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So very hard to write….

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

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I’ve been putting it off, and putting it off, then off some more.  Writing this post that is. And knowing I never ever wanted to write this post.  But there, in the dark recesses of my mind lives the lingering thoughts that keep telling me it needs to be done.  So, here I am doing it – writing my last posting on Tripawds.

With all the sadness that I think a person’s heart can withstand and continue to beat, Tahoe crossed the Rainbow Bridge on August 1, 2014.  My heart has felt like it has been punched; it feels as though it is being crushed and squeezed.  They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that if you are lucky you get one, or maybe two “heart dogs” in your life.  Those special dogs that connect into your spirit in a way different than other dogs you have owned.  ‘They’ say this is almost cruel when it happens to you because when the dog is gone, they take a part of you with them that can never be replaced.  ‘They’ sure are right about that.

Jennifer's iPhone 2378

Tahoe was my heart dog.  He got me and I got him. We had that connection.  We had that connection prior to his accident and the ordeal and aftermath of the amputation only brought us closer. I know some of you reading this understand what I am talking about and some don’t.  For those that don’t, I wish for you a dog that is your heart dog, although the pain when they die is so great that maybe I don’t wish it on anyone.

It was summer and it was hot.  And I have a three-legged male dog that refused to:

  1. Pee or poop in his own yard, ever, and
  2. Pee all in one location. He was a maker to match all markers.

Walks were the only way.

Tahoe was taking more breaks on his walks than normal.  I had him on Rimadyl and wanted to have his blood work done to check that there was no damage being done to his system.  The blood work came back – all within normal limits – a surprise even to the vet considering Tahoe was nearing his 11th birthday.   I still have the report and I’m still amazed at how perfect it all was.

But Tahoe was still taking long breaks while on his walk; just not quite normal for him.  It was still so hot and I attributed these breaks to the heat and his age, and what the toll heat and age can take on a nearly 11yr old Great Pyrenees with three legs.  His fan, with him right in front of it, ran 24×7.

My gut told me something wasn’t quite right.  And within two weeks back to the vet we went for x-rays.  The sedation worried me and knowing he’d have to be there until the sedatives were out of his system worried me.  I was worried about him because I knew he would be worried about me – he is a Great Pyrenees after all.  Pyr owners will fully understand this.  So I packed up his fan and bed for him to have during the day at the vet getting x-rays.  I’m probably the only person to have shown up with a fan for their dog at the vet’s office.  But he loved it, I loved him and I wanted him to be comfortable – it was summer and it was hot.   No abnormalities in the x-rays.  No fractures, no shadowing.. completely normal and healthy dog!

Something still wasn’t right.  I knew it deep in my heart of hearts.  About two weeks later, as I was walking him, he laid down. For a long time.  Again, nothing really new with this.  Sometimes I could leave him and bring his minivan to him.  But I couldn’t this time as we were too near a road if he tried to get up and follow me.  (He had ZERO car savvy as evidenced by the accident that left him a tripawd in the first place.)  We waited it out, I helped him cross the road.  The thing to keep in mind here was that Tahoe always wore is harness and I always helped support his hind end by holding up the harness when walking him. This time I had to pretty much carry him across. 92lbs. We got across the road, he laid down again, and I noticed his left front forearm was about twice the size of the other.  My heart sunk. Fortunately, two women happened to see us when they drove past and knew something was wrong. They parked and came to stay with him while I got his mini-van.  I lifted him in and I headed straight for the vet.  I was in tears. He was on a car ride and happy.

Jennifer's iPhone 2419

X-rays we taken immediately and revealed osteosarcoma. From the wrist half way to the elbow on the left front forearm.  You might be asking why it wasn’t seen in the x-rays two weeks earlier?  The x-rays done then were only done on the back half. The vet said he never suspected cancer with his perfect blood work so he only took x-rays on the back half assuming something was going on with his remaining rear leg or knee.  The vet did tell me that he feels he did me a great disservice.  That he should have taken the full x-rays the first time because as the owner I know when something isn’t right even if it can’t been seen right away. Owners have instincts that way.

Is there a moral here with the vet? No, I don’t think so.  Even if he would have taken the full body the first time, the results would have been the same and the same decision would have been made.  My advice is to trust your gut.

How tragic and unfair it is that my best friend, my heart dog, who became a tripawd due to an accident and not cancer, ended up with cancer and no option to amputate.  Utterly heartbreaking.  One week shy of his 11th birthday, August 8, 2003.  On August 1, 2014 we held him, we told him we loved him, we told him we’d never forget him. I told him I’d never be the same and thanked him for that.  It was a Friday, it was summer and it was hot.


In full disclosure as I sit here typing this, I am in tears.  On my lap is a 6 year old Chihuahua Pomeranian mix we rescued from the SPCA a couple weeks ago and she is looking at me lovingly with her brown soulful eyes trying to figure out the tears that have fallen on her.  She’s no Great Pyrenees, but she is in her own mind, which I just adore.    I love her.

