By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans
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Videographer / director: Amy Carkuff
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
German Shepherd Michelangelo Augustine - affectionately known as MikeyGus - was born to proud parents Spartacus and Temperance in Clarksville, Indiana, and at first he seemed just like the rest of his litter.
At six weeks old his owners Amy and Heath Carkuff began to wonder if there was something wrong with the happy puppy as he was much clumsier than his siblings.
Amy said: “At 16 weeks our fears were confirmed: MikeyGus obviously had dwarfism, which has many negative side effects.
“For MikeyGus, his struggle would be the bone deformation of all of his long bones.”
When MikeyGus turned six months old he suddenly stopped walking entirely but Amy trusted that he would learn to walk again - he just needed time and encouragement.
She said: “During this time, we carried him in and outdoors and bought him a walking stroller. Ice cubes kept him entertained, as well as his mother, Temperance.
“Temperance would lie in front of MikeyGus with a toy and play tug-o-war. She never expected him to chase her, but would invent playtime suited to his needs.
“He was completely full of joy and loved his playtime. We took him on daily stroller walks and held him excessively. MikeyGus was extremely determined and eventually began walking again.”
The mischievous pup lives happily alongside his parents, Lilo the family Shuh Tzu, a brood of chickens and Biscotti the cow, who often lays against the fence so that MikeyGus can snuggle up to her.
Despite his condition, MikeyGus was never once rejected by his adoring parents and the boisterous dogs take extra care when playing with their son.
Carkuff added: “Spartacus and Temperance treat Gus pretty much like they would any other dog. Temperance does tend to be a little more motherly, Spartacus is a little more indifferent.
“Neither line has any sign of the rare recessive gene which contributes to Achondroplasia Dwarfism. We did discontinue the line. Temperance has been fixed and the puppies are not being bred. We are very aware of the seriousness of his condition.
“We see it each and every day. Both parents have at least eight generations of documentation, with no sign of the condition.”
By opening their hearts to MikeyGus and his condition the family have found themselves accompanying the wide-eyed pup on his journey of self-discovery.
Amy said: “Our family has learned so much about determination, ambition, love and serving. The journey with MikeyGus has been very bittersweet.
“We watch him daily, making sure he has a good appetite and isn't showing any signs of pain. Walking appears to be uncomfortable, but his ears are up and his disposition cheery. Thus, we do not provide him with pain medication.
“He takes a daily joint supplement and vitamin. He only cries when he wants to be held. The average life expectancy of a dog such as MikeyGus is two years.
“This is always in the back of our minds and we remind ourselves to love him daily - so he at least has a very full life, if not long. This is a lesson all of us should take into our very hearts.”
MikeyGus has a particularly special bond with the Carkuff’s youngest daughter Samantha, who says MikeyGus is more like a sibling than a pet.
Samantha, 11, said: “MikeyGus feels like he’s my brother, he’s my best buddy and he’s a good doggy. He’s part of the family. MikeyGus thinks he’s a normal dog and his disability doesn’t stop him from walking or running.
“My favourite thing about MikeyGus is that he’s just absolutely loving, loves to play. He never gives up, he thinks he’s like everybody else.”
Through MikeyGus’s Instagram the loving family hope to show the world that anyone can overcome their differences - whether they are human or animal.
Amy said: “What we do with MikeyGus is try to show people how he is seen as a blessing in our home.
“He's provided my daughters with a first-hand education on how love should be boundless and, despite our struggles and differences, we can be a very important part of this world.”