8 min read

Stray Dog Loses A Leg But Gains Something Incredible

<p>Darwin Animal Doctors</p>

When the dog was found on the beach in the Dominican Republic, he was skinny and furless, and his back left leg was festering with infection. Locals said a car had hit him, but with no veterinarians nearby, he couldn't get the help he needed.

Graphic photo has been blurred. Darwin Animal Doctors

Luckily, an animal rescue group arrived to set up a temporary spay and neuter clinic, and the locals took the dog to them. Even though this clinic wasn't equipped for complex surgery, the visiting veterinarians managed to amputate the dog's leg and save his life. The vets knew, however, that this dog needed ongoing care, and recommended he be moved to the U.S.

"We'll take him!" Tod Emko remembers saying, along with friend and colleague Andrea Gordon, who was also volunteering on that trip to the Dominican Republic. "I looked at him and he looked at me, and I knew he was somebody. I knew we needed to save him."

Emko and Gordon named the dog Piggy because he had less fur when he was rescued and looked more like a piglet than the border collie cross he would turn out to be. But not long after Piggy moved to New York City, he grew back his thick black and white coat and learned to get around on three legs. "Generally he just runs," Emko says. "He's faster than most four-legged dogs."

Tod Emko / Darwin Animal Doctors

Graphic photo has been blurred. | Darwin Animal Doctors
Tod Emko / Darwin Animal Doctors

Piggy has thrived in his forever home, which he shares with Emko's two rescued cats, Simon and Platty. Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is that Piggy has developed an uncanny ability to help people.

"Soon after he came here, we realized he had the ability to detect when someone was suffering," Emko tells The Dodo. "We could be in the middle of Central Park, and the person could be out of eyeshot. But Piggy would perk up and run through the crowds. Then he'll crawl on his belly towards a person, and place one paw on them. And the person would often break into tears and say, 'How did you know I needed that?'"

Emko realized that Piggy's ability wasn't just a gift - it was a superpower. This led Emko to ask artist Ethan Young to draw a cartoon of Piggy for Emko to use on humane education pamphlets.

"He was a cartoon superhero dog holding a bag of dog food, telling kids to be a superhero for animals," Emko says.

Tod Emko / Ethan Young

Tod Emko / Ethan Young

Feedback on the cartoon was so positive that Emko and Young ran a Kickstarter to develop a full comic book called "A Piggy's Tale." The first comic book in the series illustrated Piggy's rescue in the Dominican Republic, and showed Piggy flying around New York City to save kittens from cruelty, puppies from drowning and school kids from getting bullied.

Tod Emko / Ethan Young

Tod Emko / Ethan Young

At first, Emko and Young only sold "A Piggy's Tale" at Comic-Cons, but when teachers started asking to use the comics in their classrooms, they realized they were onto something big.

As Emko explains, "A Piggy's Tale" seems to particularly appeal to kids with disabilities: "We recently sent his comics to a bunch of kids at the Saint Catherine Centre for Children, which is a medical and a teaching centre for special needs kids. The children decided they wanted to overcome their disabilities so they could write thank-you letters to Piggy."

Tod Emko / Darwin Animal Doctors

Tod Emko / Darwin Animal Doctors

Over 2,000 copies of "A Piggy's Tale" have now been printed and distributed to schools across the U.S. The comic book has also been translated into Spanish, and circulated in schools in Colombia, the Galapagos and other countries in Central and South America.

Sometimes Piggy himself visits schools around the New York City area, and, as always, he knows how to comfort those who need it most.

Piggy also inspired Emko and Gordon to found Darwin Animal Doctors, an organization that provides comprehensive veterinary care to wildlife and domestic animals in the Galapagos Islands. "Having an animal like this, who has had such a hard beginning, is truly inspiring," Emko says. "But there are thousands of animals in need of care, and it's important to remember that they all can be this amazing."

Joanna Totolici / Toto Photo

Joanna Totolici / Toto Photo

Want a copy of "A Piggy's Tale" yourself? You can buy one on Piggy's official comic book website.

If you'd like to help animals like Piggy in island nations, please consider supporting Darwin Animal Doctors, which provides veterinary assistance to animals in the Galapagos Islands.