If you happen to spot Uma cruising around Harveys Lake in her dad’s boat, or riding around town in her mom’s convertible Volkswagen bug, you’ll probably notice she’s a friendly dog — with quite a wardrobe.
“Everybody recognizes Uma,” said her “mom,” Tammy Ginochetti, of Dallas. “She’s just a ham. I’ve had tiaras on her … boas and tutus … an Amish bonnet.”
What you might not notice at first is that the pit bull mix has only three legs.
In fact, Uma herself often doesn’t seem to be aware of her “tripod” status.
“She goes and rolls in the grass,” Ginochetti said. “She can still play ball. She plays Frisbee in the water. She swims like crazy. Sometimes I think she doesn’t realize she doesn’t have another leg back there.”
During the weeks of coronavirus isolation Uma — her full name is “Uma Goodness” — has joined Ginochetti for drive-by visits to nursing homes and drive-by birthday celebrations.
As recently as Tuesday, she rode along as Ginochetti honored the birthday of her co-worker Rose Norton.
Coincidentally, it was also Uma’s “birthday,” the anniversary of the day the Ginochetti family rescued her seven years ago.
“But we celebrate Uma every day,” Ginochetti said.
During the past two years, it hasn’t always been easy.
Uma had been an active dog, the kind that liked to frolic with her family.
“This dog was running up slides; she’d run down slides; she’d go on the trampoline with my daughter,” Ginochetti said.
Then one day in 2018 Uma tore the crusciate ligament in one of her rear legs.
Surgery followed, which involved inserting a plate and screws, and there were complications.
The family’s concern about Uma’s lingering problems led them to Cornell University in New York where veterinarians found an infection was attacking the bones in her leg.
Additional surgery to save her leg didn’t have the hoped-for result and the Ginochettis — dad Gino, son Alec, daughter Franceska and mom Tammy — had a difficult decision to make.
“We have had many sleepless nights,” Ginochetti said. “We took turns sleeping on the floor with her in the finished basement because she couldn’t go up the stairs.”
Knowing that Uma was in pain, but seeing how patient she was, tore at Ginochetti’s heart.
“She’s a very stoic dog,” Ginochetti said. “She never cried. She does not whimper. She just looks at you, with faith, and gives you a lick.”
“They really were our saviors at Cornell,” Ginochetti said, explaining she felt encouraged not only by the doctors but by other families she met there, families whose pets had lost a limb.
The family decided amputation was the best option for Uma. “It was the only way she would feel better.”
Twelve weeks of recovery followed, with the Ginochettis never leaving Uma alone. She lay on the bedding they had put together for her, “we were right there to feed her,” and when it was time for her to do her business, they lifted her hindquarters for her.
“I had to go to work and my husband did, too, but I can’t say enough about my stepdad, Papa Joe (Pascavage). He lives in Mountain Top and we live in Dallas but he’d come every morning to stay with her while we were at work. I don’t know how we could have done it without him.”
Uma recovered, then had another setback. In January she tore the crusciate in her other rear leg. She had an operation to resolve that tear in February and, Ginochetti said, it’s been “a long, long recovery.”
“She has her ups and downs, and she’s slowed down,” Ginochetti said. “But she can walk now. She can go down steps but not up them. We have to hold her back leg up and then she goes up on her front legs.”
“It’s been a lot of tears and sweat,” Ginochetti said. ” But she’s so worth it.”