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Disabled Slaughterhouse Dog Now Changes Lives As A Therapy Dog

Written by: Molly Weinfurter
Molly Weinfurter is a writer for iHeartDogs, and she’s passionate about helping animals in need. She volunteers for Bailing Out Benji and a local dog rescue.Read more
| Published on July 29, 2022

When Gayle Ellias knew she wanted to adopt a sixth dog, she had her heart set on a Golden Retriever. She wanted a canine she could train as a therapy dog, and she thought the popular breed would be her best bet. But when she saw an adorable Alaskan Malamute rescued from the dog meat trade, he stole her heart.

Ichabod wasn’t an easy dog to adopt, but Ellias was willing to jump through all the hoops to bring him home. He has a disability and a rough past, but his attitude remains positive despite it all. Now, he’s helping others as a therapy dog.

Alaskan Malamute face

Rescue Dog Steals Heart

When searching for a dog, Ellias stumbled upon No Dogs Left Behind, a non-profit animal rescue that specializes in saving dogs from Asia’s meat trade. The organization has sanctuaries in Asia where the dogs can stay until they find someone to adopt them. Right away, Ellias knew that’s where she wanted to adopt from.

But her plan of choosing a Golden Retriever changed once she saw Ichabod. He was a 90-pound fluff ball that she knew was meant to be part of her family. Ichabod had been in a truck with 100 other dogs, headed toward a slaughterhouse in eastern Asia. If the rescue hadn’t taken the dogs, Ichabod wouldn’t be alive today.

Slaughterhouse survivor adopted

However, Ichabod had a few health concerns that made it hard for him to walk. He was diagnosed with displaced patellas, which means his knee caps weren’t in the right spot. However, surgery wasn’t recommended because it could cause him to lose full mobility in his back legs.

Journey to Happiness

At the time, the COVID-19 pandemic was just getting started in the United States, so the rescue had to wait to fly more dogs to safety. At first, the rescue feared Ichabod’s disability might prevent him from getting on the next flight, but since he didn’t need any procedures, he was approved to fly.

Ichabod with siblings

It took almost a year of waiting, but finally, Ichabod was able to travel to New York with 20 other dogs. Seeing all those dogs get off the plane and head to their new lives brought tears to Ellias’ eyes. Ellias immediately fell in love with Ichabod’s personality, and the pup was eager to meet his five dog siblings: Ace, Ixy, Fanny, Zuri, and Hoobly.

RELATED: Photographer Highlights Heartwarming Transformations Of Dog Meat Trade Survivors

Ichabod is lively and friendly despite his health problems and past trauma. Ellias said he walks in a “permanent yoga squat.” She bought him a wheelchair, but he isn’t interested in using it.

Ichabod therapy dog certificate

Ichabod the Therapy Dog!

Even though Ichabod was far from the therapy dog Ellias had in mind, she still wanted to get him certified. He’s friendly toward everyone, even kids, so she started training him through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Now, at five years old, he’s a certified therapy dog that’s improving the lives of others.

Ichabod specializes in comforting kids with special needs or trauma because he has personal experience. One of the reasons he’s so great with children is because he just sits still and wags his tail while they pet him.

Ichabod with students

“He is good at reading kids,” Ellias said. “He is very calm and if someone is excited, he remains calm. Kids make noise or move quickly and gesture and it doesn’t faze him. His temperament is really solid.”

Ellias hopes Ichabod can teach others that disabilities and traumatic events don’t have to define you. Ichabod is proof that things can get better, so he will keep spreading positivity in his therapy dog role.

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