Tigger is a dog with a condition known as “lobster claw” syndrome ― but he really resembles more of a kangaroo.
The 2-year-old pit bull mix was born with ectrodactyly, a rare birth defect causing his front legs to end about six inches before they should, with deformed paws that are split in a claw-like fashion. The issue makes walking on his front legs awkward and painful, which is why Tigger spends more time than most dogs using his stronger back legs to get around.
Sometimes, he’ll use those legs to propel himself directly into a person’s lap, said Eve Good, who has been fostering Tigger in her Scio, Oregon, home for dog rescue group Savin’ Juice. He’s “confident he’s a lap dog” despite weighing more than 50 pounds, she added.
“Tigger assumes that everybody is his new best friend, no matter who you are,” Good said. “You are his new best friend, and you are going to love him.” That goes for people and other dogs — he currently shares a home with not only Good and her boyfriend, but also five other canine buddies. Sometimes, he’ll lean on them, using another dog as a ledge to support himself as they walk around side by side.
But though the playful dog tries not to let his disability to slow him down, the pain appears to be getting worse by the day. After walking increasingly shorter distances, he tends to stop and wait for someone to pick him up. Veterinarians fear his shoulder will dislocate soon, and he’s already developed arthritis. Without surgery to correct his issues, it will become totally debilitating.
“If he doesn’t get this fixed, his life is significantly shortened,” Sarah Ostrin, a veterinary physical therapist who has offered her services to Tigger free of charge, told The Huffington Post. “It will be so excruciatingly painful.”
She said it’s remarkable that Tigger has made it this far — many dogs born with his condition don’t live long because they quickly get severe arthritis that renders them completely immobile.
That’s why Good is working with Ostrin and veterinary surgeon Jennifer Warnock of Oregon State University to plan a comprehensive surgery for Tigger. Good has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for the procedure.
The surgery will involve fusing bones together in his legs that currently aren’t connected the way they should be. This will make it possible for him to wear prosthetics, Ostrin said. They’ll also be moving his paw peds — which are currently on the wrong side of his legs — to the correct location so they’ll actually protect his toes when he’s not wearing the prosthetics.
The prosthetics should allow him to run around and move “like a normal dog” around the house or for short walks, Ostrin said. The plan is for him to also get a wheeled cart to help him out for longer journeys.
The benefits of the surgery will extend beyond Tigger himself. Very few similar surgeries have ever been performed, so his will serve as a case study for veterinarians to use in the future, according to Ostrin. What his veterinary team learns will be highly beneficial for other disabled dogs.
And beyond the surgery, Good says that Tigger’s happy-go-lucky resilience in the face of his disabilities should be a lesson to all people. Animals with disabilities — even those that don’t require any surgery, like blindness, or simply missing a leg — are usually overlooked by potential adopters. But she believes there’s no reason that should be the case.
“They rebound so quickly,” Good said. “Those dogs in shelters that are special needs, they just think they’re fine. Tigger just thinks he’s a normal dog … They just need someone to love them, that’s all they need.”