Faces of No-Kill: Dog springs into new life on 3 legs

David Reilly sitting on a couch with Rex the dog
After having his leg amputated due to a severe injury, Rex charmed his way into his caregivers’ hearts — and a new home.
By Karen Asp

One look at 2-year-old Rex would tell you that life hadn’t treated this canine kindly. While he exuded a cheerful, affectionate temperament, he also had a seriously injured leg that he couldn't bear weight on. When veterinarians examined him, they came to the decision that the leg would need to be amputated.

This story is a part of our Faces of No-Kill series, highlighting the journey of pets who lost their place to call home. These pets are thriving today thanks to an animal shelter that helped them rather than killed them. Best Friends’ goal is for every shelter and every community to reach no-kill in 2025, and this story shows why that’s so important.

But Rex’s luck was about to change — and he already had a fan who’d been following his story on social media and was so smitten with him that he went the extra mile to bring him home.

Fresh start for a charming dog

Rex came to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles after he was picked up as a stray and taken to Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control’s Lancaster shelter. Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters to reach no-kill in 2025, and that means working together with other animal welfare organizations to save pets who might need some extra time or care — pets like Rex.

From the get-go, it was clear that Rex couldn’t bear weight on one of his legs. Although they didn’t know how the injury happened, the hunch was that Rex was involved in a car accident and had been dealing with this injury on his own for a while.

For a guy down on his luck, though, Rex was certainly a charmer. “He’s the biggest love,” says Ana Pulido, Best Friends community engagement manager. “He’s this happy, wiggly boy that when you pet him, he leans on you and accepts all of the love.” Little wonder then that Rex quickly became beloved by all his caregivers.

X-rays revealed Rex’s leg had started to heal in an odd way that wouldn’t be comfortable for him. The Best Friends veterinary team decided amputation would be his best option and scheduled the procedure. Now, the search was on for a foster home where Rex could await surgery and then recover in a calm, comfortable environment.

Love at first sight

David Reilly first spotted Rex on the Lancaster shelter’s Instagram, and his picture touched his soul. He and his husband, Jacob Sotsky, had been talking about adopting a dog, and David was waiting to encounter a dog who felt like the right fit. He knew Rex was that dog the minute he saw a video of him. “It was his friendly face and the way he was cuddling with all of the handlers and volunteers,” he says. “He just seemed like a happy dog in spite of his injured leg.”

[Faces of No-Kill: 3-legged dog earns her military stripes]

David was planning to drive to Lancaster to adopt him. But his plans were upended when somebody in his condo building accidentally started a fire early that morning. When David checked Lancaster’s social media later, he saw that Rex had gone to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center, and his heart sank. “I didn’t know much about Best Friends at the time, so I thought somebody else had adopted him,” he says.

David reached out to Best Friends and inquired about Rex. That’s when he learned about the upcoming amputation and that Rex needed a foster home for his recovery. David didn’t hesitate. “There was no way his wonky leg was going to stop me from getting him, as I’d already fallen in love with him before meeting him.” He admits, though, that it was scary, especially given that Rex would be his first dog. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to care for him properly.”

Living his best life on 3 legs

When David went to meet Rex, his nerves were at an all-time high.  But as soon as Rex rounded the corner with a Best Friends staff member, David’s nerves disappeared. He brought Rex home, and within a few hours Rex had fallen asleep, sprawled out on top of him. “I knew I’d found the perfect dog,” David says.

Soon, it was surgery day for Rex. The procedure went smoothly, and then it was back to David’s for recovery. He placed comfy bedding on the floor for Rex and even slept next to him. He also helped Rex maneuver going to the bathroom outside as he learned to get around on three legs. And within just a day or two, Rex had gotten the hang of the three-legged life thanks to David’s dedicated care.

[Spirited stray dog loses leg but gains a new home]

“This experience brought the two of us closer,” David says. So close, in fact, that David made things official and adopted Rex. Today, Rex is thriving in his new life, his missing leg not holding him back. “We run and play fetch together, and the only time I notice that he has three legs is when he’s playing with another dog or running around and he loses his balance a little,” David says, adding that Rex loves everybody he meets and craves their attention.

David sometimes wonders about what Rex’s first two years of life were like. Some things, however, are best left a mystery, especially when there’s a ball to fetch.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill in 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill in 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

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