COLUMBIA — At MU Women's and Children's Hospital on Sunday afternoon, 17-year-old Courtney Squellati and her mother, Nancy, waited patiently for their opportunity to meet a certain celebrity.
Courtney is learning to walk again after developing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in her left leg in September, so when it was finally her turn, she wanted to stand up from her wheelchair on her own and take several steps.
With her mother's help, she did just that for her photo opportunity with Faith the Dog.
Faith is famous for her inspirational story about learning to walk on her hind legs — like a human — after being born with a physical disability that took away the use of her front legs. On Sunday, Faith and her owner, Jude Stringfellow, hoped to hang out with and inspire patients from the hospital.
Other than going to rehab, seeing Faith in person is the only time Courtney has left their house since leaving the Rusk Rehabilitation Center two weeks ago, Nancy Squellati said.
"Faith is so inspirational," she said. "It's amazing to see an animal persevere without knowing the obstacles."
Next month, Faith turns 10 and will put an end to her touring days with retirement parties in Indianapolis and Seattle.
Faith was born in December 2002 in Oklahoma City with a deformed left leg, which was later amputated, and no right leg. Faith's mother, a black chow chow, attempted to smother the puppy because Faith was unable to suckle milk. Stringfellow's son, Reuben, rescued the dog.
When a veterinarian suggested that Faith be euthanized, Stringfellow declared that was not an option.
"I forced my vet to help me raise Faith," she said.
As a puppy, Faith moved around by dragging herself along the ground. Once Faith's rear was exposed to the snow, a natural instinct kicked in for her to use her hind legs to stand.
"She adapted and learned what she needed to do in order to be what she needed to be," Stringfellow said.
Faith doesn't just walk like a human, she also has her own unique likes and dislikes, Stringfellow said. She doesn't like toys, but she does enjoy dirty socks, cheese and salami.
Her story has been featured on Ripley's Believe It or Not!, "The Montel Williams Show," "Maury" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She also has taken numerous trips overseas to visit soldiers, veterans and other international audiences.
The most challenging part of raising Faith is getting through the airport, where she often is recognized, Stringfellow said. Faith even gets her own seat on planes and has flown 1,147 times.
Stringfellow, who now lives in Indianapolis, gave background on Faith's story during the appearance and delivered a message of hope as young patients basked in her presence.
Stringfellow said Faith's rescue changed her entire family's demeanor.
"She taught me, personally, to be compassionate," she said. "My son was kind of rude. But he thinks before being rude now."
Faith's impact is not limited to the her family, though, Stringfellow said. She has changed other people's lives to the point where they contact the Stringfellows to tell their stories.
On Sunday, after her moment standing with Faith, Courtney Squellati sat back down in her wheelchair. She smiled as one hospital employee told Courtney she was proud of those few steps.
"I'm 1,000 percent sure Faith knows she's touching a life," Nancy Squellati said.
Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.