Scott D. Pierce: Three-legged Utah canine is named a ‘Hero Dog’

First Published      Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:36 pm

At first glance, Cassidy looks like just your average Shetland Sheepdog. Cute as heck.

But when he starts to walk, you instantly realize this is not your standard Sheltie. Cassidy has just three legs. Not that he lets that slow him down much.

"He gets tired a little quicker than other dogs when he's walking, but that's about it," said his owner, Kathy Cain.

But he's an incredibly friendly, patient, well-trained dog. Completely unafraid of strangers, which, given his history, is somewhat remarkable.

Three years ago, a passer-by thought Cassidy was just a bag of garbage by the side of the road. Upon further investigation, that garbage bag turned out to be a hurt, frightened dog — injured so badly his right front leg had to be amputated.

After being fostered by Sheltie Rescue of Utah, Cassidy found a home with Cain. And the two of them have shared his story — and a whole lot of love — at hospitals, rehabilitation centers and schools.

"He's great with everyone," Cain said. "When he's with people who have had limbs amputated, he snuggles right up to them. And he shows them that anything is possible."

If what happened to him had happened to most humans, they'd probably show some psychological scars. Cassidy, on the other hand, happily makes friends everywhere he goes.

And he shows amputees that life can and does go on.

"I've seen him get in bed with somebody who's just had a leg amputated and nuzzle right up to them," Cain said. "They realize that it's possible to get past an injury like this."

You couldn't find a more unassuming dog or unassuming dog owner. But Cassidy and Cain will get some national attention on the American Humane Association's "Hero Dog Awards 2013," which airs Wednesday at 6 p.m. MT on the Hallmark Channel.

"It's pretty amazing," Cain said. "It's not something I ever imagined we'd be doing."

The awards, taped recently, are presented in several different categories — guide dogs, hearing dogs, law enforcement/arson dogs, military dogs, search and rescue dogs, service dogs and therapy dogs.

And the category that Cassidy won, emerging hero dogs — ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things.

He certainly qualifies.

Joey Lawrence hosts the awards, and celebrity presenters include Betty White, Marlee Matlin, Jennifer Coolidge, Esai Morales, Ryan O'Neal, Naomi Judd, Pauley Perrette, Lori Laughlin, Bailee Madison and more.

But the focus is right where it belongs — on the dogs.

"American Hero Dogs" is one touching story after another. And viewers get to see Cassidy in action.

He's impossible to resist.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.