RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A three-legged dog went from living life as a stray to an award-winning diver.

Miller came into the Wake County Animal Center last year with a bad right hind leg. Staff determined he had a broken leg that didn’t heal correctly. It was determined the leg would have to be amputated.

After the amputation, Miller went to a foster home until he healed. When Miller’s foster parents needed someone to watch him for a few days around Christmas, Animal Services Director Dr. Jennifer Federico stepped in to help.

miller with his ribbon
Wake County Animal Center

“Since I was going to be home for the holidays myself, I volunteered since it would only be a short time. On top of that, we had several people show interest in adopting him, so I naturally thought he would find a forever home fairly quickly…but little did I know, things would turn out very differently,” Federico said.

Federico soon became what the animal services world calls a “foster fail”, the county said. It’s a term used to describe fosters who have no intention of adopting a pet but do so for one reason or another.

“I had already had five dogs and two horses. But, Miller came into my life at just the right time,” she said. “Soon after I adopted him, I lost one of my horses, who had been with me for 29 years. Sammy was 34 years old and he was my heart horse. I was devastated, but this new, three-legged dog suddenly became this wonderful distraction and opened up my world to a new sport and new adventures.”

As Miller recovered from his amputation, Federico discovered his love for balls and swimming. The county said he loved jumping in the water and retrieving sticks, bottles and softballs from the pond near the farm where Federico keeps her horse. Miller was a natural swimmer who loved being in the water.

Federico decided they should try their luck in a water diving competition. Miller’s first competition was in March at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds where the Carolina DockDogs were hosting an aquatic dog competition.

dr. jennifer Federico with Miller at DockDogs competition
Wake County Animal Center

The contest involved dogs of all sizes running off the end of a dock into a giant pool of water to see who can jump the highest, the longest or the fastest to retrieve an object. Miller got a few practice rounds in but really showed up and showed out when the competition started.

In the Novice Division, where jumping distances go up to almost 10 feet, Miller placed first. He came in fifth overall in the finals.

Miller was the only three-legged dog in the competition showing that nothing should stop you from giving your all, his dog mom said.

Miller has more competitions to look forward to. Federico has signed him up to compete this month and again in August.

Federico shared Miller’s story to help show that even if you aren’t looking for a new furry family member, spending time with animals at the shelter may be exactly what your heart needs.

The county said, “Your time with them will open the doors to new adventures, create special memories and enrich both of your lives. Sometimes life gives you exactly what you need, without you even knowing you needed it at the time.”

The Wake County Animal Center is located at 820 Beacon Lake Drive, Raleigh, and is open for adoptions every day from noon to 6 p.m.

“You might find your own unlikely best friend, just like Dr. Jenn did with Miller,” the county said.