‘Wonky’ dog who couldn’t stand on bent legs now competes in scentwork trials across UK

When the RSPCA first saw Winnie, it wasn't clear if she'd ever lead a normal life.

A tiny puppy with deformed legs whose future was unclear when she was first rescued by the RSPCA is now a top scentwork dog competing across the UK. 

American bulldog Winnie was just nine-weeks-old when she was rescued by the RSPCA’s Essex South, Southend and District Branch in July 2019. 

Her owners had taken her on at five-weeks-old with deformed legs but weren't able to cope with her so asked the RSPCA for help.

Kathy Butler, from the branch, said: “When Winnie came to us, both front legs bent at the knee and her legs would buckle under her weight leading to her collapsing. 

“We had her assessed and a specialist clinic found she was suffering from a developmental disease of the carpus (or wrist) where the ligaments and tendons had formed abnormally and couldn’t support the joint. They gave us a treatment plan and we started her therapy immediately while looking for a special foster home that could take her on and help with her rehabilitation.”

Wendy Linge runs the Shangri-La Cattery in Hockley, Essex, and often takes cats in for the RSPCA. After losing her beloved dog Bob she was looking for another dog who could help with her grief when Kathy’s team told her about ‘wonky’ Winnie.

“It felt like the perfect set-up at the perfect time,” Wendy said. “I wasn’t looking for another permanent dog but fostering sounded ideal. When Winnie arrived she was a bouncy, sweet puppy but was very disabled.”

The short-term foster placement soon turned to long-term love when Wendy realised she couldn’t give Winnie up and adopted her, continuing with her rehabilitation. 

“To look at Winnie today is unbelievable; her transformation has been amazing,” Wendy added. “Her rehabilitation journey has been a long one with months and months of hydrotherapy at Completely K9 Hydrotherapy & Rehabilitation. They were so kind and even gave Winnie free lifetime hydrotherapy at their Canvey Island pool!”

Winnie would attend twice a week and following every session Wendy could see an improvement: “After every treatment she was more upright on her feet. Now she’s back on all four paws!”

Winnie now attends hydrotherapy once every fortnight.

“There’s no stopping Winnie now,” Wendy said. “We joined K9 Scent and Search UK and Winnie now enjoys taking part in scentwork trials all over the country! She’s working through the different levels of training (currently on level five of eight) and she absolutely loves the sport!

“At home, Winnie is such a friendly dog and loves everyone she meets. I couldn’t have wished for a better dog to join our family; it just goes to show that sometimes, when you least expect it, the dog you need comes along!”

RSPCA appeals for more fosterers to help animals like Winnie

The RSPCA is appealing for more fosterers - like Wendy - to sign-up to help animals in need of extra special care, like Winnie, as well as taking in animals for short-term care in order to ease the pressure on its overwhelmed rescue centres across England and Wales.

The charity launched a nationwide drive to recruit more fosterers as part of its Adoptober campaign, which revealed that more animals are being abandoned and are coming into its care at a time when rehoming has slumped, leaving long waiting lists of animals waiting for space in rehoming shelters.

To support the work of the RSPCA’s Essex South, Southend and District Branch you can donate via JustGiving.

Could you offer a rescue pet a loving new home? Please visit Find A Pet to see all of the animals currently in our care who are looking for their paw-fect match. 

If you can’t offer a rescue pet a new home perhaps you could help in a different way?

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