Inspawrational Great Dane Moose Leads the Big Dog Parade

Three legged Dane Dog MooseWhen I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in November, 2006, my pawrents weren’t sure if I could have a good life on three legs. They went online looking for answers, and saw a video of Moose, a three legged Harlequin Great Dane. In the video, Moose was digging up the ground and looking for gophers. That video convinced my pawrents that I could live a hoppy life on three legs. If it wasn’t for Moose, Tripawds would not exist.

Now, whenever people wonder about whether or not a big dog can live a good life as an amputee, we point to Moose’s video, and let them decide.

Here is a touching recollection from Moose’s Dad Joel, about the day when Moose made a lasting impression upon the hearts and minds of residents in Santa Barbara, California.

Moose Leads the Big Dog Parade

Our favorite summer event is the Big Dog Parade in Santa Barbara. The clothing company Big Dog is based in Santa Barbara and sponsors an annual parade for dogs and their owners. A few thousand dogs and their owners walk down State Street to the park at the beach. It is quite a sight, dogs and people of all shapes and sizes, many in costume sauntering down the road to the beach. Thousands more people are lining the road watching the crazy assortment of dogs, people, and the occasional school band. As the 14th annual Big Dog Parade approached, Moose was beating the odds against bone cancer.

From Diagnosis to Canine Celebrity

Almost two years earlier, Moose had been dealt the worst diagnosis a dog can get, bone cancer. The local vet was very negative, and shared the story of another dog with the same diagnosis that did very poorly with the standard treatment of amputation. He said we should consider putting Moose down, or possibly amputation witch he said might buy Moose and us 6 months. At that my partner Ross told the vet he was not going to cut off his dogs leg and stormed out of the exam room.

Three legged Dane Dog MooseThe choice seemed a lose-lose. Put the dog down as soon as the pain meds stop blocking the increasing pain of the tumor which the vet said would be soon, or cut off his leg and let him hobble around until the microscopic cancer cells that likely were already streaming around his body grow up and kill him. Moose was only four years old, and other than the golf ball size tumor on his front leg, he seemed so healthy and full of life. We just could not put him down.

But what about the alternative, amputate the leg? I have seen many three leg dogs do amazingly well, but Moose was a huge harlequin Great Dane. How could a 140 pound dog that was 38 inches off the ground at his shoulders have any quality of life missing a leg? It seemed like disservice to the poor guy. As we researched things many told us that big dogs like Moose really can do well with three legs. Sure it is possible to survive with three legs, but Moose was a very active dog that loved to play and run around our five acre country homestead. Ross and I were pretty much completely against the amputation, but also not ready to put him down.

Both Ross and I spent time trying to understand what Moose wanted. After a couple of days, it was clear to both of us that Moose wanted to stay around and hunt for lizards, even if it was on three legs.

About the time we realized what Moose wanted, we found out about a bone cancer study at the UC Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The study gave Moose the best care possible, which could improve his odds at a better outcome. Part of what we sensed from Moose was that he didn’t care what happened down the road, only in enjoying the moment, whatever the conditions.

Moose became a big celebrity at the Davis Teaching Hospital. He went through the amputation and six rounds of chemo like a trouper. Through every treatment and test, Moose was the model patient. He would let them poke and prod and put him through whatever thing they had to do without the slightest disagreement. When I would pick him up after treatment or tests, he was always just happy to see me and looking for a fun time. It was a four hour drive from our house to Davis, and Moose and I searched out the best places along the trip to run, play, and pee, and boy did Moose run. The amputation did not slow Moose down one bit. His remaining front leg became stronger and stronger to the point that we called it the “Arnold Leg” after our Terminator Governor.

Three legged Dane Dog MooseThe small rural town that we live in got used to the huge three legged Dane. Before Moose’s amputation, he attracted a ton of attention simply by his size. Now that he only had three legs it was fun to watch people’s reaction. Most of the time, people would be attracted to him because of how big he was and come over to meet him. After a minute or two they would realize that he only had three legs. At that point most people would freak out and while in amazement that such a big dog could do so well with three legs, back away from the “disabled dog.”

