On October 6, 2012, a Dekalb County, GA, animal control officer found a black dog in a gutter. The dog had scabs, lacerations and bite marks all over his body. He seemed lifeless and many people though he was dead. On top of all his wounds, the dog’s front left leg was deformed. It resembled a chicken wing.
The animal control officer took the two-year old, pocket-sized Pit bull to an emergency vet clinic. The dog spent more than a week at the clinic recovering. The clinic reached out to Friends of DeKalb Animals to get him rescued.
With no name at the time, the staff decided to name him after a local fast food chicken restaurant, Zaxby, and because of his leg abnormality he was lovingly nicknamed the Chicken Wing Dog.
Former Adoption/Rescue Coordinator Jacki McDonald instantly fell in love with him.
“Zaxby’s spirit drew me to him,” McDonald said. “He came in beat up, but no matter what, his body exploded with excitement and happiness. He had no energy, but he wanted to love.”
McDonald became Zaxby’s foster mom – Mom1 as many call her. She took him home and introduced him to her own dog, Fizzle. With her, Zaxby healed and learned what it was to be truly loved.
Zaxby’s chicken wing leg didn’t have much bone or muscles. Friends of Dekalb consulted various veterinarians and determined the deformation was a birth defect. The leg used to catch on his leash and cause him pain. Therefore, the vets knew that it would be best if the limb was amputated.
In December 2012, the leg was surgically removed. The loss of his chicken wing didn’t affect Zaxby; after all, he had been hopping along fine on his three legs.
McDonald started a Facebook page where she updated fans on Chicken’s – as she calls him – medical milestones. While fostering Zaxby, McDonald discovered that Zaxby suffered from separation anxiety and he yearned for human and animal companionship. Due to her former job as adoption and rescue coordinator at Friends of DeKalb Animals, McDonald spend a lot of time outside her home. She knew that keeping Zaxby wouldn’t be the best thing for him.
“[Deciding to put him up for adoption] was extremely emotional,” said McDonald. “It was heartbreaking for me. I knew I could only manage my own dog and Zaxby needed more attention and fun than what I could offer him”
Katharine Luongo, Zaxby’s adoptive mom (Mom2), learned about Zaxby through another dog’s Facebook page. Luongo and her husband weren’t planning on adopting a young dog, or a special needs one, but they knew their life styles could offer Zaxby the care he needed. In reality, Zaxby had some odds against him. One, being a black dog, and two, only having three legs.
“We wanted to take Zaxby because he had separation anxiety and my husband and I work from home,” said Luongo. “We were a perfect fit. We talked about how difficult it would be to own a three-legged dog, but Zaxby needed us. We have no kids of our own. We could afford to help him and provide him the life he needed.”
Having adopted a dog before, the Luongos were no strangers to the adoption process or opening their home to a shelter dog. Yet, they had no idea how much their lives were going to change with Zaxby.
The dog, a social media celebrity, had a Facebook following that wanted to make sure he went to the right home. What’s more, Zaxby’s fan wanted to continue getting updates on his new life.
“I was never active on Facebook before adopting him,” said Luongo. “I’m just amazed at the connections we have made there. People have recognized my backyard from the pictures I’ve posted, and have come up to ask me if I have a dog named Zaxby.”
According to Luongo, before adopting the three-legged dog she was shamefully ignorant about the homeless pet situation in Georgia. She had no idea of all the needs local shelters have and how difficult it is for these organizations to meet these needs with the little resources they have.
Dog overpopulation is a serious problem in the south. In April alone, DeKalb County Animal Center euthanized 154 dogs. On average, Friends of DeKalb Animals helps adopt out 50 to 100 dogs a month, but there are so many other dogs that could be helped and saved.
Zaxby’s Facebook page has allowed McDonald and Luongo to reach people across the nation. Some of the fans are individuals who feared Pit bulls. Seeing how gentle and loving Zaxby is and how his demeanor is nothing like the bad reputation Pit bulls have, many fans have told Loungo that their views on Pit bulls have completely changed.
“As long as [Zaxby’s Facebook page] helps other dogs and helps change the minds of the people about dogs, I will keep it,” said Luongo. “I have had dogs all my life, Pit bulls too, but never a famous one.”
McDonald and Luongo have become great friends from this experience. They only live a few miles part and McDonald gets to see Zaxby every week. McDonald has also helped Luongo get more involved helping shelter animals. Since adopting Zaxby, Luongo has fostered two other dogs, she helps with animal transports and with overnight feedings.
In his now forever home, Zaxby has flourished into a happy, playful, energetic dog. The scabs he had all over his body healed. He has found a best friend in Finn – the Luongo’s other rescue dog – and every day he is showered with unconditional love from Mom1, Mom2 and his Facebook fans.