Here at IFLScience, we love some good animal news – and today, it comes in the form of Ariel the cocker spaniel. Born with multiple birth defects and abandoned at 11 weeks old, Ariel was then rescued and has now successfully received surgery that removed her two extra limbs, giving her a bright future ahead.
Ariel was discovered in a supermarket car park in Pembrokeshire, Wales, back in October 2023. Taken in by Greenacres Rescue, a trip to the vet revealed that the dog had an extra vulva and two additional legs that had partially fused together. Further CT scans also showed that Ariel was missing her right kidney.
“Due to having two hip joints on one side, Ariel's pelvis never formed properly. As a result her normal back right leg had virtually no muscle tone,” Mikey Lawlor, founder and manager of Greenacres Rescue, told the BBC.
The way Ariel’s back legs had fused is what led to her being named after The Little Mermaid – the staff at the vets thought that the legs resembled a mermaid’s tail. However, the extra legs were not functional, and it was decided that she would require surgery.
After a fundraising appeal raised around £15,000 ($19,000) towards the procedure, the surgery was successfully carried out at Langford Vets Small Animal Hospital last Thursday. According to a press release from the University of Bristol, which owns Langford Vets, the complexity of the procedure meant that it required a wide range of specialists, including soft tissue, radiology, and anesthesia teams.
Before the surgery, there were initial concerns that Ariel’s back right leg would also have to be removed, but thankfully this was not the case. “Great care was taken not to damage any of the nerves or blood vessels to the right hindlimb that was being preserved to ensure this remained as functional as possible,” reads the statement.
The next step for Ariel is recovery, but it seems the young pup is already doing well.
"The next day she was up, walking around and eating and drinking,” said Lawlor. "Now we just need to keep our fingers crossed she doesn't get any infections, but she really is in the best hands."
A long stretch of physiotherapy will also be involved – this aims to build up muscle mass and strength in Ariel’s right back leg. After that, it’s hoped she’ll finally get to her “fur-ever” home, and from what Lawlor has said, we don’t think there’ll be any problems with that.
"The response we've had to Ariel's story so far, including calls and emails from as far away as New York and Australia, has been incredible – so I've no doubt she'll be snapped up.”