• By Laurel Kelly

In the Loop: Piper, the therapy dog with three legs and a nose for healing

January 22, 2019

In the Loop therapy dog Piper, jumping into a lakeFrom the moment young Piper came into her life, Polly Spenle knew there was something special about her new pup. "Right from the start, I knew she was different than other dogs," Polly tells us. Different, that is, in a way that led Polly to believe that Piper had potential to not only make a lasting impression on her life, but on the lives of others as well. "I started researching what it would take to train her as a therapy dog because that was something that had always interested me," says Polly, an Emergency Department nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.

Then a freak car accident threatened to take it all away. "We were T-boned," Polly tells us. "Piper went airborne and shattered one of her back legs. She also suffered partially collapsed lungs. I had a few minor injuries myself, but nothing compared to Piper." Discouraged, but thankful they were still alive, Polly focused her time and energy on Piper. "After talking with her vet, we decided it was best to amputate Piper's leg rather than try to surgically repair it due to the long, difficult recovery process," Polly says.

Piper hasn't let that slow her down, however. Nor did she let it squash the dream of becoming a working pet therapy team at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. "Piper's a very resilient dog," Polly says. "Immediately after her amputation, her vet team was trying to teach her how to walk with the aid of a sling, and she refused to use the sling. Two weeks later, she was back to swimming."

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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.