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Three Paws, Two Years, No Problem!

Making the decision to amputate a senior dog’s leg is difficult. Most people doubt that old dogs can get along on three legs.

But Calpurnia, a three legged sled dog in Colorado, is proof that even older working dogs can lead great lives as Tripawds.

Calpurnia just celebrated her two year ampuversary. She and her Mom TC wrote this guest post to celebreate this milestone, and hopefully assist others who are faced with the decision to amputate on their own senior dog.

“It hardly seems like it has been 2 years since my humans made the decision to amputate my right front leg following a diagnosis of a grade 2 soft tissue sarcoma growing in my elbow joint. That was back when I was 12 years old, and still running as the main lead dog on my sled dog team.

My people were very worried about my future at the time, but figured we should at least try amputation to see how I would do. Boy did I surprise them! Mom thought it might be a good idea to update everyone on what I have been up to now that I am 2 years post-op.

I am now 14 years old (although I tell everyone I am still 13). I sometimes have some sore places on cold days, and mom thinks my hearing isn’t what it used to be. But my mind is still sharp, and I keep myself busy. I have had a fantastic few years running with my team, visiting school kids and teaching them that I can still do all the things I did before, training puppies, and enjoying my status as senior girl in the house. I have a soft bed near the wood stove where I keep my aging joints toasty and dream of my great racing days.

Like many athletes, my role with the team has sort of shifted from “star lead dog” to “coach” over the past few years. My humans joke that Dog really is their Co-Pilot now when we go on training runs. I still go, but I have a soft dog bed on the back of the ATV (or in the sled when the snow gets deep enough) where I ride. I can watch my team from my perch, and I give them pointers and howl encouragement at them the whole run. On the steeper or bumpy sections, I lean on my person so that I don’t bounce off the back.

Sometimes, if I am feeling frisky, mom hooks me in the line so I can show the new puppies a thing or two. I am a good coach, and after a run I make sure to sniff each team member to tell them how well they did.

I have had my share of medical issues, but they are mostly related to my getting older. One of the hardest things was a year ago when my humans learned that I could not breathe right due to something called laryngeal paralysis – or paralyzed vocal chords. I couldn’t move my vocal chords out of the way when I was breathing hard, and it made it very hard for me to breathe when running. I had throat surgery to fix that, and now I have to be very careful that I don’t choke on food or water, since I can no longer protect my airway the way I am supposed to.

I also have had some pain related to pinched nerves, so mom has to make sure I stay active and keeps my weight down to a trim 33 lbs. She tried doing massage and chiropractic work on me, but I really prefer not to be handled like that and will stretch myself when I want to.

I hope that those of you senior dogs out there keep me in mind when considering amputation. I was a healthy older girl going into this, and am doing really well still. None of us will live forever, but these last few years have been good for me, and I hope to continue living life to the fullest and not let my people worry about the “what ifs” that may be down the road.

Right now, life is good. My team had a good run today, I even ran a little bit with them, our water buckets are clean and full, we will get meat tonight for dinner, and the sun is shining making nice sunny places on the snowy ground for me to lie in.

My heart is filled with love, and my mind is content. I really could not ask for more.

Lots of love,

Calpurnia

Here’s a favorite movie of ours, when Calpurnia and Jerry met back in May, 2008:

7 Responses to “Three Paws, Two Years, No Problem!”

  1. It was an honor to met Calpurnia this weekend!

  2. I never got the chance to say what an honor it was to meet Calpurnia! Of course that Tika didn’t show her proper respect because she nominated herself to be high priestess of the water bowl. (funny, I was embarrassed at the time, but now it just seems…..so Tika….)

    I’m glad she’s hanging in there and being a good lead dog!

    BTW–we got Tika as a ‘pet’ because she never pulled. She came from a great working kennel, both her parents had WTDX titles. Tika….no pull for her, even as a puppy! So, guess what sugar, you get to spend your summers in KANSAS! Enjoy the A/C! Her sister, the overachiever, not only has her WTDX title BUT an agility title also. For a Artic dog, Agility is impressive. Tika did win a prize at a Bark for Life for best Agility on three legs!

    Anyway, I digress, go go Calpurnia!!!!!

  3. Beth Lewis, DVM, DACVS November 5, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    TC!!! Thanks so much for the update. Glad to hear that Calpurnia is still keeping everyone in line. Hope all is well for the family. Tell Dave that I said hello.

  4. Happy Ampuversary Calupurinia ! Talk about aging gracefully—-you don’t appear to be 14 y.o.

  5. What a great story! Calpurnia looks so happy. Thanks for showing people that senior dogs have lots of juice left in the tank.

  6. Happy Ampuversay Cali! Hike
    Kim , Angel Buster, Nanuq & Yukon

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