Kendrick and Kimberly Lee are proud owners of two handicapped Singapore Specials.
Both dogs, Kobe and Kori, are three-legged doggos (commonly known as tripod dogs) who are missing a hind leg each.
Kobe: Love at first sight
Their first dog, Kobe, was found by a stray feeder in January last year. He was only a puppy yet his left hind leg had been severed below the knee.
Donors came forward to pay for his medical fees as amputation was deemed the best course of action for a decent quality of life.
Lee and his partner are cat lovers and rescuers. But Lee told Mothership that when he first saw Kobe’s adoption notice on Purely Adoptions' Facebook page, it was “from the moment we knew about Kobe, he felt like family”.
Kori, the little brother
Kori was found when he was only eight days old. He had deformed feet, and was scheduled to have his right hind leg amputated when the Lees fostered him in October 2020.
Adopting Kori was a decision that just made sense for them, as they wouldn't have to "worry (about a difference in) energy levels, or whether Kobe is gonna get bullied by his four-legged brother."
Made changes to accommodate handicapped dogs
“Nobody is ever given a manual on how to care for a pet with special circumstances,” Lee shared.
Naturally, caring for three-legged dogs comes with a special set of challenges, said Lee:
"It’s been easier than expected because they are just like any regular dogs, the only difference is that we have to watch for fatigue during walks and hikes, be more mindful when they are running as we need to watch for muscle cramps. We need to give regular massages to reduce tension on their muscles and their spine too.
Other than that, they are just perfect."
Lee and his partner had to make changes to their home to accommodate handicapped dogs, like using anti-slip mats in the house and ensuring that their food and water bowls are properly elevated. They also provide Kobe and Kori with memory foam beds which are easier for them to get out of.
However, the experience taught them many lessons, some of which were documented in a blog post by Lee himself, one year after Kobe joined the family.
For instance, did you know that a three-legged dog is more prone to developing arthritis and cracked foot pads because of the additional stress and weight placed on their remaining limbs?
These dogs are also likely to face arthritis and mobility issues at an earlier age, which might demand greater medical care in the future, said Lee.
"We did our own research, and were mentally prepared to take up a lifetime challenge and responsibility of providing to the best of our ability, to ensure that Kobe and Kori live enriching lives."
Adapted quickly to missing limbs
A common question Lee and his partner get is: Why not fit the dogs with prosthetics?
Prosthetic limbs provide a handicapped dog with the mobility and freedom it had before losing its leg. They also help to bear the dog's weight and prevent additional injuries from the imbalance.
But dogs can be very resilient and adapt quickly.
Both Kobe and Kori adapted quickly to their condition as they lost their hind limbs when they were so young, Lee remarked.
He observed that both dogs seem to have forgotten about their missing limbs altogether. And besides, medical advice has also deemed prosthetic limbs unnecessary for them.
Not too different from dogs with four legs
The couple often brings Kobe and Kori out for walks, swimming sessions at the beach, and play time at dog parks to allow them to socialise with other people and dog buddies.
Lee said that they often get stares, adding that people often think that handicapped dogs should stay indoors because they need the rest.
"That's a misconception," he said. Tripod dogs need to exercise to keep their joints and muscles moving, and keep lean.
Being three-legged hasn't stopped Kobe and Kori from being regular dogs, as both enjoy "daily crazy zoomies around the house with each other as well as their cat brothers and sisters".
Kobe even outruns other dogs at the dog park.
"Both of them behave like any other normal happy dog would, and probably think other dogs are weird for having an extra hind limb."
Singapore Specials: A misunderstood breed
Kobe and Kori are both mongrels, a breed of village dogs commonly called the Singapore Special.
According to Lee, the breed is quite misunderstood as there is a misconception that all Singapore Specials are aggressive and have behavioural issues.
Instead, it is his opinion that the aggressiveness of the dog is dependent on the lived experiences of the individual dog, and not entirely on the breed itself.
Rather, dog owners are responsible for gaining their trust and working through these issues, he said.
Lee admitted that owning two Singapore Specials "is not all sunshine and rainbows".
Although people often think of Kobe as a sweet loving boy, he has a "side of aggressiveness that is hard to tame".
In his blog posts about being a pet owner, Lee shared that he had been bitten several times while working through Kobe's resource guarding behaviour. Kobe is defensive of his toys and food, and may growl, bare his teeth, or bite if he feels that these items might be taken away from him.
Lee also learnt that Kobe is prone to becoming cranky when he gets tired.
Owners of other Singapore Specials may face issues inviting guests home because these dogs might display a bit of aggression when encountering others and find it "impossible, or at least challenging" to join other dogs or strangers in group settings.
"We count ourselves lucky because we are aware what triggers Kobe to turn aggressive," Lee shared, "so we can manage or prevent any situations that causing him to behave aggressively."
Regardless, he faces these challenges head on by carefully managing Kobe's behaviour, learning to monitor his triggers, and undergoing training courses.
Thankfully, although Kori isn't as outgoing as Kobe, Kori has been a "sweetheart since young" and face no issues with aggression.
"People often react negatively when they see our dogs. It’s hurtful."
"I strongly believe that most dogs with aggression issues are lovely to be around in most situations, however badly they may behave in others," Lee said.
He explained that while many aggressive dogs are not at their best when out in public around strangers or other dogs, they are actually quite kind and lovable around the family, including small kids and even pets like a family cat.
For him, owning Singapore Specials (and three-legged ones at that) is all about trial and error. It takes a lot of patience, understanding and love.
No different from other dogs as they give same amount of love and loyalty
"Our first thought upon seeing (Kobe's) adoption notice on Facebook was if there would be anybody kind out there with a heart big enough to accept and give this little guy a loving home," said Lee.
"A difference would mean the world for him, given the chance...They (handicapped dogs) are no different from any other dogs as they give the same amount of love and loyalty to their owners."
Lee believes that to a genuine dog lover, every dog has the capability to be a loyal friend, regardless of its breed or disability.
He hopes to encourage more would-be dog parents to give handicapped and Singapore Special dogs a chance.
"We shouldn’t categorise dogs based on their breeds, colour, or disabilities and treat them differently. Dogs are the most loyal living beings."
Top images courtesy of Kendrick Lee. Quotes were edited for clarity.