Watching this over and over made me realize that I, like most others did the same thing when I saw a “disabled person” without realizing what I was missing out on. We had become so familiar with Moose’s lost leg and regularly would pet and caress the amputation site, seeing it as a beautiful part of our wonderful Moo boy, rather than an ugly deformity as most others saw it. I was deeply hurt on more than one occasion where a close friend that I admired greatly cringed and didn’t even want to look at the “deformity.”

Full Speed Ahead!

So as the Big Dog Parade drew closer, Ross and I got more and more excited about taking Moose to the parade. Moose had become so strong since his amputation and chemo that he had regained virtually all of his pre-amputation abilities. He had even figured out how to dig for gophers with only one front paw. Even with Moose so strong Ross and I were a bit concerned that he wouldn’t be able to make the few mile long parade route and back to the car. We felt that he would likely do fine, but if he had any problems we could just stop and one of us could go get the car. As the date approached Ross realized that he would be unable to go to the parade due to scheduling conflicts with work, and as a small business owner, he had no choice but to tend to his business. So I decided that I would take Moose on my own, and if Moose got tired I would get help from friends that lived in Santa Barbara.

Three legged Dane Dog MooseOn the morning of the parade, I had to get Moose fed and ready early so we could make the two hour drive and register before the 10 AM beginning of the parade. As always Moose knew that we were preparing for a road trip and was very excited. No problem getting him to jump into the car, he was ready to go! Windows down, head out, ears flapping in the breeze as we headed to town to catch the freeway. Moose was enjoying every minute. Moose like most dogs would make the most of every moment of every day, and today was no different.

We arrived in Santa Barbara a bit later than I had planned so we literally ran from the parking structure to De la Guerra Plaza where the check in and participants were lined up waiting for the parade to begin. Running was actually much easier for Moose than walking. With only one front leg, he had to hop almost strait up to walk slowly, but to run he was able to use his hind legs for impulsion and literally bounce off the single front leg. He could literally run as fast on three legs as he ever did with four, but it took much more effort to walk slowly with three legs. So there we were running at full speed down State Street weaving in and around the crowded sidewalk on our way to the Plaza.

We checked in, paid our entrance fee, got our number sign and found our place in the line with all the other dogs and owners waiting for the parade to begin. As we stood there, surrounded by hundreds of dogs and owners a few people would stop by to see Moose. And like always most would not realize he was missing a leg, but when they made that realization would tell me how well he was dealing with his “disability” and quickly fade away. It was an exciting and fun time just to be surrounded by all the dogs and “dog people”. I have always felt a connection to other “dog people” somehow thinking that we shared a common understanding of the canine-human bond. Today was even better, not only were we surrounded by all these dogs and “dog people”, but it was a party atmosphere with some very creative costumes for both the dogs and people and the local school marching bands practicing to get ready for their performance in the parade. I tried to get Moose to lay down as we waited in line so he could save his strength for the parade, but he was so excited that he stayed standing having to keep hopping on his front leg to maintain balance. We were in a specified order behind a group of about a dozen magnificent Great Pyrenees and next to a gay couple with their cute beagle mix who was loving all the excitement of the crowd. I struck up a conversation with the two guys next to me exchanging all the information about our dogs and our lives.

As the procession began to move, and the bands began playing their marching tunes, smiles and excitement filled the air. How could anyone keep from smiling at this wonderful scene. I was having a hard time keeping from crying out of joy. How I never expected to be able to experience this wonderful moment with my beloved Moo boy when we got the dreaded diagnosis, and now here we were beating the odds and strong as ever enjoying every moment. As we turned the corner from the plaza and started down State Street we were able to see the crowd three or four deep lining the sidewalk to watch to procession of crazy dogs and their companions. The crowd would react to each new group of dogs passing by with hoots and howls and most of all big smiles.

Our group of assorted dogs had a hard time showing up the magnificent Great Pyrenees that proceeded us. They were all groomed perfectly with their fluffy snow white fur and really were a magnificent sight. But our group got our share of claps and acknowledgment, and every so often I could see someone pointing out the three legged Dane.

