INNISFAIL – Brodie, a German shepherd/Border collie cross, had a tough start in life.
He was born in a Ponoka-area animal rescue shelter in early 2019. Thirteen days later his skull was crushed by his mother.
No one knows why. It could have been an accident. Thankfully, early signs showed it probably wasn’t serious.
But then as Brodie grew, his face showed increased impairment, an off kilter and decidedly wonky look. These were clear signs of cranial deformities.
But nothing suggested Brodie’s faculties were impaired. Not only was he adorably cute, but it was obvious he was one smart canine, not to mention loving to all humans, other dogs and even rabbits – but wisely a bit afraid of bossy kitty cats.
Later in 2019 Brodie was put up for adoption by Old MacDonald Kennels, the Ponoka-area animal rescue shelter where he was born. Martine Huijssoon, the owner of the shelter, said Brodie was adopted when he was a puppy but was soon returned due to being over hyper.
“When he was available for adoption, he looked quite different than the other dogs because his mum bit him in the face when he was just a tiny puppy. That is why he is so deformed,” said Huijssoon, adding Brodie’s future story has been “unreal.
“I think it’s amazing. He is an amazing dog, and he’s doing so well,” she said.
Brodie’s life turned dramatically in the late summer of 2019 with the arrival of Amanda Richter and her boyfriend Brad Ames to the shelter. The couple had seen his online adoption notice and photo. Brodie was getting a second chance.
“I looked at Brodie’s photo four days in a row. I actually cried at one point, ‘oh my gosh this dog is so sweet. I have to meet him,” said Richter, a professional freelance photographer who moved to Innisfail from Red Deer a year ago with Ames.
The couple drove up to the shelter and were immediately smitten, notably Ames who wasn’t initially wanting a dog.
“Once we got there, we took Brodie for a walk and spent a couple of hours with him,” she added. “Brad was the one to look at me and say, ‘so, are we taking him home?”
Brodie had his forever home and his life has since been a wild ride, which has included social media stardom.
“Within a couple of months, it really started to pick up, and explode,” said Richter, noting there was also subsequent media attention from around the world.
Brodie's Instagram account now has more than 455,000 canine-loving followers. Brodie’s social media followers include famed Mexican-American dog trainer César Millán and Hollywood actress Amanda Seyfried. Video posts have attracted more than 22 million viewers. The couple publicly calls Brodie their “Picasso masterpiece” dog.
But more importantly, the story of Brodie has meant so much for folks around the world who have endured the worry and misery of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people have messaged us saying they are really depressed and feeling down, and just looking at his pictures is what brightens their day,” said Richter. “It’s something they look forward to when they see his face and puts them in a better mood and makes them feel happy.
“I’ve even had people with their own disabilities, even somebody who had a cranial disability, message us and say it was so nice to see a dog who might be different, and is disabled and may not be perfect but giving so much love. It makes them feel so much better.”
As for Innisfailians? Citizens who meet Brodie can’t believe the social media superstar is the superstar canine from Innisfail.
“They say, ‘wow. I didn’t know he actually lives her,” said Richter.
Brodie is now more than two-years-old. He has endless energy on his daily walks up to the Innisfail Dog Park. He immediately bolts to the mud puddle to roll around but was disappointed on June 1 when the hot late spring weather had dried it up. But he soon found waiting treats on his return.
Despite his physical challenges, which include breathing issues and partial blindness in one eye and an inability to eat anything but small snacks due to a fused jaw, Brodie is a perfectly happy, intelligent and playful canine.
“He is very smart. He will literally learn a trick in 10 minutes,” said Richter. “He opens the doors in our house, and he is probably one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had. He’s highly intelligent to the point of knowing too much and being a little brat.”
As for Brodie’s future? Richter said it just might be school, professional training to become a therapy canine for the elderly, and the disabled in group homes and hospital.
“Yes, once he’s calmed down a bit and doesn’t have such a puppy temperament,” concluded Richter.
To see more of Brodie’s ongoing adventures, go to his Instagram account @bestboybrodie.