Nelliee, a stray Australian cattle dog, was less than 6 months old and barely 25 pounds when she sustained an injury that would forever change her life. After likely being struck by a car, a kind passerby brought her to an animal shelter in a neighboring county, but it was soon apparent that she would need to be transferred to the Dumb Friends League for extensive veterinary care. When Nelliee arrived at our Leslie A. Malone Center in Denver, our Shelter Veterinary Services (SVS) team got straight to work.

Radiographs revealed that Nelliee had a left hindleg femoral fracture (or a severely broken leg) and soft tissue trauma, both of which brought her significant pain and mobility challenges. After considering various treatment options, our staff felt confident that amputation would best support Nelliee’s healing process and long-term quality of life, and that her patient and affiliative nature would help her adapt to a life on three legs.

As expected, Nelliee recovered beautifully post-surgery and was cleared for adoption shortly thereafter. That’s when she found her soulmate in Courtnee. Knowing this loving pair today, nearly five years later, it is virtually impossible to remember a time when they weren’t together. During their first meeting in early 2019, Courtnee fell in love with Nelliee’s tenacity, affectionate and “wiggling” personality, and her charming, larger-than-life ears. “They were like radars … they were huge!” Courtnee remembers.

Although their connection was immediate and undeniable, it is important to note that Courtnee was especially thoughtful when determining whether she was the best person to give Nelliee a home where she could thrive. In the end, it simply came down to trust. “I was [honestly] terrified,” says Courtnee. “My biggest [concern] was her missing leg and adapting to that, and just trusting that she was going to tell me what she could and couldn’t do. Which she has.”

It’s been a learning experience for them both, but with some challenges also come the rewards of adventure, mutual companionship, and lots and lots of “true love.” According to Courtnee, Nelliee is one of the fastest pups at the dog park – so much so that many people don’t realize she’s missing a leg! Likewise, Nelliee and Courtnee hike in the Colorado outdoors, run 5Ks, and have participated in three Dumb Friends League Furry Scurry events. They even took an extended road trip through Utah to California, where Nelliee had the chance to frolic in the waters and sea foam of the Pacific. “She had the biggest smile on her face at the beach,” says Courtnee.

Recently, during one of their 5K races, Courtnee noticed a bit of unusual fatigue and discomfort in Nelliee’s back and hip areas. With only the first mile behind them, Nelliee stopped and laid down while others ran around her. “It’s like she was telling me, ‘I don’t want to do this, I can’t do it right now,’” Courtnee says. Just like she has done since adoption day, Courtnee trusted her girl, sought veterinary guidance, and enrolled her in weekly physical therapy sessions (complete with water treadmill exercises) to help strengthen her back, legs, and hips. “She does so great [in PT],” says Courtnee. “Now, she’s doing her normal walks and getting back out there.”

Nelliee’s heartwarming story is a testament to just how amazingly resilient, trusting, communicative, and loving animals are, even in the face and aftermath of tremendous struggle. What’s more, Nelliee and Courtnee prove every day that pets in need of additional care so often experience full and beautiful lives in connection with people who take the time to listen to them.

To follow along on Courtnee and Nelliee’s many adventures, check out their Instagram at @nellieethetripod.

Interested in adopting your own soulmate? Be an early bird! Every Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., we’ll take $50 off the fee to adopt any pet at our three shelters. Learn more here.