After a few blocks I could see that Moose was already getting tired walking the slow procession of the parade. I was realizing that he would have a tough time making it the whole way walking so slow. About when I was ready to give up, I realized that the group of Great Pyrenees had sped up and there was a half a block of space between them and our group. Moose looked back at me and in an instant I realized he was asking me to let him have his wings and run free. So I told the gay couple to “watch this” and clicked my tongue twice giving Moose the signal to run. He and I ran together into the gap in front of us and Moose was in his element.

I could see him smile with his ears waving in the breeze. As we caught up with the Great Pyrenees I curved around and made a circle around the space between the groups of dogs. At that point I heard a massive roar from the crowds on the sidewalk. I have never and probably will never experience anything like this. Literally everyone on the sidewalk was focused on us in a continuous standing ovation. At this point I could not hold back my tears of joy and appreciation. As we continued to run in big circles in the gap between the two groups of dogs I could see Moose beaming from ear to ear reveling in the roar of approval from the crowd.

Moose and I continued running in circles the entire remaining course of the parade. As we moved down State Street the crowd lining the sidewalk continued to roar with approval as we circled past them. I was unable to stop my tears and Moose was flying free sending out the most positive energy you could ever imagine. As we made the turn off State Street nearing the park where the parade was to end, it was I that was having difficulty keeping up with the Moo boy.

As we reached the grassy park bordering the beach we found wadding pools to get a drink and a party atmosphere with bands playing and crowds of people and dogs wagging their tails. I found an open spot of grass where Moose and I could sit down and rest a bit. Within a few seconds Moose and I were surrounded by a massive crowd of people wanting to meet the amazing three legged Dane. Everyone wanted to hear Moose’s story of why he was missing a leg and pet and kiss the Moo boy. Moose had more than enough sloppy Dane kisses for everyone. For the first time, peoples reaction was not one of pity but envious of the courageous fun loving attitude that was oozing out of Moose. We stayed surrounded by this massive crowd for a couple of hours until the crowd started to thin and more importantly I caught my breath from running in circles down State Street.

Kindred Souls Share Boundless Pawsibilities

As we were getting ready to make the walk back to the car I realized that the reaction from most of the people who wanted to meet Moose was quite different than normal. There was not the typical attitude of pity and negativity that I would normally see, instead it was an attitude of inspiration. It was an attitude of boundless possibility rather than pity for the poor “disabled” dog.

Moose and I started our run up State Street to our car. The scene was quite different now, with most of the dog paraders dispersed and heading home and the normal crush of tourists milling along the sidewalk. We ran each block, darting between and around the tourists, occasionally getting stopped at a street corner waiting for a stoplight to change.

At one stoplight a young man on a mountain bike approached as we waited for the light to change. He said hi and asked if he could talk to me about my dog. He asked all about why he was missing a leg, listening more intently than most who stopped us. We stood at the corner talking while two or three cycles of the streetlight changed. After I explained all about Moose’s story, the guy told me that he had seen Moose running with such enjoyment in the parade that he had to meet him and how much it meant to him to get that chance. Then the light turned green, he told me to have a nice day and sped off on his mountain bike, popping a wheeley as he departed. When he got about half way across the street, he looked back at us with the same smile that I saw on Moose’s face when he was running like the wind.

It was not until the guy was part way up the next block that I realized that one of his legs was a prosthesis. The emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. This time it was I who was oblivious of the missing leg. I wanted so much to be able to talk with the guy, but he was long gone. It hit me that he sped away on his bike, with the same ultimate enjoyment of the moment that I saw in Moose every time he got a chance to run like the wind.

We made it back to the car, again with me more out of breath than Moose. On our drive home I kept re-living the extraordinary day. The attention and continuous applause was something I have never experienced in my life, even with the attention really focused on Moose and not myself. It was invigorating to get so much approval from strangers. But it made me think about how much Moose had brought to Ross and and my life through his battle with bone cancer. Moose taught us to not avoid people or dogs with a “disability”, rather to be so appreciative that we have to opportunity to be in each others lives. Moose’s attitude about his “disability” was that it was not a “disability” it was just how it is. He took it from there and figured out ways to revel in every opportunity for fun. I think the outpouring of appreciation from the crowd was not because they had never seen such a big dog run with only three legs, but was appreciation that he did not let the missing leg keep him from having such a fun day. I will never meet the guy on the bike with only one leg again, but watching him speed away and pop a wheeley caused be to be so appreciative that he also did not let his “disability” get in the way of having a wonderful day. This is a lesson that all dogs seem to know innately, but I was only able to understand with the help of my best friend Moo boy.

