This adorable puppy named Hugo has swimmer puppy syndrome (SPS), a mysterious genetic condition that leaves puppies unable to walk.
Normally by the age of three weeks or so, a puppy should be standing or perhaps even taking his first few steps, but puppies who are born with or develop SPS cannot stand. Instead those affected paddle their legs much like a turtle would on a smooth surface.
No one truly knows how puppies acquire Swimmer Puppy syndrome, at one time most simply blamed it all on slippery floors, but far too many people who had puppies with SPS and who did not have this type of flooring passionately objected to simply dismissing the cause for SPS on waxed vinyl tiling.
The one thing that is not in doubt is the fact that puppies with SPS need to be rehabbed as soon as possible, without it most puppies won't last past 8 weeks.
When Audrey Shoemaker, a manager at Fulton County Animal Services, saw Hugo she knew the Georgia animal shelter was no place for a puppy that had such challenges.
At that moment this 4-week-old should have been cuddling up to the warmth of his mother, but Audrey's was heartbroken knowing Hugo only had the warmth of a cold metal cage to comfort him and that was just plain wrong in Audrey's eyes.
Jason Flatt, founder of Friends to the Forlorn Pit Bull Rescue, accepted Audrey's call and after hearing her story agreed to pull Hugo from the shelter.
Jason then called The Tucker Farm, a small sanctuary in Atlanta with a history of helping animals get a second chance at life, it didn't take much convincing for them to agree to foster Hugo.
"He arrived covered in fleas and unable to walk and I had family in town for the holidays but I couldn't say no to him," sanctuary owner Elizabeth LaBauve-Williams said.
"Although we've never rehabbed a swimmer pup, we were up for the challenge," LaBauve-Williams says.
"There is a good chance he will never walk completely normal, but we are hoping he gets around enough for a good quality of life" LaBauve-Williams added.
To help him get there, Hugo gets regular leg massages as well as water therapy.
Hugo has a lot of work to do and even humans cannot do the kind of work needed to come back from such a hard start to life alone, luckily Hugo has Adelyn, 3, and one-and-a-half-year-old Jane, who are there to give Hugo some needed encouragement.
The girls oversaw many steps of Hugo's rehab, even picking the puppy up when he seemed about ready to give up.
After just a few weeks of rehab and with the girls helping Hugo every step of the way, Hugo has reached a point where he is now taking his first wobbly steps.
"He's a different puppy these days, feisty and so determined to walk," LaBauve-Williams says.
When his rehabilitation has finished, and his baby steps become grow into a more confident stride, Hugo will have to make just one last move and that would be into a forever home with a family that will love him.
If you're interested in having Hugo become part of your family, then please click here to contact Friends to the Forlorn.
You can also follow Hugo's recovery on The Tucker Farm's Facebook page.
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