Bosley has come a long way.
When Heather Haggerty, owner of Lucky Dog Academy in Plainfield, first met the three-legged Bosley in class, the dog could not function with strangers in the room.
Later this week, Bosley will participate in an agility trial at Lucky Dog.
Haggerty said the agility trials will mark the first ones hosted by UK Agility International (UKI) in Illinois.
UKI does not have a class that will accommodate the decrease in jump height for a “tripod,” which Bosley requires, so he technically will not be “competing.” Nevertheless, Haggerty said everyone will be cheering the dog as he runs the courses because Bosley is an inspiring example of the resiliency of dogs.
“While agility gives high-drive dogs an outlet for that drive and need to work, it also really builds confidence in shy or fearful dogs,” Haggerty said. “Although Bosley is the first three-legged dog I’ve worked with, I can honestly say there has never been a single moment I have worried about his safety while he was doing agility. He is very aware of where his feet are, and I’ve never seen him slip or lose footing.”
Bosley’s owner, Sherri Oslick of Naperville, hadn’t intended to adopt a special-needs dog when she met the 7-month-old Bosley in 2009 at an animal rescue. Oslick simply prefers yellow Labrador retrievers and their happy-go-lucky, “I love everybody” attitude.
Oslick only knew that Bosley came from Kentucky and his leg had been amputated due to a car accident.
At first, Bosley’s laid-back attitude surprised Oslick, until she realized Bosley wasn’t mellow, he was scared.
“He cowered behind me and tucked his tail beneath his body,” Oslick said, “I’m not sure if it was triggered by a traumatic event like the car accident or if he had an underlying genetic predisposition, so I just try to work with him on it. Bosley was the first fearful dog I owned. He’s a whole new world to me. Even walking down the street scared him.”
Several weeks later, Oslick enrolled Bosley in obedience classes at Lucky Dog Academy to expose Bosley to new people and situations. Bosley successfully completed his lessons until he reached the level of competition, which Oslick felt Bosley could not handle.
That’s when Oslick switched to agility classes, a good move for Bosley — and not because he’s a “tripod,” Oslick said.
Rear amputee dogs actually fare better than those missing a front leg because dogs carry most of their weight on those front legs, Oslick said. Bosley, like many tripods, has no problems performing daily activities.
“Maybe they can’t jump into a very high SUV like normal dogs could,” Oslick said, “but they can run up and down stairs.”
Agility training taught Bosley to navigate his way through frightening new experiences and equipment, such as dark tunnels and teeters that moved beneath his feet. Bosley now jumps over hurdles and weaves through poles.
“Technically, he’s a special-needs dog, but he manages just fine,” Oslick said. “A lot of people don’t realize until 20 minutes later that, ‘Hey, he’s missing a leg!’ ”
Agility classes did not remove all of Bosley’s fear issues (“He basically tries to avoid people but not with the panic he used to have,” Oslick said). But Bosley now displays sufficient confidence for competition, although he still dislikes the teeter, she said.
“The only accommodation they make for Bosley is his jump height,” Oslick said. “For a dog Bosley’s size, it’s usually a 20-inch height on that bar. He jumps at a 12-inch height.”
Although for Bosley, agility training was more about social interaction and less about physical fitness, Oslick did enroll Bosley in canine hydrotherapy classes at Natural Healing and Whole Dog Wellness in West Chicago.
According to its website at www.wholedogwellness.com, swimming is one of the best treatments for arthritis, hip dysplasia, backaches and postsurgical rehabilitation, as it gently facilitates increased mobility and muscle mass.
It’s also good for Bosley. Oslick believes canine hydrotherapy will help Bosley maintain a healthy back leg while preventing stress on his joints, which activities such as running around the back yard and chasing a ball might cause. True, Bosley runs during agility training, but that running is not consistent nor for a prolonged time.
“He was a great swimmer from the moment he jumped into the pool,” Oslick said.
For more information on events that allow tripods, visit Tripawds Blogs at www.tripawds.com. Organizations that allow tripods to compete include the North American Dog Agility Council (www.nadac.com) and Canine Performance Events (www.k9cpe.com).