Here is Moose’s Website with more pictures and information

Tribute to a Three Legged Beach Boy

We said goodnight to a hero yesterday, strong magnificent Max who lived for nearly fourteen months past his bone cancer diagnosis. His stunning blue eyes, his enthusiasm and his stoic pawsonality put smiles on the faces of everyone he met. Max will never, ever be forgotten.

In the spirit of our courageous hero, we want to share these fun clips of him with you.

This movie was taken at our Tripawds get together in Santa Barbara last December. You can see here that not even lung mets could stop this boy from having a good time with the other pups.

Here’s a flashback video starring Max, taken when we met him in February 2008, not long after his amputation and diagnosis.

And here’s a few photos of Max will always put smiles on our faces.

Run free Max, go get ’em!

Paws to Remember and Rejoice in 2010

Tripawds is a close knit family, sharing our stories of victory and sadness, triumph and grief, from all corners of the world. Throughout the year, we become close with our amputee dog heroes and their pawrents. The more we grow to know about their daily lives while they recuperate from amputation and battle cancer, the harder it is when we lose them.

When a Tripawd warrior leaves this earthly life, we are griefstricken. We all know that this is the price we must pay for loving another being, but it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. Our community has suffered heavy losses this year, and our deepest condolences go out to pawrents who are hurting.

Many pawrents say they have avoided coming to the Forums lately, because they are afraid of finding out if any more dogs have passed on. But in the spirit of all of the Tripawds who have bravely lived life to the fullest, let’s not forget that the Tripawds we grieve for, are also the dogs who amazed us as they took on the world with fearlessness and courage. And every day, new Tripawds members are bringing hoppiness into our community!

On this New Year’s Eve, let’s all keep the good times of our Spirit Tripawds in our hearts, by remembering some of the highlights from the year gone by:

Our apologies for not including all of our Spirit Tripawds in the links above, but that’s where you come in! Please feel free to post links to more happy memories of our Spirit Tripawd Warriors, in the Comments field below, or in this Discussion Forum topic.

Thank you for being a part of our family. We send you all many, many warm wishes for a joyous, peaceful and hoppy 2010!

Canine Chiropractic Options for Newbies

The following Guest Blog Post was generously written by Calpurnia’s Mom, TC Wait. To submit your own guest post to Tripawds, contact us today.

Odaroloc Sled Dog PikaI have always been somewhat uneasy with the thought of chiropractic practice. Somehow the thought of someone manipulating my spine just gives me the willies. I am the first to admit, however, that I don’t know much about it, so when my Aunt told me she was using a canine chiropractor for her rescued greyhounds, I decided to educate myself about it. The world of veterinary medicine is continually evolving and with that evolution, holistic practices are also becoming more frequently found. Maybe my dogs, including my tripawd Calpurnia, would get some benefit to adding chiropractic work into their health care.

I did some online research and found Dr. Debbie O’Reilly, who has been adjusting animals since 1996 and is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. Dr. O’Reilly is also a practicing human chiropractor and runs the Vibrant Energy Healing Center in Littleton, CO. She was happy to answer my questions, and even came to our house to evaluate a dog that was having some issues.

Pika is a new dog to our pack. She has been showing some weakness and poor gait on the right side (both front and rear legs) that my vet and I have thought may be related to an old neck injury (possibly from a rough birth or something). Poor Pika was coping as best as she could, but when it came to pulling in harness (something she LOVES to do), her gait definitely showed signs that she became painful from it.

