The Truman show is much more than an amazing pet trick

Truman has a medical condition that forces him to eat sitting in a chair, much like a person. Photo courtesy Trisha Torres.

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — When you watch Truman, a pit bull-Labrador mix, wiggle his way into what appears to be a high chair for a dog, you might think it’s an adorable stunt.

But the energetic and often hungry pooch was down to 40 pounds of skin and bones when he was taken into the care of Handsome Dan’s Rescue for Pit Bull Type Dogs. The namesake is Dan, one of Michael Vick’s former dogs, rescued during the dog-fighting investigation.

Truman has Megaesophagus, a condition that causes food to get stuck in a dogs esophagus unless they eat in an upright position.

Handsome Dan’s Vice President Trisha Torres remembers how grim it was for Truman, who she said couldn’t even walk.

And eating made him sick.

“You could see every rib on his body, all his spine, very, very lethargic. Very, very thin,” she said. “He couldn’t walk at all for several weeks when we first rescued him.”

Truman has to eat sitting up.
Truman has to eat sitting up.

Handsome Dan’s is geared toward helping dogs like Truman who have extensive medical needs that local shelters can’t afford to cover.

The organization also takes in dogs with behavioral issues that are hard to manage and helps retrain them to be more adoptable.

In Truman’s case, Ken DiOrio agreed to foster him for about two weeks. But the dog with the interesting eating needs has yet to be adopted 10 months later.

“He had to eat everything upright and we didn’t have the highchair back then,” DiOrio said. “So we had to hold him up in our arms for 20 minutes every time we fed him.”

The process of Truman getting into the chair involves filling up his bowl and then guiding him into place, although he seems to understand exactly what to do.

“Want to eat?” Torres asked, as Truman stood on his hind legs. “There you go. Back it up. There you go.”

And soon he was in the chair over his freshly filled food bowl.

“He does most of he work,” said Torres. “I really know he’s going to be adopted. We just have to find the right home.”

Handsome Dan’s helped push the Rhode Island General Assembly’s 2013 ban of breed specific ordinances that often targeted pit bulls.

“Each dog should be judged on their personal behavior, on their history,” Torres added. “We just think that’s much more effective in keeping communities safe rather than targeting a specific breed.”

Over its six years, Handsome Dan’s has helped find homes for hundreds of dogs. Here’s its current list of available pets.

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