A deformed puppy rescued from a garbage bag has finally learnt to walk.
Little Harper was saved from a certain death when a woman in Sanford, Florida, saw a man selling pit-bull puppies outside a Save-A-Lot holding a squirming trash bag.
When she asked him what was in the bag he at first refused to show her but he finally handed over the bag containing a puppy so deformed it couldn’t walk or hold up its head.
Back on his feet: Harper the deformed puppy is on the road to recovery after being plucked from the trash can
Flat out: Harper was born with a condition commonly called 'swimmer puppy syndrome', which meant she had a flattened chest wall and could not walk or hold her head up
Bright eyes: The little dog is enjoying a new lease of life after his traumatic ordeal
Veterinarians and shelter workers all agreed the dog should be euthanized.
But all was not lost for little Harper, Erica Daniel, a regular at the local animal shelter, stepped in and decided to take the puppy home for one full and final day of love and affection.
She told Today.com: 'I had to show her what it was like to be loved.
'I’d planned on taking her home that night, letting her sleep in bed with us, and having her humanely euthanized in the morning.'
Harper’s speedy recovery began on that first day with Daniel. The puppy had been born with a condition commonly dubbed “swimmer puppy disorder,” and most dogs afflicted with it don’t survive.
The disorder, pectus excavatum, causes puppies to lie flat on their chests with their legs perpetually splayed out, as if they were humans — or perhaps frogs — swimming through water.
'The longer she was like that, the more she stayed in that position,' Daniel said. 'It felt like rigor mortis — like her legs might break.'
Deformed: When Harper was born her limbs splayed out so her chest was on the ground and she couldn't stand up or even raise her head
Fighting fit: Vets and shelter workers said she should be put down but eleven weeks later the pit bull puppy is going strong
Water baby: She was born with a condition dubbed 'swimmer puppy syndrome' which causes them to lie flat on their chests
Daniel persevered, continually massaging Harper’s tight muscles, hoping to alleviate at least some of her stiffness and pain.
Within just a few hours, Harper started lifting her head and looking around. Her front legs became more limber as well, so much so that she tried using them to walk and pull herself around.
Convinced that this determined little dog needed a second opinion, she cancelled the following morning’s appointment and made a new, hopeful one with a veterinarian at the University of Florida.
At first, the vet described the reasons Harper probably would need to be put to sleep. The list included the likelihood of degenerative bone disease, brain abnormalities and a severe heart murmur.
But after tests they found her organs were functioning fine, and she had no heart murmur or serious brain abnormalities. The medical conditions she did have required treatment — but nothing that warranted putting her to sleep.
Rehabilitated: The puppy can now walk on nearly all surfaces but still needs lots of sleep to keep her energy up
Naturally curious: Most dogs with Harper's condition don't survive but the puppy has shown fighting spirit and has defied the odds
Today, Harper is not only alive but she’s thriving. The frisky gray puppy is gaining more and more mobility each day, to the astonishment of onlookers and medical professionals.
The Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy & Fitness in Winter Park, Florida., heard about Harper and donated free hydrotherapy and massage therapy to the puppy.
She responded well to the treatment, and before long she actually started walking.
'She started out on grass, then carpet, then concrete. She still can’t walk on tile or hardwood floors, but she’s getting there,' Daniel said.
Bev McCartt, a Hip Dog therapist, explained said swimming has helped teach Harper what her natural gait should be.
'Her brain kicked in and by the end of her first session, she was like, ‘Oh, I can do this,’' McCartt said. 'She’s a walking miracle. She’s a real testament to a dog’s determination to get up and just go.'
Today, Harper is about 11 weeks old, and she’s holding her own playing with the seven other dogs at Daniel’s home. Daniel estimates that Harper should be ready to be adopted in about a month — that is, if she can handle parting with her.
'The whole world was against her, but she’s such a fighter,' Daniel said. 'She’s a blessing. She’s awesome.'
Earlier this year Daniel set up Dolly’s Foundation, named after another dog she rescued. The organisation rescues and rehabilitates homeless, neglected and abused American Pit Bull Terriers and other bully breed dogs, and it has plenty of puppies and dogs available for adoption.
Read more: Born survivor: Deformed puppy who was rescued from the trash finally learns to walk | Mail Online