Maty the Wonderdog inspires children and other animals
When Lynne Ouchida and her husband, Troy Kerstetter, visited Oregon’s Cannon Beach for the Surfsand Dog Show on the Beach, their dog Maty won First Place in the high jump.
That’s good in itself. But what’s remarkable is that Maty has only three legs.
Maty (pronounced Matty), started life as an abandoned puppy at a motel. Just 3 weeks old, the tiny shepherd-mix was brought to the Humane Society of Central Oregon, where Ouchida, 47, works in community outreach. Maty was diagnosed with a dangerous staph infection in her left back leg – so severe that Ouchida thought she might have to be euthanized. But veterinarians gave her the green light for surgery, and Maty quickly adapted to her new three-legged status.
When she was ready for adoption, Maty was placed briefly at a nursing home, but she came back to the shelter in exchange for an older, more placid dog. That’s when Ouchida and Kerstetter decided to adopt her themselves. Today Maty visits the nursing home as a pet therapy dog.
But the role at which she excels is as foster mom to frightened feral kittens.
“We knew Maty was good with the kitties, and they would go up to her,” says Ouchida. “When she lies down, she has a nook where her left leg once was, and it creates a cradle. The kittens lie there against her belly.”
Kittens generally spend about two weeks with Maty in a bedroom in Ouchida’s home. Then they’re ready to meet the world.
“Maty allows us to introduce humans as a positive aspect to their lives,” Ouchida says. “When you approach a feral kitten, they hiss and spit. But with Maty, they instinctively know not to be afraid. She has a very sweet gentle soul. If we are feeding them by syringe, she loves to clean them off, so that’s another way they get used to her.”
Frisbee and high-jump
Ouchida began taking Maty to agility training courses when she was 9 months old, and the three-legged wonder immediately took to Frisbee. In 2006, she placed in the Skyhoundz Worlds Canine Disc Championship. In 2008, aged 9 years old, she developed moderate osteoarthritis and almost had to pull out of the contest, but Ouchida says that yucca supplements helped her make it to the world championships, where she placed once again.
Perhaps Maty’s greatest achievement, though, was in touching the life of a girl whose disabilities were greater than her own.
Sushma, a 9-year-old girl from India, who had been adopted and brought to the United States just a few months earlier, was missing a leg and both her hands and was having a hard time adapting to her new life, as well as to her disabilities.
But after meeting Maty, things began to change, and her adopted grandmother, Helen Zappia, wrote to Ouchida, saying that the youngster was smiling and laughing for the first time since her arrival. Soon after that, Sushma wrote a letter herself.
“Maty has been a great model for me because she tries hard in lots of things even though she only has three legs,” Sushma wrote. “Just because Maty and I are missing certain body parts doesn’t mean we should be looked down on because we are just as special.”