Sunshine earned her moniker by facing adversity with resilience and an irrepressible joy for life. When she was only a few weeks old, someone cut off part of both of her back feet and her tail. But Sunshine didn’t let this get her down. She learned to run despite her physical handicap.
Animal rescuer Alice Fenske, founder of Gentle Paws Hospice and Sanctuary in Hoquiam, Washington, first met Sunshine on Facebook. “I fell in love with her spunk and attitude,” Alice recalled. “She was in Texas and was about to be transferred to Louisiana, so I called and told them that I was interested.”
Alice, who runs Gentle Paws with her husband, Andy, was already helping 26 other dogs. They decided that they had room for not just one more dog, but two.
Alice and Andy both have traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD) and in addition to rescuing Sunshine, they also rescued a second dog who had sustained a TBI after being thrown out of a car when he was only a few weeks old.
“We adopted Sunshine when she was six to eight months old, and we’ve had her four years now,” Alice said.
While Sunshine made it clear from the start that she wanted to be treated like the other dogs, Alice wanted to do what she could to make her sweet pup comfortable.
“We tried booties, but she’d pull them off,” Alice recalled. “We tried a chair, but she maneuvered out of it. She doesn’t like to be known as ‘special needs’ – we have 26 other dogs at our rescue and she doesn’t want us to treat her any differently.”
One night, Alice saw a photo that a company called Animal Orthocare had posted online.
“The dog had back prosthetics,” she said, “and it looked like the most ‘normal’ version of legs for Sunshine that we’d seen.”
The prosthetics would change Sunshine’s life – but they were expensive. Hearing about Sunshine’s plight, animal lovers from across the country helped them raise the money needed for the prosthetics. Dr. Leon Nixon, a local retired dentist, cast Sunshine for her new legs. The casts were sent to Animal Orthocare, and it wasn’t long before Sunshine finally had hind feet again.
While much of Sunshine’s support came from the town, including two benefit concerts, donations came from as far away as Hawaii. In addition to the Fenskes’ fundraising efforts, assistance was provided by Wil Russoul of Play it Forward and Stone Soup, Bob Nelson of Westside Technologies, and Faith Esthesia Matthews and Melody Morris of Hometown Feed. From large donations to children donating their allowance, almost $10,000 was raised to help Sunshine walk normally once again.
The Fenskes were shocked and humbled by the response. Seeing Sunshine run for joy, they are so thankful. And while it could take months for Sunshine to adapt completely to her new feet, they are 100% waterproof, which is really important.
“She loves to go through creeks and puddles,” Alice said with a laugh.
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