'Happy' Puppy Born Without Front Legs Brings 'New Life' to Senior Dog Rescue in Rhode Island – PEOPLE

Joey the puppy has a pep in his step and is spreading that happy energy around a senior dog rescue.
In December, the little canine was born without front legs and moved to Vintage Pet Rescue in Foster, Rhode Island, shortly after arriving in the world.
"Joey was part of a litter that was born to a family in Connecticut. His siblings found homes, but the owners didn't know what to do with Joey due to his special needs. They reached out to the Connecticut Humane Society, who referred them to us. We had never taken in a dog with no front legs, but we wanted to make sure Joey found the most suitable home," Kristen Peralta, the founder and executive director of Vintage Pet Rescue, tells PEOPLE of Joey's origin story.
The tiny pup is younger than most of the rescue's residents. Vintage Pet Rescue is "a retirement home and rescue for senior and hospice dogs," Peralta explains.
"We take in dogs over the age of 14 or true hospice dogs (less than six months to live). We've also expanded into taking in special needs dogs — dogs who are paralyzed and require wheelchairs or, in Joey's case, dogs with no front legs," she adds.
Joey's "happy" personality and tail that "never stops wagging" are welcomed sights at the rescue. Peralta says her retirement home residents all love the pup, with one dog being incredibly close to Joey.
"We think Joey has given our hospice dog, Bloo, new life. Bloo came to us six months ago, and he was only expected to live a few months. Since Joey arrived, Bloo has been acting like a puppy! They will play together and nap together. Bloo is much more active, and he'll run in the yard now. It's amazing to see," Peralta says of the Joy joey brings to the rescue.
While staying at Vintage Pet Rescue, Joey is working on building strength in his back legs so it is easier for him to get around. Overall, missing his front legs doesn't affect Joey's day-to-day life "one bit," according to Peralta.
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"Joey is now able to go up the stairs to get onto the couch. He loves standing on his back legs and playing with the other dogs. In a month or two, Joey will be fitted for a custom wheelchair so he'll be able to run around as much as he wants," she says.
Once Joey is fitted with his wheelchair, Vintage Pet Rescue will start searching for a perfect forever home for the dog. The ideal home for Joey would have owners who could offer lots of affection and encouragement and no stairs.
"Having a dog with disabilities means thinking outside of the box a lot, so we need someone who will be able to adapt to Joey's changing needs. Something that worked for him last week might not work for him this week, so we're constantly thinking of new ways to keep him happy and mobile," Peralta says.
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Joey is sure to delight his future owners and is teaching plenty of animal lovers a valuable lesson right now.
"We tend to feel sorry for animals that have a disability, but it's important that we don't project our feelings onto the animal. Joey doesn't know he's any different — this is all he's ever known. So, we treat him like a normal dog, and it's been wonderful watching him grow," Peralta says.
The canine is also helping raise awareness about the importance of animal rescues, which Peralta says need support now more than ever.
"It's a really hard time to be in animal welfare right now. I've been working in rescue for ten years, and I've never seen anything like this. Shelters and rescues are completely full, and adoptions have slowed down tremendously. We're all just trying to keep our heads above water at this point. So, if you're looking for a new family member, please consider adopting. If you can't adopt, please consider fostering, volunteering, or donating to your local shelter or rescues. We need all the help we can get right now," Peralta says.
To learn more about Vintage Pet Rescue and how to support the nonprofit's work, visit the rescue's website.

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