Spirited stray dog loses leg but gains a new home

Selfie of Kylie LaVigne hugging Koda the dog
When the word went out that Koda needed a foster home following surgery, Kylie volunteered and, as it turns out, brought the boy home for good.
By John Polis

When a pair of dogs named Koda and Laney, both with leg injuries, were brought to the Murray County Animal Shelter in Georgia, it was clear that they both would require surgery. And a closer look at the severity of Koda’s leg injury told veterinarians that amputation would be necessary.

“We got them both to the vet, and once we received estimates for their surgeries, we knew we would have to get help paying for their care,” says Julie Wynn, director of Murray County Animal Control. “Municipal facilities just don’t have the funds to treat every animal requiring emergency care. And while we request help from rescue organizations, there always is a limited window of time for us to get them the care they need.”

[Life on 3 legs doesn't slow down perky pup]

Fortunately, Tammy Jo Hallman, Best Friends national shelter support strategist, happened to call Julie just after Julie received estimates for the dogs’ treatment. “She asked me if there was anything going on that she could help with,” says Julie. “The timing could not have been better.”

Murray County Animal Control is a Best Friends Network Partner, and Tammy Jo was able to offer Best Friends’ support to fund Koda’s surgery. And that same day, another organization indicated it would be able to fund Laney’s surgery as well. Supporting organizations with pets who need extra care is one of the ways that Best Friends is helping shelters around the country reach no-kill in 2025.

Kylie to the rescue

Laney was quickly adopted, but Koda was still waiting when Kylie LaVigne — a 19-year-old college student who adopted both her other dogs, Finley and Huckleberry, from Murray County — read about him on the shelter’s Facebook page. Koda would need plenty of time to recuperate in a foster home — or, even better, a new home of his own.

“I thought, hey, what’s one more,” says Kylie. “My mother and I called the shelter to tell them that if no one had picked him up that evening, we would come in to adopt him.”

[Injured, abandoned dog loses her leg but not her spirit]

Kylie says adoption was on her mind from the beginning. Her heart went out to Koda because he’d be adjusting to life on three legs. She says, “My mom taught me to take the animals who most people don't want because their love is the same at the end of the day.”

When they arrived home, Koda was still sore with his sutures. “He didn’t do a whole lot for a couple of weeks, and there were a few minor issues for him to overcome,” Kylie says. “He’s fine now and is great meeting strangers. And he’s gotten to the point where he wrestles with Finley and Huckleberry.”

Three’s company

At his new home, Koda is the first one up in the morning while the other two family dogs are still asleep. “He likes to walk on everyone to wake us up to get going for the day,” says Kylie. “And then when the other two finally wake up, he likes to start what we call the chorus: all three of them, noses in the air, howling together.”

Koda is a big 54-pound snuggler. “It’s his favorite thing, to be honest,” says Kylie. “The three of them wind up in a big pile on our bean bag chair.”

When the family goes on outings, the dogs’ favorite place is out at the lake. “We go out by a marina where I can take them hiking,” Kylie says. “But their favorite group thing is swimming together, especially when they are going after sticks in the water. Koda gets around great in the water. You can’t even tell he’s missing a leg.”

Outdoors at home, there’s plenty of space to run around in their fenced-in backyard. “When we first got Koda, we’d put him in the back with just one of the other dogs until he got used to things,” she says. “But now, all three of them run circles back there. In fact, they’ve worn a dirt track around the yard from chasing each other. You can see very clearly where they make their sharp turns.”

Helping where there’s critical need

“I don’t know how long we would have been able to hold Koda while we waited on help for him,” Julie says. “It was so fortunate that Tammy Jo just happened to check in with us.”

Tammy Jo says: “Murray County has been executing great lifesaving programs and measures, and we’re always looking for ways to help shelters save more animals. One of the ways we can do that is providing surgical fees, and this is one of those times when Best Friends could help.”

Meanwhile, Koda’s a consistently happy camper. “We get regular updates and pictures of him with his new family,” Julie says. “We couldn’t be happier with the outcome. We’re so grateful to Best Friends and our rescue partners, as well as Kylie and all of our wonderful adopters.”

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

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 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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