Life According to Faith

It’s not unusual to see a furry friend lounging with its owner outside Starbucks. The al fresco tables provide shade and a perfect spot to relax. The unusual part comes when the dog decides to stand up on her hind legs. Onlookers are amazed as they experience firsthand the world’s only two-legged bipedal dog.

Faith is a 3-year-old Chow mix that was born missing one front leg. Her other front leg was misshapen and useless. It soon began to atrophy and had to be amputated. A handicapped dog was not what owner Jude Stringfellow had in mind. In fact, she wasn’t looking for a dog at all.

On Jan. 21, 2003, her son Reuben told her he was going to check on a guard dog with a litter of puppies. The dog belonged to the mother of a friend and lived at a flea market.

“I told him he could absolutely not bring home a puppy,” Stringfellow said. She wasn’t thrilled when the 17-year-old arrived home and she could tell by the bulge in his football jersey that he had a puppy.

“He said, ‘Wait, Mom. This one needs us.’” The puppy Reuben produced was pallid and thin.

“He was right; she did need us,” Stringfellow said.

The next morning, they headed for the veterinary office, but the prognosis was not good. Unless she could find a way to move around, the puppy would have to be put to sleep.

But Stringfellow found that alternative unacceptable. When she started researching the options, she discovered there were no resources for dogs missing their front legs. Wheelchairs and carts exist for dogs missing their hind legs, but the advice she got for a dog without front legs was euthanasia.

With patience and determination, Stringfellow began teaching Faith to walk on her back legs. At first, she taught her to sit up, then after a few weeks, Faith started hopping to get from place to place. After that, she began bounding and eventually, when the Stringfellows’ other dog, a Corgi, stole her bone, Faith started to run.

“When she’s running and she sees her reflection in a mirror or a window, she pauses, as if to ask, ‘Who’s that dog?’” Stringfellow said.

Faith wears a collar that was given to her by Oprah Winfrey. The blue band sports bright yellow bumblebees, a symbol of achieving impossible goals.

“Aerodynamically, it is impossible for (the bumblebees) to fly,” Stringfellow said. “They fly by faith.” Most people would say it is impossible for a two-legged dog to walk, yet Faith does it every day.

Since June 2003, Stringfellow and Faith have been sharing their story of achievement with audiences around the world. In addition to Oprah, the pair has appeared on the Montel Williams and Maury Povich TV shows, “Inside Edition” and in newspapers from Sweden to Australia.

They also visit hospitals and military bases, delivering a message of hope and inspiration. Their schedule for the fall includes Fort Knox, Fort Bliss and a burn center in San Antonio.

Stringfellow is an English teacher and uses Faith’s example to encourage her students.

“If she can walk upright, you can write an essay,” she tells them.

In addition to teaching, Stringfellow is an author. Her first book, “With a Little Faith,” parallels the struggles she’s had in life with the challenges Faith faced. The book explores her feelings about her divorce and the ensuing legal battles with her ex-husband. She was extremely frustrated with the court system and, just like Faith, felt she was armless and without a voice. The book is available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and through the publisher.

In response to numerous requests, Stringfellow has a new book due out in December called “Faith Alone: Stories of an Amazing Dog.” This book will focus strictly on Faith and include 20 photos of the dog.

Faith has no other medical problems and veterinarians say she’ll have normal longevity for a dog her size.

Stringfellow has become a resource for those with handicapped pets.

“Every week I get e-mails from people asking, ‘Should I put my dog down or amputate?’” Stringfellow’s answer is always the same: “If it’s just a leg, amputate and then rehabilitate the dog and yourself.”

Anything is possible if you have faith.

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