In addition to Pika, I had targeted our front leg amputee, Calpurnia, as a potential for chiropractic work, since she is getting older (she is going on 14 now) and front leg amputees are sort of forced to rotate the good shoulder down to walk. That has to have some sort of spinal implication. I decided to have work done on Pika first, since some dogs are sore for about 24 hours after an adjustment. I figured being sore when you are 2 years old on 4 legs would be easier than being sore when you are 14 and on 3 legs.Tripod Sled Dog Calpurnia

Dr. O’Reilly arrived at our house and patiently answered more of my questions. She then introduced herself to Pika, who is pretty shy. I was surprised at how Pika seemed to understand that Dr. O’Reilly was there to help, and since I think that you can tell a lot about a person from how animals react to them, this was a good thing. After watching her gait and stance, Dr. O’Reilly was able to determine a couple of areas that she thought were not aligned correctly and went about doing an adjustment.

The adjustment itself was pretty quick. Dr. O’Reilly started at Pika’s pelvis and used her hands to move up the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, testing the alignment and flexibility of each joint. In places that were out of alignment, she used a firm pressure to bring them back to alignment. She did this all the way up to the back of Pika’s neck. It was hard to really see what she was doing because it was so fast!

After the treatment, Pika needed to remain quiet for about 24 hours. No running, playing, or jumping. This is to help keep the corrected alignment in the spine, and also because she might have some muscle soreness following the treatment, sort of like after a deep-tissue massage. Some dogs will need a pain reliever or arnica post-treatment to help with the soreness (the chiropractor will tell you what to do). Pika would need to have a follow-up treatment, possibly including some acupuncture work, in 2 weeks, then probably monthly after that.

I asked Dr. O’Reilly about adjusting Calpurnia, who is a natural busy-body and felt she needed to be involved “assisting” with Pika’s treatment. Dr. O’Reilly felt Cali’s spine for a bit, then laughed and said “Calpurnia is FINE. There is nothing wrong with her spine.” Apparently, whatever spinal twisting is going on with Cali’s missing leg is not causing any incorrect vertebrae alignments. Dr. O’Reilly was impressed at how well Cali was doing and attributed her good health and agility to her overall physical condition and light body weight. All those years of running on a sled have had a good long-term effect on the old girl.

So, here are some tips and thoughts for other “Chiro-Newbies” that may be considering a canine chiropractor that I learned through this experience.

  • A canine chiropractor can be considered anytime a dog is not performing at 100% (seems out of sorts or just not “their normal self”, reacts to petting, starts holding up a paw, standing not quite right or holding their head off to one side, or anytime the dog has been involved in a accident either due to play or work). Typical issues that Dr. O’Reilly is asked to help with include “everything under the sun” ranging from injuries, post surgical care, and limping/lameness, to lick granulomas, sloppy sitting, and internal medicine disorders. Canine chiropractic works hand-in-hand with veterinary medicine. Sometimes Xrays or drugs are necessary as well as physical therapy.
  • When looking for a canine chiropractor, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. An animal chiropractor can only be a chiropractor or veterinarian certified in animal chiropractic. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association certifies all veterinary chiropractors. The website lists their certified doctors by state. There are many people out there calling themselves animal chiropractors, but they are not vets or chiropractors and have not gone through the AVCA approved programs. I have heard some horror stories about crippling injuries stemming from chiropractic treatments gone wrong, so I would recommend doing your research before letting a doctor adjust your dog (or yourself). In Colorado, canine chiropractors also need to be licensed by the state.
  • Some animal chiropractors offer other holistic treatments that you can ask about. Dr. O’Reilly also has a Diplomate in acupuncture, does massage and swim therapy, and can use “muscle testing” to check for allergies and recommend supplements.

At Pika’s follow-up exam, Dr. O’Reilly was happy that progress had been made in her spine. I had been noticing that Pika was using her back leg more effectively around the yard. Dr. O’Reilly did some acupuncture in Pika’s lower back, followed by another chiropractic adjustment. We will do follow-up treatments monthly through the start of our fall training to see how she is progressing.

The B Brothers Help You, Help Tripawds

Beezer and BoomerMy pawrents were devastated when the vet said I had lung mets. It was like reliving my cancer diagnosis all over again.

That’s when our friends Joel and Ross, Moose’s Dads, pointed us to “Overcoming Fear and Guilt When Canine Kids Get Sick.”

