Help People. Help Dogs.
Like so many other “pit bulls” Leonidas saw the worst of what people can be. The first time he knew the touch of human hands, he was maimed in a ritual of pointless violence. Treachery was the pit that would test his fighting spirit – and he tested game. Despite the pain and betrayal he endured, he lives life with trust and love and with the exuberance he was born with. With the gamest of spirits and bull dog determination, Leonidas exemplifies and brings out the best in all of us. In the end, like his namesake, Leonidas is strong – strong enough for everyone around him.
The Little Brown Puppy.
He arrived with two little hind stumps. He was a feisty little guy, squirmy, energetic, and his tail never stopped wagging. This little brown puppy was a survivor.
He was saved twice from an almost certain death.
In his first brush, two boys hung him over a fence as bait for another dog. The dog ripped off parts of his hind limbs: the majority of his left hind leg, then the foot of his right leg, leaving a mangled stump. Witnesses later grabbed the tiny brown puppy and took him to the shelter. Once there, they re-told the shocking story of what they witnessed, but pleaded to remain anonymous.
The shelter that should have been his safe haven and the beginning of his new life was actually his second brush with death. Because the shelter was in a city with breed specific legislation, it has a no-adopt policy on pit bull type dogs and euthanizes nearly all who come through its doors.
Had it not been for the efforts of some of the shelter staff, a local bully breed rescue, and the people who risked everything to save him from the men who so cruelly and intentionally tortured this tiny little dog, he would not have been long for this world.
He was only four weeks old. He weighed less than ten pounds.
While it took months to get his health into a manageable state, the little brown puppy quickly adapted to life with only two front feet. He braved every obstacle, cuddled and played with his new brothers and sisters-still, all the while, his tail never stopped wagging. His strength, courage and tenacity called for a strong name – “Leonidas.”
His namesake, King Leonidas of Sparta, stood against impossible odds at the battle of Thermopylae. Seriously outmanned by the Persians, King Leonidas and his soldiers sacrificed their lives to cover the retreat of the rest of the Greek army. His courage and resolution helped the Greeks to live and fight another day, and may have saved the very existence of a fledgling idea in the world at the time – democracy. This puppy certainly deserved a strong name from a strong man.
The canine Leonidas resembled an adorable brown junkyard dog. His right ear flopped to the left side like a bad comb-over and it took over a year before he packed on enough weight to resemble a normal dog. True to his name, at five weeks old, and with three and a half legs, Leonidas learned to walk up and down stairs.
Unfortunately, having half of a hind leg was going to hinder Leo’s hip and spine development. Game Dog Guardian’s veterinarian said he would donate his time to amputate Leo’s leg, all we had to do is raise the money for the medical supplies needed for the procedure. Mid-America Bully Breed Rescue stepped in and set up a campaign to raise the money on their website. To protect Leonidas and the amazing people who saved him, they only showed a picture of his hindquarters with his missing paws.
“My initial reaction was absolute love,” says Little Darling of Pinups for Pitbulls. The organization, who raises money from annual pinup calendar sales and uses it to sponsor pit bull type dogs, significantly contributed to Leo’s amputation. Little Darling continues, “I remember thinking, if he remains brave and is given a chance to grow in confidence, he will turn out to be an inspiring little guy.”
Coupled with donations from bully lovers from all over the nation, Leonidas had what was left of his left hind leg amputated. Our hope was that he could walk by balancing on what was left of his right rear foot pad and the callous forming next to it.
Still a small puppy, this independent boy wanted absolutely no help walking out of the clinic the day after surgery. He hopped down the stairs and straight to the car. When Leonidas arrived home, he marched right up the sidewalk, hopped on to the front step and looked back at the surprised faces. And it only got better.
You can be happy if you want to.
One nice spring day a young man in a wheelchair pulled up beside Leonidas. He said “Hey, you’re missing a leg like me,” with a smile. Leo scooted up to him with his tail wagging his entire body back-and-forth. Weeks later, the same thing happened with an amputee pushing a bicycle.
It wasn’t the attention that Leonidas got while he was out, rather it was the smiles he put on the faces of these two amputees that led Leo to his life as a therapy dog. Leo’s constantly wagging tail only added to his contagious happiness.
