By Carie Broecker
Life is good! That is Naki’o’s motto. He reminds all of us what it means to have a joyous spirit and a positive outlook on life. Naki’o had a difficult start in life.
At the tender, vulnerable age of five weeks, he was found lying in a puddle, frozen to a basement floor. In Nebraska, in the dead of winter, his former family moved out of their foreclosed home. They took all their belongings with them except for their dog and her litter of young, nursing pups. They closed the door behind them and did not look back. How they sleep nights wondering what happened to the innocent souls they left behind is a mystery to any human with a conscience.
His mom didn’t survive, but Naki’o and his littermates were rescued by All Aboard Animal Rescue in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The puppies were malnourished and had mange. Naki’o was in the worst shape. Having been frozen to the basement floor, he suffered frostbite of all four paws, his nose, his tail, and an ear. The damage was irreversible and all four paws, part of an ear, the end of his tail, and the tip of his nose needed to be amputated. The rescue group named him “Stubby,” and put him up for adoption as a special-needs puppy. They labeled him as a Red Heeler mix.
Christie Pace and her husband were moving into a new home and were eager to share their lives with a dog. Christie decided to search petfinder.org just to get an idea of what type of dog they would be interested in. That is when she came across Stubby’s photo and story. Her heart skipped a beat, and she was in love. She was a veterinary technician and felt that she had the skills to help a special needs dog like Stubby.
They made arrangements to meet Stubby and adopt him. He weighed four pounds and was about eight weeks old at that point. He was tiny and had no trouble getting around on his little nubs. After one week, Christie and her husband finalized the adoption and renamed him Naki’o. Christie is from Hawaii, and Naki’o means “puddle” in Hawaiian. The name refers to an obstacle he overcame in his life. They wanted this unique dog to have a unique name.
The first thing anyone notices when they meet Naki’o is his beautiful loving spirit and his zest for life. From the moment Christie met him, he was a joy to have around. He loved to be in a lap and to give kisses, and he loved to romp around on his little nubs and play; but as he got older and gained weight, walking became more painful and more of a challenge for Naki’o and Christie.
All of his legs were different lengths due to bone loss and tissue loss. At about four months old, bearing weight on his legs became painful. He could walk more easily on grass or carpet, but any other surface was painful and dangerous. Christie carried him or pulled him along in a red wagon. His movements became guarded and he did a lot of playing while lying down.
Finally at one year old and 50 pounds, Christie knew something had to be done. She researched prosthetics for dogs and came across Orthopets in Denver. She focused on his leg that was the most painful and raised the $1,000 needed to purchase one prosthetic leg. The funds were raised by putting a donation jar with Naki’o’s story on it on the counter at the veterinary clinic where she worked. Orthopets was so moved by Naki’o that in an act of generosity and compassion, they donated three more prosthetic legs so that Naki’o’s quality of life could be enhanced to the fullest.
Getting fitted for the prosthetics and learning to wear them was a process. There were lots of fittings and re-fittings, adjustments, and dealing with broken hinges and pressure sores. And there was the process of learning to walk with the prosthetics on. Naki’o had to relearn how to walk and had to get used to where his feet were in space. He also had to build endurance so he could be in his prosthetics for longer and longer periods of time. He can’t be in them 24/7. They do come off at night, and he can get around the house just fine on his nubs.
Now, whenever Naki’o sees his prosthetics he gets very excited. Christie calls them his “dancing shoes.” He can frolic on his own or chase a ball. He can even run in snow. He loves to play with other dogs, and most dogs seem to accept him. They may check out his different legs, but then don’t give it another thought.
He also loves to swim in a local rehabilitation pool. It is a great way for him to keep up his strength and stamina without wearing his prosthetics.
Naki’o is now five years old and doing great. He was nominated as one of the heroes in the Emerging Hero Dog category of the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. To vote for Naki’o, go to www.herodogawards.com.
Adopting and caring for Naki’o inspired Christie to start a rescue group called Nakio’s Underdog Rescue that focuses on dogs with disabilities. She has rescued over 25 dogs with disabilities since 2011.
The mission of Nakio’s Underdog Rescue is to rescue dogs and cats with disabilities, to find loving homes for them, and to provide resources and education to help adopters better understand and provide for their pets’ disabilities. For more information about Nakio’s Underdog Rescue, go to www.nakiosunderdogrescue.org.