This powerful essay, written by Denver lawyer Doug Koktavy, helped Mom and Dad by finally convincing them that blame, fear, anger and guilt are a waste of precious time when living with cancer.

An Excerpt from “On Fear

© Doug Koktavy

“. . . I realized my fear of the disease was the fuel that was being used against me. Devilishly clever, my biggest enemy was not the disease, but me. I was the power source being used to generate the very negative energy destroying my own being and wasting a special day with my beloved dog.

This paradoxical contradiction was glaring. I had thought the growing presence of disease was causing my mounting fear. In fact, just the opposite was occurring. My daily increasing fear was causing the disease to grow and become more powerful. I decided it was high time to start working for me and the Beez, not against us.”

Doug’s story brought tears to my pawrents eyes, and his straightforward coping pointers gave them the motivation they needed to get on with life.

His essay is one of the most powerful tools around for coping with serious illness in our animal friends.

Now, Doug has turned his essay into a full-length book called “The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer: Lessons on Living and Dying from My Canine Brothers.” The book details how his two special boys helped him make the most of their time together.

The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer” includes lessons about:

  • Listening to our pets
  • Gaining a new perspective on our pets’ end of life care
  • Dealing with anticipatory grief
  • Conquering guilt and fear: living in the present
  • Developing a Presence Plan
  • Finding humor in the worst situations
  • Understanding our place in the circle of life

help grieving support for loss of loved pet

We love this book. Our favorite holistic vet, Dr. Marty, agrees:

“Not only is it so well written that you become a bystander observing the story from within, but the compassion for the vital connection we share with this wonderful kingdom oozes out of and between the lines.”

–Martin Goldstein, DVM, author, The Nature of Animal Healing, and host, Ask Martha’s Vet, Martha Stewart Living Radio

Author Doug Koktavy

Proceeds Benefit the Tripawds Community

With this book, big-hearted Doug has set out to accomplish two impawtant things:

  1. Help you cope with your best friend’s terminal illness, and
  2. Help companion animal groups by donating forty percent of the proceeds for each book sold.

For every copy of “The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer,”  purchased here, Doug will donate $10 to Tripawds! We are so excited about his generous offer to help us maintain this community.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Doug about his book and this is what he had to say about The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer. Check out our video interview above, then be sure to head on over to BeezerAndBoomer.com, and get your copy today!

Laughter is Indeed the Best Therapy

Ever since Spirit Tika posted about her camping adventure in the Tripawd Discussion Forums, I’ve been thinking about an old Native American character who told us this joke, back in Bemidji, Wisconsin:

This Ojibwe and a Choctaw meet in a bar. The Choctaw asks the Ojibwe about the three-legged dog by his side.

The Ojibwe says, “A dog this good, you can’t eat all at once.”

True story. Well, meeting the old guy was anyhow.

So, in honor of this funny old guy, my people finally put together this humorous Tripawds BBQ apron, because another important lesson I taught them in our travels is that laughter is indeed the best therapy.

From diagnosis through amputation and recovery, to hospice cancer care, people need to follow the lead of us dogs and make the most of each day, while laughing at any adversity life may throw your way.

Does Good News Make You Feel Guilty?

At Tripawds, many of us are three legged dogs because we are battling cancer. Sometimes it seems like we go through periods of time in the Tripawds Discussion Forums, when all we hear is sad news about our friends’ cancer battles.

We all know that life has its ups and downs. We would not exist without both good and bad. Life and death are the yin and yang of the Universe. We dogs try not to focus too much on this though, and strive for that perfect balance of living in the moment.

But humans, on the other hand, don’t often see life like we do. Many struggle with the conflict at Nature’s core. Occasionally we hear from Tripawd pawrents who feel guilty about sharing the good news they have, when there’s a glut of “bad news” in the Forums. When the current mood of discussions is somewhat somber, these kind pawrents feel as if they shouldn’t shine a light on their own tripawds who are doing well.

Silly humans, don’t you know we need your pawsitive energy and happy thoughts here all the time? And when tears are being shed and it seems like life can’t get any darker, that’s when we need your pawsitivity most!