After all the surgeries, scopes, tests, shots, and check-ups he had at the vet, Leonidas still slips and slides in to the veterinarian's clinic, all with his big pit bull smile. Typically, the vet-tech’s job is to hold Leo’s tail still so the vet can examine him without the thumps of joy against the metal examination table.
Leonidas loves meeting people and dogs, and loves the jumps and weaves at his agility class. Since learning “the stairs” Leonidas loves going up and down them. He loves going in is kennel, going for car rides, going to bed, taking his medicine, playing with toilet paper, pouncing in laundry piles, and he even wags his tail at the word “No.” As in,“No, don’t jump into the clean clothes pile,” “No, don’t grab the end of the toilet paper roll and trail it into the living room,” “No, don’t jump on the treadmill while dad is running on it,” “No, don’t jump onto the back of the couch, then jump onto your sister.”
Leo’s other activities include the sporadic Olympics he runs around the house. Literally bouncing off the walls, Leo jumps over the treadmill, hops over the back of the couch, leaps from the back of the couch, slides into the entertainment center, spins into the hallway, barks and then bucks back out like a bronco and starts all over again. Perhaps he’s reenacting the battle of Thermopylae. We don’t know, but it is highly entertaining.
Leonidas: the Amazing Three-Legged Dog!
While Leonidas is a ton of fun and amusing at home, his true gift is what he does out in the community. Starting as a visiting dog for a local humane society, Leonidas appeared in schools helping with education on animal cruelty.
Seeing the affect he had on children and adolescents, Game Dog Guardian was confident that Leo could touch lives in animal cruelty education and his contagious smile could inspire people.
Leonidas and founder and director of Game Dog Guardian, Anthony Barnett, started working to become Delta Society pet partners. The only hiccup was that each city that had a Delta certified testing group also had breed specific legislation. Fortunately, Heddie Ledger stepped in as a mentor and teacher and the Prairieland Visiting Animals Association agreed to travel to test Anthony and Leo in a city that had no archaic breed ban.
Since becoming Delta Society pet partners, Anthony and Leonidas have visited wherever they can. Schools, universities, local police safety days, VA Hospitals, and office openings are just the beginning.
I once told someone what happened to Leonidas. I saw the tears well up in her eyes within seconds. That’s when I first realized that living every day with Leonidas and his unyielding blissful energy, made me forget all about the cruelty he endured as a puppy.
Leo's Biography Video:
- Follow Leonidas and his brother Liam’s therapy visits as the Game Dog Guardian Delta Force Pit Bull Team here.
- Join Leo’s facebook fan club here.
Watch Leonidas and Liam work with the Marching Cobras on Channel 6 here.
Read about Leonidas in the Lawrence Journal-World here.
See Leonidas and his therapy pit bull brother Liam on Channel 6 here.
Read about what the lovely ladies at Pinups for Pitbulls think of Leonidas here.
Check out Leonidas and his mom in the Animal Legal Defense Fund Newsletter here.
Read about Leo's work with the Kansas City Marching Cobras here.
See Leonidas in the KU Law Spring Magazine here.
aka Leonidas the 3-legged dog, aka Leo, aka Leon “the ladies man” loves EVERYBODY. He prefers places where he can let his natural exuberance for life shine through – at least a little bit. Leo hasn’t yet met a situation or person that doesn’t make him happy. Leo enjoys walking, sitting, napping, eating, going in his kennel, getting out of his kennel, visiting the vet, getting his nails trimmed, taking a bath, getting in the car, getting out of the car, going into a room, leaving a room, playing, not playing, meeting people, being alone, being inside, being outside, getting on the couch, getting off the couch, drinking water and grabbing dryer sheets out of laundry piles…among other things. He has just begun his illustrious career as a 3-legged agility dog, but is still “enthusiastically cautious” when it comes to the “dog walk” obstacle. Leo also loves to meet veterans and loves kids. He is always up for a good play with whoever (or whatever) and likes to remind us that he has 3 legs (and only 2 paws) so the rest of us can keep up.