Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series on Patton, a heeler cow dog that lost his legs and continues to work cattle on wheels. Part I covers his accident. Part II will run on May 22.
Korby Kost has a feedlot near Carrington, North Dakota, and a celebrity cow dog. This smart, little blue heeler has been on TV and gets visitors who want to see for themselves how this handicapped canine continues doing his job —on wheels that have replaced his front legs.
“He was about 6 months old when I got him,” Korby said. “I named him Patton, after General Patton, because of his confident attitude. We had him at the feedlot for about 6 months and he was working cattle really well. He’d finally gotten to the point where he’d quit wrecking things (as puppies love to do) and was becoming a pretty good dog.”
There’s a fence around the feed yard because it’s next to a busy highway, and Patton had learned he was not supposed to go outside that fence. “He knew his boundaries and I knew he wasn’t going to get run over on the highway!” said Korby.
“Then one night I was grinding hay and he was with me, still being a pup —chasing hay twines and playing around. I was finishing up, picking up loose hay with my skid steer to dump in the grinder. Usually I back up after dumping it, but that time I just spun around because I was done. I didn’t realize the dog was there, and I ran over him.
“Patton was stretched out and going into shock. I rushed him to Prairie Veterinary Hospital clinic in Jamestown to have him X-rayed because I thought he was all busted up; I thought we’d have to put him down. The X-rays showed nothing broken, but he had some spinal damage. He could move his legs, but not his front paws. There was apparently nerve damage affecting his front legs.”
Dr. Gary Pearson, the veterinarian who treated him, thought Patton was young enough that the damage might heal, over time. “When he came home, he could still get around, but since his paws didn’t work, he’d scuff around on his elbows. It kept tearing his elbows open, and one got infected. They had to take that leg off, and tried to save the other one. They had it bandaged and in a brace for quite a while, but when it got infected it had to come off, too. So then he had no front legs!” said Korby.
That dog never gave up. “When we were waiting for him to heal, and he was in the front yard, he’d hear a swinging gate and realize we were moving cattle around — and he’d drag himself across the yard with no legs, wanting to help move the cattle,” Korby said.
He was still eager to work.
Korby gives a lot of credit to Dr. Pearson and staff at the clinic. “Patton is alive today because of those people. They worked hard to save him. It wasn’t looking good for a long time but they stuck it out. When an animal really wants to live, you let it live. I’d been hesitant when the vet said they had to take off the second leg. It’s no big deal having a three-legged dog. They seem to do fine. But having no front legs would be a bigger challenge.”
Patton had a struggle with infections, but after they took the second leg off he did well. “The vet clinic got a wheelchair for him, and away he went!” He can whiz around on those front wheels and work cattle just like he used to.
“He does pretty well just on his own, however. I only put him in his wheelchair when he’s working cattle or trying to keep up with us around the place. He’s had his wheel chair now for several years, but also gets around just on two legs,” Korby said.
A video taken for a TV programs shows him leaping and hopping on his hind legs to reach his favorite bone, and scooting around on his chest, pushing himself with his strong hind legs. He rolls around and plays just like any dog, amazingly agile for a fellow with no front feet.
“When he’s playing and wrestling with me he sometimes backs up and pushes away from me and he has a very powerful kick! The neighbor dog comes over and plays with him and they ‘run’ around having fun. He doesn’t care that he only has two legs; that dog never has a bad day,” Korby said.
This happy-go-lucky attitude is part of what is so attractive about him.