LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - There are lots of dogs that need to be adopted, so one finding a home is not necessarily newsworthy. But a German Shepherd named Kenley entered a shelter under heartbreaking circumstances, and her new owners are a very special fit.
Less than two months after needing her back-left leg amputated due to a gunshot wound, Kenley is enjoying life and making a lasting impact as the new “Ambassador of Hugs” at World Services for the Blind.
“When I first met her, I mean, I just noticed how sociable she was, and how personable she was,” recalled Dorvell Stewart. “You have this dog who’s been to Hell and back, you know. Left out, malnourished, shot, one leg amputated, and still, she’s just this bundle of joy.”
“And seeing that someone did something like that, it’s just horrible,” added Collin Price.
THV11 first told Kenley’s story in January, after she had been taken to Little Rock Animal Village. A neighbor discovered her limping in the street after someone shot her in the leg. Sharon Giovinazzo, the president and CEO of World Services for the Blind, saw the story and called the shelter to adopt Kenley. She had been searching for nearly a year for a campus pet, and decided Kenley would be perfect.
“It was just her perseverance,” Giovinazzo said, “and her willingness to overcome the challenges.”
Giovinazzo already has a black lab, Watson, and a couple of the clients who live at World Services for the Blind have service animals, so Stewart said he was not surprised that Kenley became part of the organization.
“We’re away from home,” he explained. “Some of us are away from pets and all that, so I kind of figured, hey, this would be like them to maybe adopt a pet, to maybe provide us with a stress reliever.”
But also to provide some inspiration.
“If you look at the clientele that we serve, all they want is chances,” Giovinazzo said. “That’s all she wants, is a chance, and hopefully we can give her that, here at WSB.”
“Some people come in here thinking that they’re up against a wall, with vision, or otherwise,” Price mentioned. “That’s not the case. You can always find a way to move through it, move past it.”
Some clients are afraid of Kenley, as German Shepherds can be intimidating, but Price and Stewart are among those who spend the most time with her. She is still undergoing heartworm treatment and is not yet fully healthy after the malnourishment and amputation, so she remains on a restricted play schedule. But when she does get to roam the campus, she has an impact that the staff may not have expected.
“A lot of people here are kind of off to their own devices. But whenever she’s out there, it brings people together,” Price stated.
Stewart acknowledged that Kenley has changed his personality and his outlook.
“I love being around, being around people, I love interacting with people, but I tend to also stay to myself quite a lot,” he explained. “And she has kind of given me the motivation to get out more, to interact with people more while I’m here, to not just stay shut up in my room all the time. So you could say that she has definitely taught me to come out of my shell. You know, come out of my shell; get out there, step outside your comfort zone. Live life!”
Stewart noticed that Kenley needed little time to show appreciation for her new home and her new friends. He told a story about an evening in which he, another client, and a staff member were walking around the campus.
“Kenley just kept stopping,” he mentioned. “And I just remember thinking to myself, why is she stopping? Why does she keep stopping like that? Because it was just so abrupt, you know? And Chelsea then says to me, because, like, after the third of fourth time, Chelsea says to me, ‘she keeps stopping and looking back to make sure you’re still with her.’”
Price said the relationship goes both ways, and that many clients have quickly taken to love the dog that was once abused. “Kenley has been a very, very good influence on all of us,” he claimed, “because she’s basically showing that there’s always room for change, and there’s always room to keep going.”
“She doesn’t know the meaning of limitations, and she’s proving that, day by day,” Giovinazzo said. “And that’s something that she’ll continue to show clients for years to come.”
Giovinazzo said Kenley still needs more obedience training before she has free reign of the campus. She needs to learn how to walk on a leash for people of all ages, for instance, because her enthusiasm may overwhelm some people. But Giovinazzo said she is already showing promise as a therapy dog, and some of the shyest clients will speak to her.
Stewart said that, even if Kenley does not say a word, she is teaching them lessons that can carry with them long after they graduate from World Services for the Blind’s programs.
“As blind people, or as any human being with any kind of disability can learn from Kenley, your limitations are only what you put on yourself,” he stated. “You know, your limitations are only what you put on yourself. Kenley, she does not let the fact that she has three legs stop her from running all over the courtyard, playing, having fun, and enjoying the fact that she’s still here. Such is the case with anyone who is, maybe blind or deaf, or paralyzed, or maybe has a learning disability. Learn from Kenley: don’t let it define who you are.”