Cooper, the American foxhound, lives with short spine syndrome, so his body is half the length of a normal dog.

By Joelle Goldstein
August 24, 2020

A dog from Virginia is not letting anything get in the way of his happiness—not even half a spine!

Meet Cooper: the 2-year-old American foxhound who lives with a rare condition called short spine syndrome. Because of inbreeding, Cooper’s vertebrae are fused together and compressed—leading him to have half the body length a normal dog would.

That hasn’t stopped Cooper from being the “happiest dog,” his owners Elly and Andy Keegan told Fox News in 2019.

“Many dogs with conditions like Cooper’s are euthanized which makes me so, so sad,” Elly says. “They have so much living to do and Cooper is a real example of that. He has a happy, normal little life now and is a key member of our family.”


Cooper’s story began in summer 2017, when animal control officers rescued him near a suspected puppy mill in Halifax, Va., Fox News says. At the time, Cooper was only two months old.

Officers believe that he was abandoned because of the birth defect.

Cooper the dog

A shelter in Minnetonka, Minn., Secondhand Hounds, eventually took Cooper in and treated the pup for ear mites, worms, and a hernia until his lovable demeanor caught the attention of Elly and her husband, according to Fox News.

“He’s such a friendly dog,” Elly, 32, says. “His condition is caused by inbreeding, and it is unconscionable to me that he was just thrown away when the breeders realized he wouldn’t make them money.”

Cooper’s short “corkscrewed” spine makes him appear to have no neck and a short body. In order to look behind him, he has to turn his entire body around, according to Fox News.

Elly Keegan / SWNS

Elly also explains to the outlet that Cooper’s spine is fused on his neck and his bottom, which made going to the bathroom rather difficult for the little pooch.

He eventually underwent surgery to assist with his bowel functions so he’s now able to go by himself.

“It’s hard because he can’t go for long walks and can’t spend a lot of time on hard surfaces,” she tells Fox News. “He has to be on soft ground like grass or carpet.”


Despite having a relatively normal dog life, Elly says Cooper has still experienced some scary complications from his condition.

He suffered a severe fracture to his neck in five different spots after he fell and, recently, was diagnosed with a bone infection called osteomyelitis.

“Because his spine is so compromised, it was dangerous but luckily we got it under control with antibiotics,” Elly tells Fox News of the infection, adding that Cooper has since made a recovery from both incidents.

And now Cooper can certainly keep up with Elly and Andy’s three other pups, Skylar, 13, Waylon, 3, and Tuva, 4.

Cooper with his puppy siblings

He is also being considered as a candidate for a Purdue University study of short-spined dogs.

“Wherever he goes he draws attention but he really revels in it,” Elly tells Fox News. “He has a lot of fans on Facebook."

Secondhand Hounds specializes in rescuing at-risk dogs and cats and commits to caring for the animals through adoption, rehabilitation, and hospice care, according to its website.

Since its establishment in 2009, it has saved more than 16,000 dogs and cats to help them find a fur-ever home.

Currently, there are fewer than 30 dogs in the world living with the rare condition, and two of them were cared for by Secondhand Hounds, the shelter’s executive director Rachel Mairose says.

“Cooper is a true example of why we do what we do!” Mairose says. “At Secondhand Hounds we love the underdog, the broken, the tossed aside. We find that these are the animals who give back the most with their trust and their enthusiasm for life. Coop is no exception!

“You can’t help but smile when he’s in the room,” she adds. “We love showing people that different means beautiful. Opening your heart to a rescue dog means opening your life to unconditional love. Nothing better than that.”

This Story Originally Appeared On People