Little Sassy the pit bull was born with a number of congenital disorders, including dwarfism. Sadly, then, vets wrote her off before her life had even begun. In fact, the vets estimated that she had at most three years to live. But – despite her bent legs, flat feet and tiny stature – Sassy had a mighty fighting spirit.
In January 2013 Sassy found herself all alone in the New York City shelter, Manhattan ACC. Unfortunately, the shelter had a reputation for being a “high-kill” facility. Therefore, the puppy’s future was for from certain. But that wasn’t the pit bull’s only problem.
Yes, the five-month-old pup had been born with a number of health difficulties and deformities. Sadly, it’s believed that Sassy’s many ailments were a result of inbreeding. With so many problems facing the dog, then, some people thought the best option was to have her euthanized.
But luckily for Sassy, Kim Bonomo and Milena Apath of Forgotten Friends of Long Island came to help. In fact, they made sure that the adorable pit bull would go into foster care and hoped she would later secure a loving forever home.
Once Sassy arrived at Forgotten Friends of Long Island, the organization began to document the pup’s journey on its Facebook page. An update in 2013 read, “Aside from her being an absolute love, she does have a few things going on.”
“Leg deformity, breathing issues, enlarged cranium,” the post goes on to list. Worryingly, it continued, “Chest X-rays just showed an abnormality with her trachea which could also be affecting her heart.”
So Sassy was battling almost all of the defects and deformities associated with in-breeding. Plus, her dwarfism meant that the poor pup was only a quarter of the size of an average pit bull. On top of this, Sassy also had bent legs, flat feet and enlarged hips. Furthermore, her oral deformities prevented her from barking.
Unsurprisingly, dwarfism isn’t uncommon in dogs. In fact, dog like dachshunds and Corgis are bred specifically to be genetic dwarfs. However, the condition can also be passed down through hereditary glitches. So, as pit bulls aren’t genetically bred to be dwarfs, it’s likely that Sassy’s defects were a result of irresponsible breeding.
Dwarfism can cause severe discomfort for dogs that can continue long into adulthood. But just how the condition affects each afflicted canine differs. For example, some dogs can live a normal life span, while others live less than five years.
But for all her problems, little Sassy had already won the hearts of many online fans. And while others had offered to adopt her, it was Ernie Altamirano who made arrangements to visit her directly. “Being a dog lover, I just really wanted to go and meet her,” he told Dogster in 2016.
And it seems that it was love at first sight. In fact, Altamirano decided Sassy was the dog for him, despite all her problems. However, what should have been a happy time for both animal and owner turned out to be tinged with sadness.
Yes, the experts warned Altamirano not to get too attached to his new precious pup, as nobody expected her to live much longer. “Three years old was pretty much the expectancy that everyone gave us,” he explained to The Dodo in 2016. But no matter how long he had with Sassy, Altamirano determined to make the most of it.
So Sassy moved in with Altamirano and his three other rescue dogs: Dolly Paton, Chiqui Gonzalez and Sexy Larry. At first, her adoptive siblings weren’t sure what to make of Sassy. But after lots of care and training, they got along swimmingly.
In fact, they, like Altamirano, found themselves falling in love with all of the tiny pit bull’s little quirks. While to some owners, Sassy’s inability to bark might cause concern, it just makes her even more lovable to her family. “She just claps her jaw,” Altamirano told The Dodo. “You know she’s trying to bark because she’s just doing this jaw clap. I think it’s hysterical.”
And although Sassy could have had surgery to treat some of her problems, Altamirano has decided against it. “They were going to try and straighten her legs, but she has flipper feet. She kind of walks on her forearms, and her feet are really just ‘there.’ They’re underdeveloped,” he explained to The Dodo. “So if they straighten her legs, she’s just going to be walking on the ends of bone because these feet don’t do anything.”
Still, as a result of her problems, Sassy needed a lot of care and attention. For example, Altamirano has to be push her around in a stroller most of the time – but the little fighter doesn’t let that hold her back. “[Sassy] loves dog parks,” Altamirano told The Dodo. “She loves big dogs. She definitely doesn’t know she’s the size she is.”
And, thanks to her amazing spirt, Sassy began to make slow but steady progress. She can now climb stairs, run around and follow basic commands, such as sit, stay and down. Not only that, but the clever girl also gives out high fives.
It seemed like there was no stopping Sassy once she got going. And despite her worrying prognosis that she wouldn’t make it, three birthdays came and went. Then, in August 2016, Sassy turned four years old.
“Three years came – and she was fine. Then four years came – and she was still fine,” Altamirano told Dogster. The owner now has big plans for Sassy and hopes she can help others by becoming a therapy dog. As part of the role, the brave pit bull would also be an ambassador for other dwarf canines.
But as far as Altamirano is concerned, Sassy is an amazing role model already. “She’s so sweet, you can’t not love this dog,” he said in his interview with The Dodo. “She’s just the happiest little girl.” Clearly, the best things do come in small packages.