Dog Born With A Super Short Spine Doesn’t Realize She’s Any Different

When Anna Marie Giannini met Tilly, she knew the Tibetan spaniel puppy was special. Giannini had answered an online advertisement regarding a litter of puppies that were being given away, but one of them was different.

Giannini didn’t care that Tilly wasn’t a “normal” puppy — to her, different was good.

Puppy with short spine syndrome

“When I arrived, they had told me one of the puppies was deformed and they could not find her a home, which could lead to euthanization,” Giannini told The Dodo. “I had already fallen in love with her and planned out our next year together in my head before he was even done saying that awful statement.”

Tilly was born with short spine syndrome, a rare condition where her compressed vertebrae make her look like she has no neck and an unusually short back.

When Tilly was placed in Giannini’s arms, she couldn’t believe anyone wouldn’t want such a precious pup.

Woman adopts dog with short spine

“When I got her, she was this dirty little fluff ball,” Giannini said. “She fit perfectly inside my hand, and as we drove home from where I picked her up, she lay in my lap and looked up at me with her big brown eyes, and I knew she needed me and I needed her.”

Giannini swore that Tilly would never feel unwanted again.

Tilly the Tibetain spaniel with short spine syndrome

As Tilly grew, her short spine became more apparent. But that hasn’t stopped her from doing everything her dog friends do. “She was born with a syndrome, and just like humans born with a syndrome, her body has learned to adapt and she is thriving,” Giannini said. “She has had no health issues or complications because of her short spine, and [we] expect her to live a long, healthy life.”

Most of the time, Giannini forgets that Tilly is different at all. The only times the little dog needs a little help is getting on and off furniture, for which she uses special stairs. And due to her stiff spine, she is also unable to turn her head to itch or chew herself. So her mom makes sure to take time throughout the day to give her scratches and a little massage.

Tilly always makes sure to show her mom just how grateful she is to be in a loving home.

“She sleeps in bed with me like a little human, putting her head on the pillow and tucking her legs into the blanket,” Giannini said. “She always has to be near me, touching me. When I’m cooking she stands right between my legs. When I’m doing homework, she is laying right next to me with her paws on me.”

“Every hour or so that we’re home she’ll randomly come up to me and give me kisses and then go back to laying down,” she added. “It is like clockwork. It’s like she needs kisses to function!”


Though Tilly doesn’t think she’s any different, her unique look tends to get her a lot of attention on the street — from humans and dogs, alike.

“Other dogs are usually intrigued by her and more gentle with her,” Giannini said. “Tilly does not care though and knows she’s capable of anything. She is definitely determined and wants to play with any dog of any size.”


Giannini has learned so much from Tilly and wouldn’t trade her time with her for the world.

“Tilly reminds me on a daily basis that I should be thankful for another day,” Giannini said. “Because of the unknown when I got her and her being so special and loving, I am very thankful I get to be the one to provide a good life for her and that I get to have all this time with her.”

“She constantly reminds me that being different is a special thing,” she added.

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