A three-legged dog who traveled from Turkey to Omaha only needed to get one paw in the door before her new owner realized she was a keeper.
Melek, a 2-year-old English setter-mixed breed, was officially adopted Friday from the Nebraska Humane Society after a two-week trial in Dave Welton's home.
Welton said he learned of Melek while reading a story in The World-Herald. He went to the Humane Society the next day.
“I was like the 19th person to ask about her so I really didn't think I had a shot at her,” Welton said.
Pam Wiese, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said staff members turned down several applicants because Melek needed “to find just the right home” — preferably one with a big fenced yard and no small children who could be overwelmed by the bounding dog.
“We wanted to find the right situation because (Melek) has been through so much,” Wiese said. “We went with Dave.”
Melek — which means “angel” in Turkish — had to have her left hind leg amputated after she was hit by a car as a stray in Avsallar, Turkey.
She made the trip to the United States with the aid of animal lovers from several countries, including Bobbi Chapman of Bellevue.
Chapman saw Melek's sweet face on a rescue group's website and began working with others to bring the dog to Nebraska. But after driving to Illinois to bring Melek home, Chapman discovered the 70-pound dog was bigger and more energetic than her family could handle.
Melek is the fifth “pound dog” that Welton has taken in over the years. Welton, a 54-year-old Omaha native, said he could tell right away that Melek was “very special” but would be a lot of work because she had spent a lot of time in kennels.
Welton's other dog, Willie, wasn't too crazy about Melek's arrival. Welton said Melek walked in the door at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday and it took “until exactly 6:04 p.m. Sunday” before 60-pound Willie, a 5-year-old mixed-breed border collie, would play with his new house mate.
Willie also needed to adjust to sharing sleeping space on Welton's bed with the new dog. He growled “pretty good at first,” Welton said, but the dogs now sleep back to back.
“Willie was a pound dog who had been returned twice and he was a lot of work at first, too,” Welton said. “I was thinking it wouldn't be bad for Willie the wonder dog to have some company and Melek just kind of caught my heartstrings. She'd been hit by a car and I've twice been hit by cars on my motorcycle so we have that going.”
Welton, who lives with his mother and aunt, has a large yard in west Omaha and is sometimes able to bring the dogs to work with him at a tree nursery.
He said his mother wondered if Melek would have “language problems” coming from Turkey, a suggestion he found very funny. Now, however, he is wondering if he should look up the Turkish word for no.
“Melek reminds me a lot of a malamute I got several years ago that knew absolutely nothing about socialization,” Welton said. “That's where we started with Melek, but she is a quick learner. She's going to be just fine.”
She is gaining confidence and seems to realize “that she is finally at home for good,” Welton said. She also is getting lots of exercise running and digging in Welton's big yard.
“She plays hard ... and I would never have thought a three-legged dog could move that much dirt, but she digs like crazy.”
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