Video by Cat Mayin Koo
A three-legged pit bull, rescued from the biggest dog-fighting
ring bust in U.S. history last summer, has found a home-and a
future-in Chicago, where she is training to be a therapy dog for
children with disabilities.
Rescuers found Dharma tethered on a tow-chain outside, living in
a dirty wooden box near St. Louis. She had only a feeble stump for
a right leg-what veterinarians at the Humane Society of Missouri
suspect was the result of an amateur amputation after trauma.
Despite coming from abuse, the fawn-colored dog showed no
aggression. "She's just the sweetest dog in world," says Dharma's
Suzi is training Dharma to work with children with special needs
because she hopes that "if kids see that Dharma is disabled, it can
maybe make them feel more normal."
Suzi, who asked that her last name not be used because Dharma's
previous owners have not been sentenced, adopted Dharma and brought
her to Chicago.
Dharma, who couldn't fight because of her disability and her
gentle nature, was used as a breeding dog, Suzi says.
Initially too scared to walk through doors or hallways because of
her past, Dharma now trains every Saturday in the South Loop.
"Dharma needed to learn how to be a normal dog. She's come a long
way," says Laura, Dharma's trainer. Laura, a professional animal
trainer, has worked with Dharma without pay because of how the dog
Several Chicago hospitals offer animal-assisted therapy. Two
that use dogs like Dharma to work with children are Shriners
Hospitals for Children in Chicago and Children's Memorial
Dogs "can be a good distraction. Kids sometimes will walk
further or reach further because they aren't thinking about being
sick," says Darlene Kelly, who runs the animal therapy program at
Shriners, where dog therapy sessions occur weekly.
At Children's Memorial, staff notice that sick children will
perk up around animals. "Most kids don't like being in a hospital
and it just puts these huge smiles on their faces," says Willow
Troy, who organizes animal therapy for children every few weeks at
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