A 3-legged Labrador on a humanitarian mission

April 3, 2019

The story of Sirius, a large 7-year-old Lab, is far from ordinary. This former canine sports athlete had an accident that would change his life.

Sirius was only 3 years old when he was hit by a truck. The accident left him with a severed tendon and significant neurological damage. His human, Geneviève Baril, of Sirius Sports Canins (yes, both the dog and the company have the same name!) tried everything to save his leg, including physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture. Unfortunately, none of the treatments produced the anticipated results and after a year of trying, Geneviève had to make the difficult decision to have her beloved dog's leg amputated.

Geneviève's friend and champion cyclist, Lyne Bessette, encouraged her to move forward and convinced her that Sirius could still lead a good life. At that time, Lyne was spending time with a number of Paralympic cyclists and could see that those athletes were able to adapt very well to their physical limitations. Geneviève's fears were real nonetheless: with only one front leg, how was Sirius going to keep his balance?

She didn't expect her Lab to be quite so resilient, but the day after the amputation, he jumped right into her car as if he still had 4 legs. Although he eventually had to stop running, Sirius maintained his role as Geneviève's canine sports ambassador for 3 years.

Last year, when Geneviève had to travel outside of the country for a bit, Sirius stayed in Bromont with her friend Steve Charbonneau, a former football player and executive director of the Adaptive Sports Foundation. Upon her return, Geneviève noticed that Sirius had become very attached to Steve and his family, and that the feeling was mutual.

Since Sirius was no longer able to follow the pack, she thought he might be happier living with Steve. So, she decided to let her affectionate dog, who just loved everybody, to retire from the canine sports world and embark on a new humanitarian mission as the mascot for the Adaptive Sports Foundation.

Since then, Sirius has accompanied Steve in all of his duties. Steve noticed that the dog's very presence at his meetings with people who have a physical disability, was comforting to them. Sirius even takes the bus with the group of wounded soldiers who take part in the foundation's ski program. “When these ex-military see a dog living a normal life with just 3 legs, it helps them come to terms with their own situation,” says Steve. “Sirius is sending a message: that there is life after an accident and that it can be beautiful and normal.”

During the summer months, among his many other jobs, Sirius is the official purveyor of “smiles”. He co-pilots the Foundation's water-skiing boat on Brome Lake in the Eastern Townships. He's also a “crowd warmer” among the physically challenged program participants—a role which suits him perfectly since he loves entertaining people and being patted.

In fact, Sirius has adapted so well to his 3-legged life that people who participate in the Foundation's activities often do a double- or triple-take before noticing his missing leg. But that's all it takes for them to immediately connect with him. Why? Because he's one of them. But at home, this wonderful Lab goes back to being a regular family pet. Funnily enough, his best friend is a cat named Wesley, who loves to sleep snuggled up next to him. And here's an interesting fact: the cat lies down in the exact spot where his missing leg used to be.

“We all have a purpose in life,” says Steve. “With his joie de vivre and his quiet strength, Sirius is a great example of resilience for anyone with a physical disability who comes to the Foundation.” Truth be told, he's an example for us all.

Photo credit: Catherin Arsenault, pet photographer

Geneviève and Sirius, taken when they were living together
Photo credit: personal collection

Sirius on the dock
Photo credit: personal collection

Weasley, the cat, often sleeps where the dog's fourth leg used to be
Photo credit: personal collection

Steve Charbonneau and Sirius
Photo credit: personal collection


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