!
Gimpydogs: Bella is a a tri-pawd and from your blog we learn that she fell out of the back of a pickup truck and lost her leg. I’m guessing that you adopted her after the amputation, what compelled you to adopt an amputee?
Jessica: Shelbie, my 16 year old daughter, said to me a few years ago, that she wanted a pit bull. We watched Caesar Milan often and she fell in love with “Daddy” his pit. So we did our research, talked about and thought about it for several months and finally agreed. We took our time searching for “our dog”. One day I was at The Sula foundation’s site (a New Orleans pit bull rescue) and saw a video clip of this beautiful dog with this huge, happy smile across her big goofy face. Yes, she had a leg missing but it made no difference to us. We had to meet her, they drove her over and it was instantly love with the whole family, dogs, kids, everyone! She made herself at home in my daughter’s bed that evening and has been nothing but perfect ever since.
Gimpydogs: Its also clear that your entire family is pet-friendly, were you the type of family that took in strays and lost birds and yes, I have to ask why is your mother’s dog named “Liver”?
Jessica: Ha ha! Liver, Liver, Liver…I’ll start with him. One day many years ago this little ugly stray dog came running down the road and into my mom’s yard (next door to us). He wasn’t neutered and my sister-in-law Tanja and I were discussing how large “those” were for such a tiny dog. So at that moment Tanja tells me a story about when she was little and how their dog was not neutered either and one day she asked her daddy what “that” was and his response was,” Well, honey… that’s his liver” So as a joke we started calling the little stray dog “Liver”. Then one day he decided my mom was going to be his momma too and he never left. Well she had his “liver” removed since then but the name stuck.
And yes, it seems like we are always rescuing animals of all sorts. We don’t go looking for them, they manage to find us. Lucy (the cat in one of my posts) was found under my deck one cold Easter morning with her umbilical cord attached along with 3 others. After many days and nights of Shelbie and I nursing them and caring for them Lucy is the only one that made it. We’ve found baby possums, mice, birds, kittens, turtles, oh the list goes on and on. I’ve trapped feral cats, drugged them with kitty valium and brought them in to be fixed and sewn up (one had his thigh sliced open). Some people think I’m crazy (and I am) but it’s so worth it when they look at you and you know, that they know, that you helped them.
Gimpydogs: Are you active in the rescue world or was Johnny brought to you by your friend because she knew a sucker for special needs pups when she saw one?
Gimpydogs: What were your experiences at LSU? A lot of people think that students tend to your pets at teaching hospitals, when that’s not true, teaching hospitals provide pets with some of the best care you can find for a reasonable price. How did they diagnose Johnny’s issues?
Jessica: My experience at LSU was fantastic! I had heard great things but had no idea they would be so warm and caring. The vet that had previously examined Johnny was in a hurry and very disconnected. It was very evident that Johnny was just a number. When we walked through the doors for the first time at LSU the ladies that I had spoke to over the phone greeted us “Johhny!” It was like when Norm walked into Cheers! He saw the orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist and several students. The bill was extremely reasonable as well. I travel 2 hours round trip and it’s so worth it!
Gimpydogs: What was their final diagnosis, and what is their recommended path of treatment?
Jessica: At the time of his first visit he was a few weeks old. The surgeon told me that he could get progressively worse as his spine grows or get better and better. If he gets worse I would have to bring him to either Mississippi state or Houston for surgery. If he improves on his own he could live without surgery and will just need physical therapy and a wheelchair to live a very happy life. He will soon have X-rays taken to see what’s going on in his spine. He has been doing great in rehab and the therapist thinks he might even walk on his strong hind leg one day! The other leg just gets peed on and is in the way, so we will discuss amputation down the road if thats what the surgeon suggests. For now he is working hard in rehab and we are saving for his big boy wheelchair once he’s full grown.
Gimpydogs: One of the big factors I try to tell people is to follow your instincts, no matter what your vet tells you. You need to trust your vet, but educating yourself on what is wrong with your pup is key to having a good relationship with your vet and understanding what is going on, have you done any research on Johnny’s issues, and if so, have you run into difficulty finding reliable information?