Tripawds Blogs members and guests alike want to read about your tripawd’s triumphs and stories about overcoming obstacles, getting strong, and finding joy in life. These are the happy things that keep us all going when life gets ruff, and help newcomers see the pawsibilities of life on three legs.

Try to be more Dog and remember, life is too short to walk around with angst and feelings of guilt. Share all your experiences and thoughts, whether you view them as good and bad, happy or sad. Please spread the love as much as pawsible, there will always be someone looking for uplifting inspiration.

The Argus Institute at Colorado State

This is part three in a series about our tour of Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Care Center. Don’t miss part one and part two.

Tripawd pawrents are all too familiar with the reactions they get when they tell family and friends that their pup has cancer, and they’re ready to do what they can to fight it. If the word “amputation” comes into the conversation, reactions can be downright hurtful.

  • “You’re being selfish! Why would you do that to a dog?”
  • “Dogs aren’t meant to live like that!”
  • “You should put him out of his misery right now.”

Most Tripawd pawrents have heard these kind of reactions from well-intentioned humans. Their opinions hurt, leaving us feeling abandoned in an overwhelming new world of canine cancer.

But we are definitely not alone. On the Internet, pawrents can turn to the Tripawds Discussion Forums, and the Bone Cancer Dogs list, among other places. And in the greater world, we can find help at Colorado State University’s Argus Institute. During our recent visit to CSU’s Animal Cancer Care Center, we learned about this incredible organization.

As part of the CSU James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the Argus Institute is staffed with professional clinical counselors who can give information and emotional support to pawrents facing hard decisions surrounding their animal’s health care.

Each year, over 1000 people talk to counselors on the phone and visit in person, all of them seeking ways in which to cope with their animal companion’s illness, from understanding the diagnosis, to making end-of-life decisions.

Whether you are in the first days of learning about your Tripawd’s diagnosis, or are grieving over his loss, you don’t even have to be a client at CSU’s vet hospital to participate. Anyone can receive counseling services just by contacting the Argus Institute them or calling 970-297-1242.

Although the telephone consultation service is free, donations to this non-profit organization are greatly appreciated.

If you’re not quite ready to talk to a human on the phone, the Argus Institutes’s website has a wealth of information about Coping with Sick Animals, Pet Loss Resources, Children and Pets, and more.

The Pet Hospice Program

If you are lucky enough to live within 30 minutes of the Argus Institute, you can also get help through the Argus Institute  student-run “Pet Hospice Program.” As the first of its kind in the nation, the program supports families who are coping with their pet’s terminal illness.

CSU’s veterinary school student volunteers act as case managers for clients. They work with local veterinarians to provide clients and companion animals with in-home palliative care at no additional cost. Families can receive visits weekly, or sometimes even daily if necessary.

Case managers provide in-home nursing care, assess the animal’s comfort, and give support and educational resources to help the family in assessing quality of life, and ultimately, making end of life decisions as well. After each visit, the veterinarian is given a full report from case managers.

In addition to the hands-on assistant for pawrents, the Argus Institute helps in other ways too, by helping our vets to become better communicators. To learn more about this program please visit the Argus Institute website.

Teaching Vets How to Talk to their Clients

Research has proven that when vets and clients share in the decision-making process together, improved medical outcomes tend to follow. Yet, most vets enter the profession with little or no formal training in client communication skills.

The Argus Institute seeks to bridge this gap, by teaching veterinary professionals how to make the emotional support of their human clients as much a priority as the medical care of their animal patients. At CSU, communication training has been a part of the core curriculum of all veterinary students since 2006.

Through seminars, studies and hands-on workshops, the Argus Institute teaches vets and vet students to how to be better listeners and communicators, be more empathetic, ask open-ended questions of their clients, and have a better understanding of their client’s perspectives.

As companion animals play an even bigger role in our lives, the non-profit Argus Institute will be there to help us and our vets become better communicators with each another. No matter where you live, we hope you will keep this exceptional organization in mind when you are seeking information and support for your Tripawd’s medical situation.

