Today’s Tripawd Tuesday is a treat! Meet Kaan, a three legged sled dog in Alaska and his spunky co-pilot, nine year-old Alea.
In a guest blog post written by TC Wait, team captain of The Odaroloc Sled Dog Team and mom to Tripawd Sled Dog Calpurnia, Alea tells how Kaan lost his leg and talks candidly about his recovery. This article is especially timely since the world famous Iditarod Race is happening right now up in Alaska. Mush on Tripawds Nation, we know you’ll love this.
Meet Three Legged Sled Dog “Mighty Kaan” and Alea
Written by TC Wait.
Last month, my husband and I happily agreed to help with a series of junior (kids ages 4-12) sled dog races that were being hosted by our local mushing club in Willow, Alaska. The events were established to allow a safe place for youngsters and their dogs to practice their racing skills in a friendly group setting. The kids raced teams of 1, 2, or 3 dogs – usually older “retired” sled dogs from their parentâ€™s teams who were still happy to run, but calm enough for the kids to handle on their own. Plenty of adults were scattered along the trail to cheer the kids on, and in the event something went sideways, we were right there to help get things back on track. It was a fantastic community event, and lots of fun for the kids, the dogs, and the adults.
One of the teams racing caught my eye due to the familiar tell-tale gait of the big yellow dog lead dog grinning at me as he sprinted down the trail with a serious young racer in tow. Lots of people noticed the adorable little girl with the 3-dog team, but not many noticed that her leader was missing a front leg. Of course I had to find out more about this young musher and her racing 3-legged sled dog. After getting permission from the young ladyâ€™s mom, I set up an interview date with Miss Alea S. and her Tripawd Kaan.
A Tripawd Sled Dog? Yes!
Alea is 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. She is a vibrant, bright-eyed, rosie-cheeked, tough Alaskan girl who loves animals. This was evident the moment she greeted me at the door of her house, where behind her was her younger sister and Fancy, a beautiful black and tan goat on a milking table patiently waiting for her young mistresses to finish their morning chores. Aleaâ€™s dad came and relieved the girls of their milking duties so that Alea could grab her notebook (she wrote three pages of information for me) and Tripawd Kaan and we headed outside to chat in the sunshine.
Kaan is a striking yellow and cream colored 3-yr old Alaskan Husky who is just as full of life as his young mistress. When he stands on his hind legs and playfully hooks his front paw on her shoulder, Kaan stands eye to eye with Alea. Kaan shares his life with eight other sled dogs, three goats, and some chickens, and has been part of the family since he was an 8-week old puppy. He is named after the character Sherekaan in Aleaâ€™s favorite story, â€œThe Jungle Book.â€
Kaan has always been a sled dog, and Alea says he is happiest when he is running in harness, “heâ€™s just a go dog.” When he isnâ€™t being a sled dog, Kaan does a very good impression of a blissed-out love puddle pooled tummy-up at the feet of anyone willing to scratch his belly. Alea says Kaanâ€™s favorite place to be scratched is his belly; Aleaâ€™s mom says she loves to rub his vacant shoulder because you canâ€™t pet any of the other dogs in that same place. And Kaan â€“ well, he says he just loves all the attention!
Kaan Loses a Leg But Keeps Up the Pace
I asked Alea how Kaan came to be a tripawd. About two years ago, in the midst of a science fair project where Alea was trying to train him to jump through a hula-hoop, Kaan managed to dig out under the fence of his yard and went off on his own adventure. He was missing for 12 days and the family was thinking he was lost for good when someone found him tangled in an old snare trap that had been long ago abandoned and left in the woods. Alea was worried that he was dead. Fortunately, the people who found him were able to track down Kaanâ€™s family and get him home, but sadly the work of the snare compromised the circulation of his leg to the point that the tissue was dying. Amputation was the only option for Kaan.
Alea says that she was very worried that he might not be able to run in harness again, but even before he was completely healed from his surgery, he was trying to dig under the fence again! It is always interesting what kids think about a massive surgery like amputation, so I asked Alea if the scars from the surgery had worried her, and she shrugged that thought off. She just wanted Kaan to be Kaan again, and once he was fully healed he was back in harness and happy as always. As we noticed with our Tripawd Calpurnia, running in harness allows Kaan to have a smooth gait with little noticeable limp. In fact, Kaan is able to keep pace with the exuberant yearlings Cocoa and Cider that make up Aleaâ€™s 3-dog team.
A Kid’s Thoughts about Life on Three Legs
Alea has been behind a dog team her entire life. Her mom would take her out sledding snuggled into the front of her jacket even as a tiny baby. Alea has been racing since she was 3 years old and is an accomplished musher already. She placed 2nd in the events I helped with in January, and does very well in other events. Alea says that often people donâ€™t notice Kaan has only 3 legs at races when he is running, but they notice after the event and are surprised. Her passion and love for all her dogs is profoundly evident, and the support from her family is tremendous. Kaan and his teammates are woven into the fabric of the familyâ€™s life; from family trips by dogsled out to remote cabins for overnight adventures to recreational racing at local community events.
I asked Alea what she wants people to know about Kaan and her reply was â€œjust that he is a very good sled dog.â€ Later she sent me some follow up thoughts and added:
“If it comes to the point of deciding to remove a dog’s leg or not it’s most likely the only thing to do other than putting the dog down, so in that case I (Alea) would choose to remove the dog’s leg. Especially now after seeing that Kaan with his three legs can live an absolute normal life.
The hardest part certainly was right after the surgery, to look at him with his big, fresh incision, all shaved, still shivering after surgery, with a missing leg. But he recovered quicker than we expected him to. He seemed to enjoy all the attention and special care more than he seemed to be bothered by his removed leg and his possible pain. (This might be different with an only house dog, though who gets special attention all the time…)
Within a few days he was eager to go outside again to play and run around with the other dogs, and, as we said before, even healed enough to dig out of the kennel again to run off. Luckily he got tired quickly and returned home within a few minutes.”
Let’s give 3-paws up to Kaan, Alea and her remarkable family for all they do to show the world that Tripawds Rule! And a big thank you to TC Wait for once again contributing to the magic of the Tripawds Nation.
Other Tripawds Articles by TC Wait
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Each Tuesday, Tripawd dogs and cats from around the world can enter for a chance to be â€œTripawd of the Week.â€ Just share your Tripawdâ€™s story and youâ€™re entered to win! On every Tuesday of the week, tell us about your three-legged hero. Just follow these easy steps:
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