The first weeks of this dog’s life are kind of a mystery, which is probably a blessing. He was born in a puppy mill, that much is known.
Something happened there, something traumatic that caused the puppy’s mama - possibly confined in a cage with her litter - to do a most unspeakable thing.
She chewed off her newborn pup’s back paws. Gnawed off the tip of his tail, too. She killed all his siblings.
When the dog with two paws was rescued, right before he was put down, he was given a most fitting name - Nubz.
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His story of survival - his frightful entry into this world, how he has learned to walk on doggie prosthetics, how he’s been adopted by a dog lover in Oregon - has made him famous.
He has his own Facebook page, “The Life of Nubz,” followed by more than 7,000 people, a number that grows every day as people around the world find it and populate it with photos and stories of their own rescued pets, some with special needs. Nubz has lots of friends.
A few days ago he got a shout-out from Mikey, the one-eyed sled dog.
In late September The Dodo, a popular website that tells heartwarming stories about animals, scooped up nearly 8 million views on a video about Nubz. His co-star was Jim Havlinek, the man who adopted Nubz over the summer.
The Dodo video follows Havlinek’s drive cross-country in June from his home in Salem, Oregon to pick up Nubz from a foster mom in Pennsylvania.
“I never had any expectation of any of this happening,” says Havlinek, a business owner who considers himself a private person. He seems to still be adjusting to the spotlight Nubz has brought to his life.
By some guesses Nubz, a Chow/Husky mix, isn’t even 1 yet. Havlinek plans to celebrate that first birthday in December.
Nubz was rescued from the puppy mill by someone who to this day remains anonymous. Various news stories about Nubz have placed the puppy mill in New York, others in Missouri, which yet again this year topped the Horrible Hundred report of problem puppy mills issued by the Humane Society of the United States.
Havlinek, though, says Nubz was rescued from a mill in Wisconsin. He wound up with Chow Chow Rescue of Central New York.
Nubz, with his special need for a special home, passed from one loving set of foster-care hands to another. One of the foster moms was a friend of Havlinek’s who shared pictures and videos of Nubz with him.
Havlinek, like many others, started following Nubz online, watched him in the hydrotherapy pool, watched as he became proficient with the bulky prosthesis attached to his hind legs. Havlinek was amazed that Nubz acted like he was just any other dog.
“Animals don’t have the stigma that comes with the loss of a limb. They adjust and they move on,” Laura Magruder, Nubz’s new veterinarian in Oregon, says in The Dodo video.
In April, something clicked for Havlinek. Lots of people commented that they wished they could help Nubz, but no one had adopted him yet.
Havlinek didn’t really need another dog. He already owned Bailey, his beloved Chow Chow who goes to work with him every day. But there was something about Nubz that “pulled at my heartstrings,” he says.
He knew that, unlike many people, he had the financial means to provide for a dog with expensive needs. The next set of prosthetics for Nubz, for instance, will cost between $1,300 and $1,400 a piece, and he will need new ones as long as he outgrows them.
So Havlinek applied to be Nubz’s owner and was approved.
The Dodo called him after he had hit the road on June 6 to head to Pennsylvania, asking if they could make a film about his trip and meeting Nubz for the first time.
“OK, I guess,” he said, a bit reluctantly.
“I did not desire this,” he says. “But the idea here, of course, is to get the message out to other people that there are dogs with special needs and there are resources available to people who want to help them.
“The awareness factor is actually hitting a lot of people. I’ve had a number of people contact me about prosthetics and we’ve kept up some conversations.”
He’s still awed by Nubz’s demeanor, given everything he suffered in the puppy mill. Nubz is a little apprehensive around people wearing hats or beards, but other than that is great at socializing with people at the farmer’s market, at a dog-friendly restaurant in town, at Lowe’s.
“You wouldn’t know he came from a puppy mill,” says Havlinek. “He always has a smile on his face. That’s one of the things that got me.”