Jessica and Ellie on rescue day, weighing in 3lbsTake one look at Ellie and her forever friend Jessica – and be prepared to experience 1) the fresh power of the age old partnership bond between human and animal and 2) the loving force of a small community strong. 

Kelowna, B.C. native Jessica Littleford will be the first to tell you that her world changed in October 2012 when she joined her sister and Paws It Forward Dog Rescue to make a difference for the life of one little dog. 

Born in a puppy mill, Ellie’s spine was malformed in the middle to lower region giving rise to neurological issues. Mobility was incredibly limited save for some motion in her forearms to drag her delicate body across the ground for survival. From the moment Jessica met Ellie, an inseparable bond formed between the two, with an unspoken commitment to each other.

Photo Jessica Littleford The discovery of Ellie’s tenacity for movement began with something as simple as Jessica fashioning a cloth diaper to prevent further injury and pain to her chafed underbelly. As she gained muscle tone and body weight under careful love and nurtured play, Ellie began to support herself enough to manage a handful of miracle steps. With the introduction of a canine designed wheel chair, the world exploded for Ellie. 


Photo Jessica LittlefordThe little paraplegic husky puppy then began a parallel adventure with her human companion. Jessica and Ellie regularly join together with Paws It Forward Dog Rescue in local events to promote and bring awareness to adoption and animal welfare. While Ellie may represent one end of the spectrum of animals in need of our help, she is a beacon of hope for all, showing courage to live, to smile, and now, to run. Wherever Ellie is, she leaves an impression in your heart and her positive nature has gained notoriety with all those she meets. 


Curiosities in spontaneous synapses in Ellie’s back end (such as random tail wagging) presented a mystery and opportunity to veterinarians and Jessica began to seek solutions and answers for Ellie. Medical expenses for Ellie’s neurological condition are not inexpensive and Jessica began humble efforts to fundraise within the community. What happened next began a cascade of support in the small community of Kelowna for the little dog that could. Norm and Tasha Melnichuk of Bark ‘n Fly Dog Daycare and Boarding spearheaded an online auction for Ellie that drew in donations from businesses and individuals all over town. It even caught the attention of some of us in Ontario! When all was said and done in June, they raised over $5000 to help this little husky continue to move her way through people’s hearts. 

Ellie’s story gets better.

Brain and spinal cord injury is a world not unfamiliar to Jessica as her mother is a key member at a central rehabilitation facility in Vancouver. A simple visit to say hello to family turned into a metamorphosis of sense and purpose. The pair had an opportunity to spend a little time walking around the facility meeting paraplegic and quadriplegic individuals, and in Jessica’s own words: 


“Ellie had quite a profound effect on them, and they had quite a profound effect on me. The experience really put things in perspective, and renewed my hope for Ellie's and my future. I believe that it is not in spite of, but because of such injuries that people (or dogs!) are able to lead amazingly fulfilling lives, and teach others to do the same.”

As Jessica is pursuing her Masters in Social Work at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), fate had it that she would shortly meet professor Ty Binfet and his dog Frances. Dr. Binfet is the director of the BARK Program at the university. BARK is designed to meet the socio-emotional needs of students on campus through their coupling with therapy dogs– this fall Ellie will become a part of the team at BARK. Lucky students. 

Jessica and Ellie’s inspiring journey is documented on Facebook, follow along (as we definitely are) in their adventures together:

Wanna see Ellie in action? Check out this fantastic video Jessica shared with us. 

Thanks to Jessica Littleford, Geoff Lang Photography, Bark 'n Fly, and Blissful Visions Photography for providing the images in this article.