During a beautiful morning in late August, Jenn and David Grelck sat in their backyard as their dog, Woodie, scampered around sniffing plants and hoping for a belly rub.
This simple act of running in a yard is a great accomplishment for Woodie, whose life had a brutal beginning but is now filled with hope and inspiration.
Around a year ago, a man brought a bleeding 5-week-old puppy that was missing its back paws to the Will County Humane Society. He had found the dog in a forest preserve. The pup’s paws had been severed, possibly by an animal, but no one knows for sure.
“Some thought his quality of life was low and that he should be put down,” explained Humane Society shelter manager Malorie Ernst. “Our shelter and his foster family knew otherwise. He is now happy and healthy (and) living happily ever after with his forever family.”
The blue nose American Staffordshire terrier will be featured in a special section of the Forest Preserve District’s 2020 Dog Park Calendar, which is raising money for the humane society. Calendars can be ordered at willcountydogs.org.
Woodie’s history illustrates how important the Humane Society is because it gives animals a second chance to find loving homes. If Humane Society staff hadn’t texted Jenn asking if she and her husband would be willing to foster Woodie and change his bandages twice a day, he never would have had a second chance at life.
As soon as she saw the text, Jenn said she knew she had to help. She has adopted dogs from shelters through the years and works to raise money for the Humane Society because she believes in the work they do. The text message included a picture of a tiny Woodie with red medical tape around his back legs, which reminded Jenn of miniature boxing gloves. The image was prophetic because Woodie was a "champ" as he faced his ordeal, Jenn said.
Woodie would sit quietly on a lap when his bandages were changed even though the Grelcks could tell the process was painful for the dog.
“He’s always been trusting and he never snarled,” Jenn said. “He realized we were helping him.”
Luckily, the dog was turned in to the Humane Society quickly so his wounds were not infected.
CLASS PROJECT AT JJC
The Grelcks quickly went from being foster parents to adoptive parents and they named the puppy Woodrow – or “Woodie” for short – after President Woodrow Wilson because all of their dogs have had the names of world leaders.
Two weeks after they took Woodie into their home, the dog started to explore.
“We have a flight of stairs that goes 14 (steps) straight up,” Jenn said. “And with his shoulders he was able to take himself up the stairs.”
The Grelcks bought infant socks and booties to cover Woodie’s stumps so he could explore better. The stumps required laser treatments at Joliet Junior College's Veterinary Technology program to foster healing. During one of those treatments a vet tech mentioned that the school had an Orthotics and Prosthetics department and the students, who were being trained to help humans, might be interested in making prosthetics for a dog as a class project.
The class agreed and began a trial-and-error process, David said. In March, a jagged piece of bone in one of Woodie's legs was shaved down so the prosthetics would fit better. In June, Woodie received his first set of prosthetics.
Eventually, the prosthetic devices worked pretty well except for the sneaker material on the bottom that kept falling off. David helped find a solution after he bought rubber table leg caps and glued them onto the bottom of the prosthetics. A final set of prosthetics is on its way, one that will be tailor-made after wear patterns on the current set are analyzed.
“It made a world of difference,” David said of the prosthetics.
The Grelcks said Woodie’s quality of life wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing assistance of: Humane Society shelter manager Ernst and board member Diana Milek; Crest Hill Cat and Dog Clinic; the JJC vet tech program; Michael Brncick, coordinator of JJC's Orthotics and Prosthetics department.
Also instrumental in helping Woodie were: Christina Bunde, a graduate of the program and current prototype designer for Woodie’s prosthetics; John Peacock, a JJC veterinarian who performed the surgery on Woodie's bone shard; and Kristin Hall, an adjunct instructor for the school’s vet tech services.
Woodie’s stumps can still get sore and he has to take anti-inflammatory medication at times, Jenn said. But overall, he’s very happy and healthy and he can bounce all over the house and yard with her other dogs.
He’s grown from a severely injured 5-pound pup into a strong 65-pound dog with velvety brown-gray fur, gray eyes and a wonderful zest for life. And as far as Woodie is concerned, he's just a regular dog.
“He doesn’t think there is anything different about him, which I think is the most amazing thing,” Jenn said.
A FOREVER FAMILY
His success story all goes back to the decision by the Humane Society to keep the pup alive and look for someone who would love and care for him.
“He’s here because of the Will County Humane Society,” Jenn said.
And the Humane Society is just as grateful to the Grelcks for taking Woodie in and making him a permanent part of their family.
"The thing is if it wasn’t for Jenn and David, I don’t know if he would have gotten all of the work done because they did collaborate with different orthopedic specialists for the dog and then of course the JJC team," Ernst said.
"It all came together as one to get him what he needed."
Woodie travels everywhere with the Grelcks, who are real estate agents. And one of his favorite activities is going for a walk.
“He isn’t really a pet, he’s family,” David said. “He is our baby.”
The Grelcks said they are going to buy as many calendars as possible and give them to clients and neighbors.
The deadline to order calendars, which will feature other humane society dogs and dogs that frequent the Forest Preserve District's six dog parks, is Sunday, October 20. All orders will ship during the week of November 25 to ensure receipt in time for the holidays.
Each calendar will raise around $10 for the humane society, money that will go to help rescue dogs that, like Woodie, need a second chance.
And what of Woodie's future? Woodie answers that question on his own Facebook page:
"The Grelck’s hope to train me with obedience school to be recognized as a canine good citizen to allow me to visit children in hospitals, schools and nursing homes to show the world that different is not a bad thing."
Woodie is one of the many fabulous pooches who have been helped by the Will County Humane Society, and this is his story. He will be appearing in a special section in our 2020 dog park calendar; all proceeds go to the Will County Humane Society.
The calendars are $15, with approximately $10 from each sale going to the humane society. Calendars are no longer for sale; the deadline to order was Wednesday, November 7, 2019.
We'll be highlighting some of our dog park friends' incredible here, but if you want a sneak peek at all of the dogs' wonderful photoshoots, follow them on Instagram at Today's Pooch.