Best Defense

Rebecca’s war dog of the week: Faith walks through life minus two front legs

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense chief canine correspondent I’ve been on the road this summer, working tirelessly to collect wonderful war-dog stories across America — I’m the Charles Kuralt of the canine beat. One of the best tales is about Faith, an eight-year-old Labrador/chow mix, who’s become rather famous of late. In addition to making ...

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent

I’ve been on the road this summer, working tirelessly to collect wonderful war-dog stories across America — I’m the Charles Kuralt of the canine beat.

One of the best tales is about Faith, an eight-year-old Labrador/chow mix, who’s become rather famous of late. In addition to making guest appearances on Oprah, this beat-the-odds dog is now on tour visiting disabled soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, helping to lift their spirits and provide much-need inspiration as these men and women battle with their own war-zone injuries.

It doesn’t matter a lick that Faith was born with her physical impediments, the incredible obstacles she overcame (with the help of her owner Jude Stringfellow) to not only walk again, but to survive. The mother dog rejected the runt who’d been born with only two normal hind legs and one abnormal front leg (which was eventually amputated). But Stringfellow’s son found the struggling puppy in a neighbor’s yard and brought her home where the family began the arduous process of teaching Faith to walk upright on two legs by first getting the dog on a surf board in the water (so she could get a feel for balance), and using what sounds like an old and trusty method to coax her into walking — peanut butter on a spoon.

And walk she does. With a jaunty and somewhat stilted gait, Faith stands straight, marching along her tail always wagging. Stringfellow says that the dog’s hips, muscles, and joints have adapted and grown to Faith’s needs as a dog on only two legs.

But Faith’s tour of late was inspired by Stringfellow’s son’s own tour of duty in Iraq. Stringfellow and Faith were most recently visiting troops in England. One of the Army nurses testifies to the power that Faith’s presence has — as Stringfellow says, the dog’s effect on these soldiers can cut to the core:

She just walks around barking and laughing and excited to see them all … There is a lot of crying, pointing and surprise. From those who have lost friends or limbs, there can be silence. Some will shake my hand and thank me, some will pat her on the head. There is a lot of quiet, heartfelt, really deep emotion.”

It’s also been reported that Faith has been made an honorary sergeant in the U.S. Army. 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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