A tiny dog with deformed legs and rescued by the RSPCA's Southend branch in July 2019, is now a top scentwork dog competing across the UK.
Winnie's owners took on the American bulldog when she was 5 weeks old. But they weren't able to cope with her deformed legs, so asked the animal charity for help.
When it first saw her, aged 9 weeks, it wasn't clear if she'd ever lead a normal life.
Kathy Butler, from the Southend branch, said: “When Winnie came to us, both front legs bent at the knee and her legs would buckle under her weight leading to her collapsing.
“We had her assessed and a specialist clinic found she was suffering from a developmental disease of the carpus (or wrist) where the ligaments and tendons had formed abnormally and couldn’t support the joint.
They gave us a treatment plan and we started her therapy immediately while looking for a special foster home that could take her on and help with her rehabilitation.”
Wendy Linge runs the Shangri-La Cattery in Hockley in Essex, and often takes cats in for the RSPCA.
After losing her beloved dog Bob she was looking for another dog who could help with her grief when Kathy’s team told her about ‘wonky’ Winnie.
She said “It felt like the perfect set-up at the perfect time. I wasn’t looking for another permanent dog but fostering sounded ideal.
When Winnie arrived she was a bouncy, sweet puppy but was very disabled.”
The short-term foster placement soon turned to long-term love when Wendy realised she couldn’t give Winnie up and adopted her, continuing with her rehabilitation.
Wendy added “To look at Winnie today is unbelievable; her transformation has been amazing,”
“Her rehabilitation journey has been a long one with months and months of hydrotherapy at Completely K9 Hydrotherapy & Rehabilitation. They were so kind and even gave Winnie free lifetime hydrotherapy at their Canvey Island pool!”
Winnie would attend twice a week and following every session Wendy could see an improvement: “After every treatment she was more upright on her feet. Now she’s back on all four paws!”
Winnie now attends hydrotherapy once every fortnight.
Wendy says “There’s no stopping Winnie now, we joined K9 Scent and Search UK and she now enjoys taking part in scentwork trials all over the country!
She’s working through the different levels of training (currently on level five of eight) and she absolutely loves the sport!
“At home, Winnie is such a friendly dog and loves everyone she meets. I couldn’t have wished for a better dog to join our family; it just goes to show that sometimes, when you least expect it, the dog you need comes along!”
The RSPCA is appealing for more fosterers to help animals like Winnie.
The charity says all of its centres are under pressure and overwhelmed as more animals are being abandoned and coming into its care when rehoming has slumped, leaving long waiting lists of animals waiting for space in shelters.