Doug Facey knew he and his wife had found the child they were meant to adopt when they were sent a photograph of a little boy from Kazakhstan who was missing a right hand.
In an incredible coincidence, Facey's own father was also born without a right hand, giving the Newfoundland couple a natural role model for their son, Kirill, to grow up with.
"The no hand wasn't an issue," Facey told The Canadian Press in an interview Friday.
"When I saw the picture my thought was, wow, I have to get dad up here and show him … he saw the picture and said, 'he's like me."'
The couple were able to bring Kirill home to Canada in September, when the four-year-old met his grandfather for the first time.
The moment at the St. John's airport was captured in a photograph that's since gone viral online – Facey's father is down on one knee, extending his right arm to his grandson, who looks at it inquisitively.
"He had never seen anybody else like that," Facey said of his son, noting that boy and granddad have developed a special relationship.
"Whenever he sees my dad, they do what we call the stump bump. Like anyone else would shake hands, they knock their stumps together. They both laugh and smile and have a hug."
Making Kirill part of their family, however, was a long process that involved fielding repeated inquiries about whether the couple wanted to parent a child missing a hand – a question Facey relentlessly countered by saying his own experience with his father had taught him that the condition was not a disability.
"Kirill was born that way and my dad was born that way," he said. "My dad and I talk and the point that he will drive home to me is that he wants to make Kirill understand that he's not disabled."
Facey and his wife began their search for a child to adopt in 2012, after medical issues meant they couldn't conceive. They cleared provincial and federal requirements, including home assessments and various interviews, and then worked with an agency in Toronto that dealt with international adoption.
The couple initially wanted to adopt a child from Russia, following a family member's success with adopting from that country, but shifted their efforts to Kazakhstan after adopting from Russia was halted to parents in North America, Facey said.
The couple was sent a picture of Kirill in March and learned he had been sent to an orphanage when he was 20 days old. The pair flew to Kazakhstan to meet their son in June and spent nearly three months in the country building a connection with the boy and clearing various necessary hurdles.
At one point, a judge in Kazakhstan asked the couple if they were fully aware that Kirill didn't have a right hand.
"My response was basically, 'with all due respect,your honour … yes we're aware and yes we still want him,"' Facey recounted.
Now, after two months with his family in Canada, Kirill is quickly learning English and has adjusted to his new home well, his father said.
"He's finally getting an opportunity to be a four-year-old little boy," Facey said. "He's full of energy … anyone who will pay attention to (him), he's climbing all over."
The family has also recently had to deal with Kirill's story prompting touching messages of support from strangers, some of whom also have children who are missing a limb.
"The stories I'm hearing because Kirill's story is out there has been eye-opening," Facey said. "I guess people are gravitating to what's perceived as a nice, heartwarming story."