Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Meet the Tripods!

By Beth Guerra, DVM

A while back, I wrote a blog about my three-legged poodle, Matilda. She was brought into ACCES Seattle during my first month of work, around the time I was looking to add a second dog to my household. She had sustained severe injuries to both the skin and bone on her right forelimb, and after consulting with our surgeon about several possible options, I chose amputation of the limb. She was estimated to be six months old at the time, and in the four years since then has flourished. She navigates stairs with ease, jumps on and off the bed more easily than my quadruped dog, and frequently runs 5Ks with me. I don’t think she remembers ever having four legs.

This past fall, we added a second tripod to our home. Fiona is a long haired Chihuahua mix that was brought in by the King County Animal Control after she was found as a limping stray. The x-rays showed a fractured left elbow, and the decision was made to amputate the limb. She was about three months old at the time. I came back after some time off to discover her still convalescing in the ICU, and I fell in love with her immediately. Like Matilda, she was up and walking the day after surgery, and hasn’t looked back since. While her stature, combined with a missing leg, does make it hard for her to jump off furniture and climb stairs, she is extremely active, runs at the dog park, and grapples with our other two dogs.

I have learned that each of my tripods has adapted to life differently. Each has a unique gait, which I did not expect. Matilda can move at slow speeds and stay balanced, but Fiona is constantly running to her destination and occasionally face-plants. Each dog chooses to present herself differently to new people. Matilda will bat you with her oversized front paw, but Fiona tends to hang back and hide. Each dog is a novelty at the dog park, and stimulates many conversations that revolve around rescuing pets and limb amputations. Although my dogs are small, and small dogs generally adapt better after losing a forelimb, I always tell people that this type of amputation does not necessarily mean a huge change in the quality of life for their pet, especially if it is a large breed dog. As they run full out at the park, my dogs are an ambassador for those pets with disabilities, proof that every dog deserves a chance, and that spirit can overcome a handicap.
For more information on three legged dogs, visit

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