Hope for Howdy: After Tragedy, One Dog Finds His Way Home

April 25, 2018


As soon as Nealy Bowden made an offer to buy her first house last August, she set out to adopt a new dog.

“I wanted to have more space, not just for myself, but for a large dog,” explains Nealy, who also wanted a companion for her nine-year-old hound/pit bull-mix, Sir Isaac Newton.

“Newton dreamed of having his own big dog brother, and I am keen on bully breeds,” she adds. 

Nealy soon spotted Howdy, a 12-year-old pit bull with three legs, on the website of the Animal Welfare Society (AWS) of West Kennebunk, Maine. After seeing Howdy’s photo, she turned to Newton and stated, “That’s going to be our buddy—he’s the one for us.”


Nealy then met Howdy at the shelter to get a sense of his general demeanor, and took him for a walk. Initially, another family had shown interest in Howdy, but the next day when Nealy learned that he was still available, she raced to the shelter straight after viewing a new house.

“I didn’t want that sweet dog to have to stay another night in the shelter,” she explains. 

Fortunately, the adjustment period for them was easy, and Newton and Howdy hit it off immediately. “It was a little surprising, but Howdy is just the perfect match for Newton,” Nealy says. “He just acts like a normal dog.”

Newton and Howdy

But what Howdy went through before Nealy adopted him was far from normal. 

Found as a stray on a Bronx roadway last June in New York City, Howdy was taken to the ASPCA by a Good Samaritan. He had suffered an unknown trauma to his left hind paw, resulting in a large wound involving multiple toes; the bones of his toes were completely exposed.  He had a cyst on his left eyelid and was also underweight.


At the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), Dr. J’mai Gayle, Director of Surgery, amputated part of the exposed toe and reconstructed Howdy’s paw. She removed the mass from his eyelid, which was thankfully benign, and Howdy was also neutered. 

While all seemed to be going well, several days after surgery Howdy managed to pull out of his e-collar and chew through his bandage, damaging the surgical work and leaving veterinarians no choice but to amputate his entire left hind leg. Though this was a difficult turn in Howdy’s journey, no one doubted his ability to bounce back. 

A month later, finally on the road to recovery, Howdy was identified as a candidate to be transported to the AWS to find a new home. Partner rescues like AWS give larger dogs and some dogs with specific special needs a better chance at finding a home outside of the city.

Howdy and Newton resting on a bed

“He was a really sweet, gentle, easygoing guy while he was here—just an all-around nice dog,” recalls Jen Adkins, Transport Program Manager for the AWS. 

Dr. Danielle Delfino, who managed Howdy’s treatment at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, agrees. “Our staff fell in love with him the moment he arrived. Despite his injuries he was a sweet boy and loved attention.”

It turns out that moving to Maine was the right move for tri-pawed Howdy. In his new home, Howdy blossomed. Nealy switched him to a salmon dog food, which made his coat shiny and skin healthy. He put on weight until his ribs were no longer visible. He learned to walk on a leash and how to sit and wait for his meals, following Newton’s example. 

Howdy and Newton on a walk

And, despite having just three legs, Howdy proved he could run as fast as his four-legged friends.  

“He does a great job keeping up with other dogs,” says Nealy. “He seems to have an easier time running than walking, and has a spring in his step. He acts like a puppy.” 

Among Howdy’s favorite things are hiking (especially in snow), riding in the car (next to the window), and socializing with other dogs, including those belonging to Nealy’s family, who live nearby and love him like one of their own.

“I’ve always felt a strong connection to animals, particularly dogs,” says Nealy.

Howdy and Newton taking a ride in a car

“He’s such a positive force in our lives, such a treasure,” she adds. Nealy even created a PowerPoint presentation titled, “The Recent Adventures of Howdy Doody and Sir Isaac Newton,” for the staffs of the AWS and ASPCA, so they could see Howdy thriving in his new home. “I couldn’t be happier.”