Chi Chi the golden retriever may be all smiles now, but it wasn’t too long ago that the spunky nearly 4-year-old dog was clinging to life.
Before Chi Chi found herself in Phoenix, Arizona, she was in South Korea. While it’s unclear how she lived in South Korea, one thing is for sure, an animal rescue group found her in a dumpster.
“She was dumped in a trash bin,” Richard Howell, her owner told PEOPLE. “Her legs were tied up and bound with wire and her leg tissue was severely damaged and she was getting an infection.”
When Chi Chi was found in a dumpster she was in extremely poor condition.
The rescue group took Chi Chi to a vet and they determined the only way the golden retriever would survive was if all four of her legs were amputated.
Shortly after her surgery a video of Chi Chi was shared online and Elizabeth Howell saw it. She knew she needed to adopt Chi Chi. The Howells worked with the rescue group and arranged for the dog to fly from South Korea to Los Angeles and then arranged transport for her from Los Angeles to Phoenix.
Chi Chi had to have all of her legs amputated.
Elizabeth told PEOPLE that at first Chi Chi was afraid of people, which the family attributed to a poor upbringing, but eventually she warmed up to the family.
After arriving at her forever home, Chi Chi was fitted with prostheses.
Before Chi Chi was fitted with her current set of prostheses, the Howells used cotton to protect Chi Chi’s legs, which have all been amputated at different spots. If Chi Chi felt any pain she certainly didn’t show it.
Shortly after arriving in Phoenix, her family worked with a prosthetics expert that specializes in animal prostheses. It wasn’t too long after that that Chi Chi was running around on her new legs.
Chi Chi will need new prostheses soon as her current ones are getting worn from daily use.
Despite Chi Chi’s injuries, the golden retriever is as happy as can be and the Howells utilize her upbeat attitude to help others. Recently Chi Chi became a certified therapy dog and she’s already helped bring comfort to veterans, those who have recently undergone an amputation, and elementary school children.
During one of her trips to a rehab facility, Chi Chi met a woman who had an amputation. As soon as she met the quadruple amputee, she gained confidence and told the Howells that if Chi Chi was able to accomplish anything she put her mind to than she could certainly do the same thing.
“She’s an amazing soul, she’s more than an animal, she really touches everybody she meets in a positive way,” Richard told PEOPLE. “Her story proves you can go through something horrendous and with the right attitude you can get through anything.”
The golden retriever enjoys meeting others and bringing a smile to their faces.
Yesterday I visited the patients and staff at an acute rehab facility. The patients are recovering from accidents and illnesses. I met people with amputations and other disabilities. Our contact at the facility said that the amount of joy observed in the room has never been seen before. One woman who recently had her leg amputated said that if I can do this well with 4 amputated legs she can do okay with one. The smiles in the pictures tell the story. Oh, and they were so nice to give me some squeaky toys, which of course, I love. #therapydog
Since Chi Chi will eventually need new prostheses the Howells set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for new legs, as well as medical costs pertaining to the care of sores on Chi Chi’s legs and her treatment for lupus.
Although the Howells admit that caring for Chi Chi takes a lot of hard work, they insist that it’s all worth it, especially seeing the effect she has not only on their family, but on others as well.
“People see the determination. They see the resilience; they see the decision to move forward and her ability to forgive,” Elizabeth told Today. “Despite what she’s been through, and she’s been through horrific things that are unimaginable, she is a happy dog and she has figured out how to move forward and live her life to the fullest