One Year Anniversary Tribute Video for Jerry

Jerry waits patiently while his people check out Signal MountainLooking back at our nearly two years on the road together, I recall my people often listening to their favorite KHSU program online. Once in a while they would call Mad Dr. Matt, the host of Alternative Therapy, with updates about our location or my condition.

Now, one year after my passing, Jim has had a little fun with iMovie to create this tribute video featuring yours truly, the voice of Matty Dread and inspawrational music from Kelly’s Lot

NOTE: No crying allowed! Unless they are tears of joy for all the fond memories we shared together as a pack.

Special thanks to the Mad Doctor for his special Jerry tribute show (#379 – 10/11/08) and frequent shout-outs! And many more to Frankie and his Rockin’ people for use of this acoustic version of Today from their Kelly’s Lot album Trio.

I believe the song says it all, and Barney helps us show at the end of the video … that it is all about the present.

Remembering Our Jerry, One Year Later

Snow Day for JerryOutside, snow is falling on your land, Jerry’s Acres. As we watch the mountain peaks turn white and delicate snowflakes swirl all around us, we get the sensation of being tiny ceramic figurines in a snow globe scene. One year ago, this was the last thing we could have imagined.

In the same week that we celebrated your 10th birthday, two days later on October 3rd, our hearts shattered into pieces when we accepted that your time on earth was about to come to an end.

We shared over a decade’s worth of adventures; how could our lives go on without you, sweet Jerry?

During the two years that you valiantly fought cancer, we mourned over the inevitable. But you, in all your wisdom, always understood that life was finite, even before you got sick. Whether we die from premature disease or old age, you tried to show us that death is nothing to fear.

On October 3rd, 2008, under endless Montana skies, behind a waterfall of tears we watched you take your last breath. As we lay over your body to inhale the sweet scent of your pretty fur one last time, we looked skyward, and saw our amazing story ascend into the heavens. Like Dorothy in the tornado, it felt as if our hearts were being sucked into a vortex, right along with it.

Jerry Poses at Devil's TowerNever in a million years did we think we could ever heal after losing you. And honestly, we haven’t completely and likely never will. But we do our best to go on with life, because it’s the right thing to do. We remember all of the lessons you taught us about living in the moment, and know that’s how you want us to be.

But sometimes, when we least expect it, we find our souls aching for the days when our pack roamed the countryside. When we had a soulmate who guided us on our spiritual and physical journeys. A dog who could speak our language without understanding a single word.

Then, reality hits us, and we understand that mourning the past is wrong. Quickly, we pull ourselves back into the present.

Jerry, we’ve taken your lessons to heart, and practice them each day. Sometimes we fail, but we keep trying to get it right. With your memories guiding us, we don’t linger in self-pity for very long, and we do our best to be present and in the moment.

After you went to the Bridge, we searched far and wide to find a piece of land befitting an adventurous dog like you. It had to be a place on earth where we could envision you doing your favorite outdoor things; hiking, swimming, and kicking up dirt. We have finally found Jerry’s Acres, and we know you would love it.

Now, one year after you went to the Bridge, winter is arriving here in Northern Colorado.

Wyatt on walk in the Crystal Lakes woodsSoon, we will hit the road and roam south for the winter. And Wyatt Ray, in all of his silly puppiness, will come along for the ride. How blessed we are to have found a place for him in our life at just the right time.

We know he is not you, and we try not to compare. But watching him discover the joys to be had in attacking snow, jumping into lakes, and chewing up tree branches–just like you did–puts a big smile on our faces. It’s so clear that your adventurous spirit is with him, gently guiding him out of his bullheaded goofiness and into a wise old dog like you were.

Thank you Jerry, for all that you showed us, and for all those things that you conspired to make happen.

You brought together this community of incredible pawrents and Tripawds, and you give them comfort and hope during their darkest hours.

You showed us that animals know how to be fearless in the face of adversity, yet understand when to say when.

And you taught us that the most important things in life are the simple ones, so get out and enjoy them before it’s too late.

As we continue on our journey into the unknown, your wisdom will always guide us through the joys and challenges of this thing called life.

Thank you, Jerry.Jerry in the Badlands

Jerry G. Dawg
Tripawds Founder & CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
October 1, 1998 – October 3, 2008