ET is a very special girl. She was born with a very rare congenital birth defect called Ectrodactyly. As she was developing in the womb her right front leg split and grew into two parts instead of the normal way. When we first noticed this we had no clue what caused it or that it had a name. We actually had two vets check her out and even THEY didn't know what the cause was, nor what her prognosis might be, though they did say it "might need to be amputated". It wasn't until we posted about her on social media that a few people who had either heard of it or had dogs with the condition told us what it was! We went in search of more answers and that's when we discovered that ET is a very rare and special girl! Ectrodactyly occurs in both humans and dogs, though it is very rare, especially in dogs, it seems. And each person or dog develops differently, which may be why the vet's didn't recognize it for what it was. Maybe... ☺️
What we discovered is that most dogs do fine with Ectrodactyly, and amputation is rarely, if ever, done, though sometimes reconstructive surgery is. We also learned that the condition is congenital but not hereditary. ET's parents are Olaf, our now neutered unregistered male, and Carina, an unregistered female that we no longer own. Neither of them have ever produced another puppy like her and chances are extremely rare that they ever would again. The condition is so rare that you can only find published studies of a few cases. And though we don't know this, we highly suspect that at least some of the puppies born with this condition are destroyed by their breeders/owners at birth. All the dogs we heard about were rescues or strays. Not one was in its original home and in most cases no one knew where they came from. Who knows how many more puppies may have been born with the condition and been either destroyed or abandoned by the people who brought them into this world. 😢
We strongly believe that part of being reputable breeders is understanding that if you bring puppies into the world you are responsible for them even if they aren't "perfect", therefore we never for a minute considered anything other than making sure ET would have the best life possible. We weren't sure what that life would entail, and we definitely worried about her at first, but we were going to do our best to keep her healthy and happy and let her live her life to the fullest. The minute we posted about her on social media we were inundated with people - both well meaning and maybe not-so-well-meaning - wanting to "take her off our hands". Some were genuinely touched by her and wanted to help. Others just probably wanted a free or cheap dog. Some wanted her as a LGD and some as a pet. We knew two things immediately. IF ET ever went anywhere it would only be to a very special family, most likely one we already knew, not to some random stranger.
And just as strongly we knew that ET was going to fulfill the role she was meant to fill. ET is a Livestock Guardian Dog and she will be a Livestock Guardian Dog. Why should being "differently abled" prevent her from doing the job she was meant to do? ET has shown her LGD instincts from birth and has always had such an enthusiastic, upbeat nature. We're not going to turn her into a couch potato just because she has a bum leg. Sure, she can't take on a coyote by herself but she can sure use her voice to scare the bad guys away and provide back-up to her LGD partners!
So far ET has proven us right. She doesn't let her bum leg slow her down much, though if she gets to running too fast she trips occasionally, but who doesn't face plant from time to time?! 😀 She's got a great bark and a protective nature with stock, as expected. (Though she has a playful streak that's typical of her age.) She's such a sweet girl that she gets along with any dog she's paired with, which is a very valuable trait. And her gentle, sweet nature and lust for life have completely stolen our hearts. ♥️
Update on ET - April 2023
ET turned two last September and she is still here on our farm, doing the job she was meant to do and bringing joy to our lives. We allowed her to remain intact until she was 2 years old, so that her joints and body would benefit from the additional hormones. Shortly after her second birthday she was spayed, so now she is a great working partner for any of our breeding males and most of our females. (some intact females don't get along with other females) ET is an EXCELLENT Livestock Guardian Dog who adores her goats, horses, chickens, barn cats and all the other animals. But most especially the goats. She is extremely gentle and sweet with baby goats, so that's one of the main jobs she performs on the farm. Baby goat sitting duty! She's also a great puppy mentor, helping train the next generation of Livestock Guardian Dogs.
ET takes her guarding duty seriously and is fiercely protective with her charges, planting herself firmly between them and any perceived threat. She's fearless and has gotten herself into a few fights with other female dogs, so we are very careful about who we pair her with, to protect her from her own brashness. She doesn't care for strangers but is extremely affectionate with her human family. She lives to "hug" the people she loves. Not a habit that should be encouraged but impossible to resist. ❤️
ET's bum leg doesn't slow her down much, other than her getting tired if she runs around too much. And boy can she run! But for her own protection she always has the easy jobs with lots of back up from the other dogs. We have no doubt she would attempt to take on a pack of coyotes if she felt her goats were in danger but we don't give her that opportunity!
ET is living her best life and is the joy of our lives! And an inspiration to anyone who thinks that life is just too hard! She could not disagree more. She thinks life is pretty great.
Click the links below for information on our dairy goats or Maremma Sheepdogs. We are located in Lemoore, California.