When rescuers found Zosia, she was clinging to life alongside a northern Florida railroad track. Animal control officers whisked the badly injured pit mix off to Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services and vets performed an immediate emergency surgery.
Zosia would lose both her back legs, but not one ounce of her spirit. And it was that light inside her that led Ericka Kofkin to fall squarely in love.
“When we met, it was just a few days after her sutures had come out and less than a month since she’d lost her legs,” Kofkin, 31 told People Pets. “I expected her to be sore or struggling with mobility, but it was like she never even noticed her legs were gone. She wanted to snuggle and play and move around.”
Days later, Kofkin couldn’t stop thinking about the sweet dog.
“…No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Zosia was already my dog,” she said. “I finally had to [admit] that I couldn’t live without this dog in my life.”
Jennifer Deane, president and founder of the pit bull rescue group Pit Sisters,sensed that Zosia would have a special impact on her friend, just as she had on the shelter staff, visitors and vet who volunteered to foster the new amputee as she recovered.
“A fellow animal advocate had sent me [Zosia’s] intake picture and it was graphic. I called Jim Crosby [the shelter’s division chief] and made plans to see her the next day,” said Deane. “She had just had surgery and she scooted her little body over to me and started giving me kisses. She wasn’t sad, she was trusting. She would just wiggle her back end, even though she didn’t have much of one.”
Deane had Zosia measured for a wheelchair, then shared Zosia’s story with those who manufactured wheelchairs and convinced the company to allow her group to buy the dog a refurbished one for a discounted price.
“It was fate, even though it sounds cliché,” said Deane. “When [Kofkin] told me she had to meet her, I told her ‘She is a special needs dog, but she is fantastic.’ That’s when we talked about what we wanted to do with her.”
Zosia is named for Ellyse and Marilyn Zosia who in 2014 founed “I Am Adaptive,” an organization with a focus on strengthening the adaptive athletic community (paraplegics, amputees, those with brain injuries, deafness, muscular dystrophy and other conditions. And the dog does great work bringing smiles to the faces of those who need it. She’s also a living example of how not to feel limited by a handicap.
“She chases squirrels outside, jumps over parking bumpers in her wheelchair, and even tries to take it up the stairs (sometimes I have to help her a little bit, though),” said Kofkin. “Zosia’s personality is confident, determined and joyful.”
And that personality is on regular display when she and Kofkin visit groups such as those at “I Am Adaptive” and elsewhere
“It is super to see something like this, an emotional support animal that can serve as an example to others,” says Crosby, an internationally known behavior expert and author. “People with profound disabilities meet her and realize that maybe they are not as disabled as they thought they were.”