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Pokey Joe, Sweat Pea and the three-legged dog

Here’s a rarity: a self-indulgent entry on Jog Blog.

I was three miles into a 3½ -mile run Friday with my dog, Spud, when I spotted a big, yellow Lab _ a three-legged dog.

In the decade that my sweet pea and I have been trotting around the neighborhood, we’ve picked up our share of neighborhood dogs that have gotten out their front door or jumped their backyard fence. Most of them see us running and we like to think they’re so very jealous, since Spuddie and I run often and they normally are stuck watching us. Most can’t wait to join our little pack, just like they do with Cesar Millan on "The Dog Whisperer." So, we let the dog run with us. We usually manage to get them to our house, where we check the tags and call the number and 10 minutes later an apologetic owner shows up and thanks us profusely.

So, we recognize most of the neighborhood dogs. This was no neighborhood dog. But, as soon as she spotted us, she wanted to join us. She ran next to Spud for 100 yards or so, then got in front of us, which is more a reflection on my speed than Spud’s. He's part Lab, himself, though you forget that the other part must be something considerably smaller until you see him next to a full-blooded member of the breed.

She missed a turn, and I called to her, “Hey, Three-Legged Dog, this way!”

We stopped and she rejoined us. Every 100 yards or so, she’d get ahead of us and veer off-course. We repeated the procedure.

“Hey, Three-Legged Dog, this way!”

And so it went till we got home. She gladly went in the house. My husband, Luke, checked her tags and found that she had received rabies shots at the Pike County animal shelter. We had visions of this dog on her own Incredible Journey  to Webster Groves. He called the number.

She proceeded to help herself to my little sweet pea’s water and his bone and his stash of old tennis balls and his back yard toilet. He was not the most gracious host, a little twitchy, perhaps because I religiously check the Pet of the Week. And, every time there’s a one-eyed dog or a three-legged dog, I show him the picture and threateningly tell him, “The Humane Society says they gladly accept trade-ins.”

Luke roamed the neighborhood in search of someone looking for a dog, to no avail. He came home and thought about taking the three-legged dog in the car to see if she got excited about a house, as if it was home.

“Come on, Three-Legged Doggie. Let’s go for a car ride,” he said.

This was the ultimate indignity for Spud. His very most favorite thing in the world is a car ride, and the only way to keep the three-legged dog under control was to use Spud’s leash. He was crestfallen to see His Leash on the three-legged dog enroute to His Car for a Car Ride.

Just then, the phone rang. It was the owner, who gave us his address. So, Luke made a bee-line for the house.

We like to think that Spud hopes Luke threw the three-legged dog off a cliff.

In reality, he returned her to her owner, a wheelchair-bound gentleman who moved into the neighborhood a couple months ago. It turns out that we run by his house each day. We’ve watched for the last three months as workers installed a ramp from the curb to the front door and made the house handicapped-accessible. He took pity on her because she was a rescued dog, and he decided they were made for each other.

A wheelchair-bound man and a three-legged dog: my wish for them is that they make each other whole.

And, she is welcome to join us on our run any time.

Below: Spud Nelson