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Puppy Born Missing A Paw Lends A Hand As Disability Spokesdog

//three pawed puppy pirelli

Aug. 22 2012, Updated 3:30 p.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Radar Reporter

Golden Retriever and Labrador mix Pirelli was destined to be a service dog even before birth, but when the puppy was born with only three paws his future had to be rewritten.

Missing a foot on his back left leg, the adorable pooch is now carving a name for himself in the unique role of a disabled dog helping disabled humans.

Like all puppies born at the non-profit organization Canine Assistants in Milton, Georgia, Pirelli was specially bred to be trained as a service dog for special needs adults and children, reported HLNTV.com.

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"We have found that what we ask of those dogs is so difficult for the average dog, you really need a dog that’s temperamentally suited to do this," veterinarian Kent Brunner explained. "The day-to-day activity, for dogs who are not socialized as puppies, is very stressful. We just found that it was a little unfair to ask dogs who have been taken from elsewhere to undertake all of that."

Just like a person who is missing a limb, eight-month-old Pirelli has been fitted with a prosthetic paw to help him scamper around normally, but he is expected to quickly outgrow it as he develops into a big dog.

The pretty golden dog can't take on the normal tasks of a service dog so instead he will take on his own special role as a spokesdog teaching children that they can succeed even if they are in a wheelchair, have a prosthesis, or a paw that never grew.

"We talk about how brilliant our dogs are and how they really don’t judge based on what your body can do, but what kind of person you are," said Canine Assistants founder Jennifer Arnold. "Pirelli is just an exquisite example that life isn’t about how you get from place to place, or what you see or hear. It’s so much more than that. His spirit is unbelievable, he’s got that very special blessing. Imagine what he will be able to do for kids who won't be teased because he will teach kids the right way to think."

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Arnold's own story is very similar to Pirelli's as she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 16 and had to use a wheelchair for two years before she learned to walk on her own again.

Now her group is asking for help for their own canine helper by launching a fundraiser to pay for the rapidly growing pup's next paw. Pirelli is on a waiting list so that when he is one year old, a veterinarian at North Carolina State University can implant a permanent prosthesis onto his leg bone. Successful surgery will allow the bone to integrate with the implant and move with him when he walks.

For more information, visit CanineAssistants.org.

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