Rescued from the streets of Romania, likened to a kangaroo and missing her two front legs, the life of Roo the cross-breed has certainly not been straightforward.
But in the eyes of Morpeth owner Nikki Dick, who took her in as a 16-week-old puppy more than four years ago after she was brought to the UK by Safe Rescue for Dogs, her collie-whippet cross is as normal a dog as you can find.
Now the two are helping to spread the word and open people’s minds to dogs with disabilities – inspiring others to see their pets as man’s best friend, whatever difficulties and differences they face.
Few dogs will have had quite the upbringing Roo, named as such because of her likeness to a kangaroo due to her missing front legs, has experienced in her short life.
All that is in the past now though, with Roo adapting to having wheels in their place and revelling in life on Northumberland’s beaches with Nikki, husband Ian, and their five other dogs.
“She was only 16-weeks-old, but she completely turned our lives upside down,” explained Nikki upon their first meeting.
“It was a real learning curve with her, we hadn’t had a dog with her specific disabilities before so we learned alongside her – and we soon realised she is just a normal dog who has some extra needs.
“It took her about three months to learn how to use the wheels properly. We find she’s most confident on the beach with them.
“When we first got her, there was some criticism from people who had seen videos of Roo, questioning her quality of life and whether it was fair for us to keep her going.
“People told us she should have been put to sleep – but for us, she’s just a normal dog. She plays with our other dogs, we’ve got a one-year-old pup and the two of them just don’t stop.
“She’s fantastic, she’s no different to the other dogs to us. Very occasionally, people will become tearful when they look at her and wonder how she manages, they can become quite upset.
“And you look at her and realise just how amazing she is – nothing holds her back.
“She’s such a happy, wonderful little dog.”
Nikki has noticed a shift in culture and appreciation for dogs with disabilities.
Where previously people were questioning whether Roo had the right quality of life, now there is barely an eyebrow raised when others see her – an occurrence the 54-year-old is happy to see.
It’s something she credits the dog communities and those around her for, including Crufts and The Kennel Club – who this week will welcome thousands of happy, healthy dogs to the NEC in Birmingham.
And while Roo is unable to attend the event, which begins today (Thursday), the importance of the wider collective is not lost on her owner.
Nikki added: “Treatment is very expensive so we’ve been very lucky to have support, from the local dog clubs, from friends and from the dog festivals – they helped us keep her going really.
“We looked at different ways to fund her and one of the key ones was a stall, so we took to a couple of dog shows, making blankets and cushions and things like that and that really helped.
“We’ve made loads of friends along the way, people around us are really supportive – and if anything she’s opened our world up to other people who have dogs with disabilities.
“Everybody who meets her absolutely falls in love with her, she just has this overwhelming character that has people falling for her.”