Does a three-legged dog think he's disabled?

by Helene Louise  

One day, while walking in my neighbourhood, I saw a black dog from across the street. I couldn't help but notice how beautiful he was. His coat was shiny and he was happily wagging his tail back and forth. Still, something struck me as a little different but because I wasn't wearing my glasses, I thought it must just be that my eyes weren’t focusing as they should. But as I crossed the street and got closer, I realized it wasn't that I was having trouble focusing, it was that there was one less leg than usual to focus on—one of the dog's hind legs was missing. 

At first I felt sad for him. But he didn't look sad at all and his tail continued wagging happily back and forth. It made me wonder, does he think of himself as disabled because he has one less leg than other dogs? When he goes to the park, do the other dogs treat him differently? Do they feel sorry for him or exclude him because he is different?

I know that one of my greatest challenges at the beginning of my daughter's rehabilitation was trying to help her understand that her right arm and hand, which mostly stayed curled up at her side, also had a purpose. Babies who have suffered a stroke are years away from learning to speak so you can't explain to them that their "other" limb can also be useful. They're busy being babies and as far as they're concerned, one arm is handy for doing things and one isn't. It's much later, as they become conscious of how they might be different from other people and have their differences pointed out, that they begin to see themselves as different. 

Therefore, I would guess that the happy three-legged dog I saw just thinks he's a dog—not a disabled dog. And, when he goes to the park, the other dogs bark at him, chase and play with him without ever making him feel like he's different. He's a just a regular dog, same as the others.

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