Every week, Domenick Scudera pops into Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital with one of his trio of special pups. Since 2010, he’s been a regular, bringing Cyrus, Lucky, or Deuce along. These aren’t your ordinary therapy dogs, though. Each one only has two legs!
This unique crew is part of the hospital’s Amputee Treatment and Rehabilitation Program. It’s more than just animal-assisted therapy. These two-legged tail-waggers, with Scudera’s love and care, lead joyful lives. And they’re there to show the folks at the hospital just what can be done, no matter the obstacles.
“It’s wonderful, and it’s almost always the same,” Scudera shares with Daily Paws. “People will say the same thing. They’ll say, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ They say that to me all the time.”
Just like some of the folks they meet, Lucky, who’s got just her front paws, and Deuce, with legs only on his right, have been through some rough times. They’ve faced scary accidents and tough surgeries. (And then there’s Cyrus, the oldest, who’s rocking it on just his hind legs.) Now, they’re all about bringing hope and a bit of cheer.
Kathleen Liebsch, an occupational therapist at Bryn Mawr, saw something special once. Deuce visited one of her patients who had lost a leg and an arm on the same side. The patient saw a bit of himself in Deuce, the little brown dog who gets around just fine without his left-side legs.
“I’m working towards that, too,” the patient told Liebsch.
“It was pretty inspiring,” she recalls.
How the Three-Pup Team Came to Be
Around 12 years back, Scudera, who teaches theater at Ursinus College near Philadelphia, had a three-legged buddy named Festus. Festus wasn’t just any dog; he was a therapy dog, brightening days at Bryn Mawr and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
As Festus got older, Scudera started thinking about getting another dog. He wanted this new pup to follow in Festus’ pawprints as a therapy dog. Scudera was set on finding a dog with less than four legs. He knew how seeing a dog with disabilities thriving could really mean a lot to the patients.
Scudera first spotted scruffy Cyrus, a small terrier mix, on the internet. The little fellow had been left at a shelter. Without hesitation, Scudera hopped on a plane to California to bring him home.
Now, Scudera’s known as the top dad for two-legged dogs. Lucky, who’s around 8, had a rough start in Egypt. Marwa Elgebaly found him in the streets of Cairo, probably after a car hit him. And then there’s Deuce, about 5, who was discovered in a ditch in Kentucky, both left legs broken and infected. X-rays showed some shrapnel; he might have been shot, but Scudera can’t be sure how Deuce really got hurt.
At our place, we’ve got a trio of pups, each one a character in their own right. There’s Cyrus, the old-timer, glued to my side like he’s part of my outfit. He’s all about being toted around like a football by Scudera, but let’s just say he’s not too thrilled when his human has to step out for a chat with a Daily Paws reporter. (Oops!)
Then there’s Lucky, a bundle of never-ending pep. He’s got so much zip that Scudera’s pal jokes that having just two legs barely slows him down. Curious as a cat, he’s always on the move, sniffing out the next adventure. His pal Deuce, on the other hand, is the chill one of the bunch, easygoing and always ready to plop down when asked.
And get this—Deuce walks like a pro. His stride is so smooth, folks often don’t even catch on that he’s a two-legged wonder, according to Scudera.
Looking after his special trio isn’t much different from caring for regular four-legged dogs, he finds. The biggest thing is helping Lucky with bathroom breaks, since he can’t feel below the waist. But hey, that’s just part of their daily groove now.
“Disabled dogs are difficult to place, but if you adopt one, the rewards of having a dog that’s different are so great,” Scudera says. “You gain so much by having a dog that’s different.”
Like any dog parent, he gets loads of love and happiness from his furry friends. And there’s a fun social side too. They’re pretty much local stars on their walks, drawing folks in for a chat and a pat.
“It kind of engages me with the world a little more,” he reflects.
‘Brimming with Joy’
And let’s not forget the amazing job they do at the hospital. Liebsch, in charge of a different therapy dog program at Bryn Mawr, mentions how patients love having a dog around in rehab. Imagine being there for weeks, even months, missing your own pets.
“Dogs are just full of happiness,” she says. “… That might be the highlight of their day.”
Scudera’s dogs are perfect examples of this. There was this one time, a patient who had lost both legs just hugged one of the dogs (Scudera can’t recall which one) and stayed like that for a good while, silently soaking in the comfort.
And then there’s Cyrus, who often went with Scudera to the children’s hospital. They once visited a kid who didn’t speak. During one visit, the youngster had a special keyboard that let him ‘talk’.
“He keyed in something like, ‘I love Cyrus,'” Scudera recalls.
But it’s not just the patients who are touched by his dogs. He’s gotten messages from folks who, inspired by his story, went on to adopt similar dogs. It really makes him happy.
“I hate to think that there’s dogs that are in need somewhere and no one wants them.”