After Ellie’s cancer diagnosis, I went a little crazy. Okay, I went a lot crazy. A handful of illustrators had created a series of tees and car decals and such to raise money for canine cancer research. And I…bought as much of it as I could afford. Probably more than I could afford, if we’re being honest. But that’s okay. It was all for a good cause, right?!
“I love my tripod greyhound” they proclaimed boldly. Or “Greyhounds have three legs and a spare!” (I also bought a few “Senior Greyhounds Rock” tees because they were too cute to pass up…and I didn’t want to leave out my love and appreciation for Katie. She, too, was quite special — just in a different way.)
It was important for me to impress upon anyone who saw Ellie that she was fine. I mean, not fine-fine — she was battling cancer — but missing a leg did not mean she was missing out. It meant she was in less pain. Pre-amputation, there was a cancerous tumor at the head and neck of her femur bone, jamming into her hip socket. She was having trouble sitting and laying down, and walking had become a bit of a challenge. Post-amputation, there was nothing jamming into her hip socket. One big problem solved!
And yet… people told me I was “cruel” or “crazy” and tossed all sorts of insults in my direction. They didn’t know what I knew. Dogs are amazingly resilient. Ellie was up and walking the next day. I mean, not walking well. (After major surgery, who would be?) But she was up and around, and ready to come home 48 hours later.
It was only a matter of weeks before she was so completely solid on her three remaining legs that people wouldn’t even notice she was missing one. Some days, I’d see her sprint across the yard — chasing a wild turkey, most likely — and I’d forget she was missing it!
A few years later, Dingo was diagnosed with the same disease (in a different leg) and we opted not to amputate. He had too much arthritis in his neck, and the vet agreed a missing limb would strain his skeletal system. So we chose “limb sparing surgery” to remove just the cancerous bone (the ulna, not a weight bearing bone). Dylan, many of you may recall, was a tripod for nearly 2 years, for the same reason as Ellie. We would’t have gone through amputation a second time if we didn’t think it would do more good than harm.
May 3 is “Specially Abled Pet Day” and I wanted to take a moment to honor all of the specially abled pets we know…and don’t yet know. I love meeting your tripod dogs, your deaf dogs, your blind dogs, and your dogs will all sorts of issues. I love hearing about your specially abled cats — and dogs! — that I’ll never meet because they don’t do well in public (or travel well, if you’re visiting the area). I know you put a lot of work — and a lot of love — into caring for your pets. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.
Curious about what it’s like to have a special needs pet? Or want to know how your story compares to someone else’s. Either way, listen to our podcast, “Sit. Stay. Share!” to hear two very different stories about two very different blind dogs, Blaze and Moscu.
We have more coming, and we’d LOVE to hear yours. Comment below — or contact us to get featured on an upcoming podcast episode.