Gia is an enthusiastic, 27-pound bundle of tail-wagging, face-kissing love.
The 7-month-old Siberian Husky mix has reason to be happy: Gia, who was born with genetic deformities and was rescued by Bridge to Home Animal Rescue in Eighty Four, has found a home.
Sue and Brent Boreman of Cecil Township adopted Gia in October.
The playful pup couldn’t have ended up with a better family.
Sue, a nurse, and Brent, an engineer, are both retired, and are eager to provide Gia with a stable and loving home.
“We have the availability and the willingness to take care of an animal that has some special needs. And she was so beautiful,” said Sue.
The Boremans have another reason for taking on the responsibilities caring for Gia. Loving someone with special needs is not new to them.
Their grandson, Harrison Burgess, 18, was born with spina bifida, and walks with braces and crutches.
“We know that disabilities do not define a person or an animal,” said Sue, noting Harrison’s academic, athletic and extracurricular accomplishments.
Initially, the Boremans weren’t sure they wanted to adopt a puppy. The couple lost their 13 1/2-year-old Lab mix, Holly, in August, but they have seven grandchildren, five of whom live out of state, and a dog would complicate traveling.
But Sue was having a hard time after Holly died, and she started to browse animal rescue websites.
The first puppy she saw was Gia.
She showed Brent pictures of Gia, who was born with shortened and deformed front legs, a condition called ectrodactylism. Her two defective front legs – her left paw turns in and dangles, and her right is a gnarled nub – make normal walking impossible.
But they didn’t seriously consider adopting her at the time.
Two days later, on Aug. 27, Sue looked at the front page of the Observer-Reporter, and there was Gia. An article detailed the journey of the pup, her seven litter mates and their mother from an animal shelter in Kentucky to Bridge to Home Animal Rescue in Eighty Four, operated by Tracey Crompton.
Crompton found homes for all except Gia, whom she feared would be euthanized.
Another two months passed, and Sue decided to visit the Bridge to Home website, where updated photos of Gia had been posted.
She didn’t wait any longer.
“I decided to email Tracey and tell her our situation, that we were retired and had the availability and desire to care for a special needs dog,” said Sue. “About an hour and a half later, I got an email from Tracey that said, ‘You sound perfect.’”
On Oct. 3, the Boremans adopted Gia. They kept her name, joking that she is too famous to have it changed.
The couple has welcomed the rambunctious and affectionate puppy into their lives, and they’ve surrounded themselves with an excellent team of veterinarians and animal rehab organizations to help them provide Gia with the care she needs.
“It’s a challenge to determine what are the best options for her, and I think that when it comes to taking care of her, it takes a team,” said Sue.
A nonprofit, Joey’s P.A.W. (prosthetics and wheels) provided a quad wheelchair that enables Gia to use her back legs to propel her forward. K-9 Orthotics and Prosthetics in Nova Scotia, a company that makes custom-molded devices for dogs, built orthotics for Gia. And Walkin’ Wheels, a company that makes wheelchairs for handicapped pets, sent Gia booties with grips on the bottom to make it easier for her to walk without the wheelchair inside the house.
Gia currently is battling a wound on her right foot, close to her elbow, and she is on antibiotics for a bone infection she suffered.
But Gia will not let her disability stop her from doing what she loves – includng her walks with the Boremans.
On a recent Monday, Brent lifted Gia up and placed her in her pink wheelchair, and he and Sue strapped her in.
Once they got outside, Gia broke into a run, pushing off her back paws while the wheels helped propel her forward. Her sights were set on a couple of children and a dog on the street.
“As soon as she spots kids or another dog, she has to go see them,” said Brent, laughing.
Gia also enjoys play dates with the Boremans’ daughter’s dog, a poodle mix named Toffee.
“She keeps us moving. She’s so playful, and she loves to give hugs and kisses,” said Sue. “Ultimately, we just want her to be a happy, healthy, normal dog, as much as she can be. She’s happy. She doesn’t realize there’s anything wrong.”