Jessica: I am the Google queen! I read everything I could find about tripawds when we got Bella, so I went back and read more on paralyzed pups with Johnny. I also met an amazing woman Amy, who had a gimpy pup herself. His name was Buddy and he was paralyzed just like Johnny. Amy has sent me so much info, links, even a box of Buddy’s rugs to help Johnny out on my hardwood floors (my latest post). She has been a HUGE help being that I was so lost. So yes it’s out there, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. I really live by Websites like yours. I need real advice from real people, not just medical advice full of big words. I need to know how to keep that darn belly band on, how to prevent sores on his poor little legs that drag around. I want to know what a drag bag is and how to keep his kneehighs on, lol!
Gimpydogs: I hate using the word “special needs” dog because it gives people the impression that dogs with disabilities take up more time and resources than healthy dogs, what does an average day of caring for Johnny entail?
Jessica: First thing in the morning I get him up out of his kennel, he most likely pooped or peed (he’s still a young pup) so he gets a bath right off the bat. Then he and the other dogs get breakfast. He’s learning the sit and wait command…though it kills me, I know it’s for the best (he’s got me so wrapped, lol!) About 20mins later I take him out and he poops, like clock work. The rest of the day he lays around and naps a lot, wakes and plays with Bella or Reggie, then he goes out for walks with the others. If I am sitting down he comes crawling up and stares at me until I pick him up, he wants to lay on my chest and sleep. At that point he just melts into me. Sometimes I won’t see him and he will be in his kennel asleep with his stuffed animals with the door wide open. He’s no different from a “healthy” puppy except that he doesn’t jump on us or the furniture (that’s a plus). He needs a little help when he goes out (either his wheels or hip leash) but nothing major. I have had puppies in the past and I am a huge “adopt an older dog advocate” because puppies can be hard to handle but honestly Johnny is easier than any other puppy I’ve ever had because he’s not into everything, he’s happy with a toy next to my feet, and there is just something special about a dog that depends on and needs you physically. The bond is stronger, until you have one you can’t understand. And he inspires us all each day. He works so hard to make up it and over the little edge of his kennel, then when he finally makes it he turns and looks at me like,”did you see that?! I did it!” He is just so full of life and positive energy. He is the happiest dog! I saw that in his sick little eyes, even when he was literally dying from a worm blockage and when the vet said put him down with his skinny, crooked, little back. I could see what was inside his sick body…a very happy puppy who just needed a chance. Have I mentioned how much I love this dog?
Gimpydogs: Before I reached out to you, were you aware that there was a whole community of Dog Bloggers, resources for handicapped pets, specialty pet support groups, canine wheelchair resources, and even organizations that place special needs dogs, helps people pay for special needs dog treatment, etc.?
Jessica: I knew of some, but I had only chipped that iceberg. I’m so excited and grateful that you reached out to me…thank you!
Johnny may need spine surgery in the future, and his orthopedic surgeon will also make a determination on his broken leg and whether amputation is warranted.
Since Johnny was getting around using the PVC cart his family carefully crafted for him, we reached out to Eddie's Wheels to let them know about Johnny's special needs and see what type of cart would be best for a growing puppy, especially for his spine and leg issues. Leslie, President of Eddie's Wheels got into contact with Jessica, and we're excited to report that they will be donating a cart for Johnny to use until he finishes growing and can be fitted for his permanent cart! We want to give a heartfelt thank you to Leslie and her wonderful company for their compassion and generosity!
Johnny may still need surgery for his spine and possibly a leg amputation, as well as permanent wheels. If you would like to help Johnny get his special wheels, please consider donating to his cause! Any money collected over the amount of the wheelchair will be used toward his future surgeries, and any money over that amount will be donated to the Sula Foundation and the Lake Charles Pit Bull Rescue.
To donate through Paypal, visit Crooked Dog Blog and click on the Paypal button on the left hand side.
You can also make donations directly to his account at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine:
Ask that the funds be applied to Jessica Funderburk
Donations are not tax deductible, but will make you feel great :)