12/20/05 — GI Joe doesn't let anything stop him

View Archive

GI Joe doesn't let anything stop him

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 20, 2005 1:47 PM

Don't think because GI Joe was born with only two legs that the little dog is anything but a healthy, happy troublemaker, his proud owners say.

After all, once the Chihuahua beat the odds a year ago, surviving and adjusting to his rather unusual disability, how could he be anything but determined.

But what the Hennings did not realize, they say, is just how much the little dog had to teach their family about making the best of life's challenges.

GI Joe climbs up stairs, jumps on furniture and back down again and chases his mother around the house, his owners, Rich and Marjorie Henning of Saulston, say.

GI Joe dog

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

GI Joe washes down his ham treats with a cool drink from his bowl in the home of his owners, Marjorie and Rich Henning.

The veterinarian who delivered him and his two sisters Sept. 21, 2004, told the Henning family they should have the dog put to sleep.

They didn't know he was handicapped until they got him home.

After the vet cut the umbilical cords and announced all three pups were healthy, each was wrapped in a blanket.

"They said keep them wrapped to stay warm," Mrs. Henning remembers. "The assistant got a box and put a towel in it. ... I call home. My little ones are excited. They wouldn't go to bed."

Even GI Joe's appearance was special. His sisters were all white, while he had a brown spot on his backside, just like his mother, Baby.

"You ought to see his face," Mrs. Henning said she told the children. "He looks like his daddy, Tigger."

When she picked him up, the children noticed something was different about their new pet.

The family had recently watched a television show that featured a puppy born without front legs. His family had outfitted him with little boots that come with the GI Joe action figure to help him get around.

"Mom, he doesn't have front legs," the children told their mother. "He's just like the dog on TV."

And from then on, GI Joe became a member of the Henning family.

Nothing stops him from his daily duties of playing with his mother and father and going about the business of being a dog, Mrs. Henning said.

And he has a lesson to teach, too, about how to handle adversity.

"He is an inspiration for me," Mrs. Henning said while coaxing GI Joe to hop around in a circle with his two legs for a treat. "I've got diabetes and have trouble with my feet. I've been bed-ridden since October 2004."

She said seeing the little dog act like he is just like everyone else pushes her to keep going, too.

He and Baby are always right by her side.

Or rather, Joe follows Baby, while Baby follows Mrs. Henning.

The highest GI Joe can jump is about two feet, Rich Henning said.

"They're pretty powerful, strong legs," he said.

The Hennings have eight children. Two grandchildren live with them. They have custody of two more, and they adopted two in addition to that.

Their two biological children, Margie and Gilbert, were born with medical problems.

Margie is 4 and was born with a right aortic arch. The artery from her heart had wrapped around her esophagus and trachea. She almost died and underwent surgery.

Gilbert, 18, was born without a flap at the top of his stomach and could not hold milk. It kept going into his lungs. He, too, had emergency surgery.

Rich Henning has lupus.

When the vet told the family to put the puppy to sleep, Gilbert cried. He told his mother: "Me and Margie were born with problems, and you still loved us. You took care of us, and you're still taking care of us. Mama, we've got to give him a chance."

The argument at the veterinarian office was that he would not be able to run like other dogs. "What would be his quality of life?"

Mrs. Henning said quality of life is being loved and cared for.

"God gave us a blessing when He gave us GI Joe," she said. "And it's a blessing we did not know until we brought him home that he didn't have any front legs."