Will I own a Pyr again?  I’m not sure. I know I’m not ready yet and I’m not sure I ever will be.  It is my favorite breed.  I’ll continue to do volunteer work for the National Great Pyrenees Rescue. And yes, I do that volunteer work with a Pomchi on my lap. 🙂

RIP sweet Tahoe.  Run free on all four. Attack newspapers. Bark at mailmen and give stink eye to the mail vans. Pee on every bush.  Mamma loves you and misses you every minute of every day. Someday we’ll be together again. xxooJennifer's iPad 755

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Tahoe’s one year anniversary of life on three legs!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

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It is hard for me to believe that my world was turned completely upside down one year ago.  I cannot say it has been easy, but I can say it’s totally worth it!  Just look at this guy..Tahoe Sunset 2 I’d love for him to be in the 2014 calendar.  This is a rare photo of Tahoe w/o his “clothes” on, which is how I refer to his harness.  Given his size, I leave the harness on him all day to help him when needed (up hill, stairs). At night however, he sleeps naked!

Where O’ Where….

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Looking back for the leg…

Could my little leg have gone?  The last two weeks have had its ups and downs with Tahoe.  On the one hand, he is fully back to being “himself” – socialite, kisser and snuggler!   So much so that he has resumed what I call the ‘Pyreneesan Standoff’.  For those that know Pyrs, you know exactly what I am talking about.  For those that don’t, well let’s just say Pyrs can be a bit hard headed when they want to do what they want to do.  For Tahoe, this is when we are out for a walk.  He wants to go one direction (I’m sure b/c there is something in that direction he cannot live w/o peeing on) and I want to go another direction (b/c I have to limit him until he is stronger).  Let the ‘stand-off’ begin!  He has now figured out that he can either sit or lay down and I gladly give him the break.  But o’boy!  once he stands up again, the stand-off resumes.  How is this still happening with a three-legged pup?!  🙂

Notice my Tripawds bandana?

 On the other hand, we are dealing with phantom limb pain in a pretty major way.  The occasional whine I wrote about before turned into full on whimpering, whining, then a yelp.. then a bark.  Its heart breaking, sad, and maddening all at the same time.  Those big brown eyes looking at us so longingly just melts the soul.  What has been working?  Distractions.  Me sitting on the floor with him, talking to him, petting him, brushing him, keeping the fur between his pads nice and short.  In the middle of the night – a hug quiets him – but then it all resumes the minute I try to go back to bed.  What else works? Car rides, car rides and more car rides. He doesn’t play with toys so we don’t have that option as a distraction either.  Chewing a bone works.. but you just cannot give a dog THAT many bones!  Plus, they don’t even make that many bones.    Our vet also mentioned that getting another pet can help as a distraction. OMG… seriously he did not just say that to me.  I now have a 3-legged Pyr who preferred to be the only dog in the first place and you think I should get another pet?  I don’t think so. And either does our itty bitty 5lb kitty, who herself only has ½ a tail. (Yes, I have a cat with ½ a tail and a dog with ¾ of his legs. My husband says I’ll take anything in off the streets, including him. 🙂 )

Enough pictures already mom!!

  In the meantime, our vet prescribed Gabapentin and Tramadol.  We started with 400mg of Gabapentin (which did nothing after the initial dose).  We then added the Tramadol and increased the Gabapentin to 600mg.  Success! We all got 4.5 hours of sleep that night.  You can imagine what it must have been like when 4.5 hours seemed ‘long”.  Well, that success was short lived, and by short, I mean that night only.  We then increased the Tramadol to two tablets per the vet’s instructions, and kept the Gabs at 600.  He took a nap for a ½ hour, and again, no sleep for anyone.  But last night, 600mg Gabs and 2 Tramadol did the trick!  8 FULL HOURS OF SLEEP!  Sleep, glorious sleep! Of course I didn’t get as much as he did.. I kept checking to see if he was breathing… Could all this sleep really be happening?   The vet mentioned this can last 3-4 weeks.  Really? 3-4 days seemed long and he is telling me I might have 3 more weeks of this?  That’s a lot of car rides and a very shiny coat!   Did I mention ‘Car rides’?  I’m fortunate my husband likes taking him for car rides too.  (That mini-van sure is coming in handy!)

I’m big and I know it.

 I did manage to give him a bath though! Well, most of him is clean anyway.  He was due for one the weekend the accident happened, and now 4 weeks past…well, lets just say that while Pyrs have really great coats that somehow stay clean with brushing, Tahoe needed a freshening.  Luckily we have a large walk in shower with a slate (non-slipping) floor, and a shower head on a hose.  I went in with him in my bathing suit.  The washing and rinsing was quick, I could easily avoid his scar, and I never did get the tail. But he now smells so great and I know it makes him feel better too.  

 That is where we are right now.  We know it gets easier, and it is getting easier. And he is getting stronger and adapting well. We’d prefer the phantom pains to end sooner rather than later of course; we know they will subside. Otherwise he is just doing great – learning the art of 3 long pees instead of 73 short squirts on every shrub in town.  Eating and drinking normally – which also makes him a pooping champ!  And we sure do love the fuzzy butt! 

This Thanksgiving we know what we are very thankful for.  🙂

Hello Tripawds!

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Hi Everyone – On October 18, our 9 year old Great Pyrenees  Tahoe had to have his right real leg amputated.  He was hit by a FedEx truck on October 17th.  There was not enough tissue left to save the leg.   What a day!  The surgeon informed us that dogs and cats really only need 3 legs and that they are all born with an ‘extra’.  This did make us feel a bit better, we still had no time to prepare.  Not that there is any way to prepare.  The Tripawds website was a real find!  I was worried though, most of the dogs I saw had their front limbs removed (mine was a rear), none of them were a Giant Breed (I have a Pyr).   Would he be able to manage? Would we be able to manage him? Would we be able to help him manage himself?   I also reached out to my Pyr community on Facebook – there were other 3-legged Pyrs!  And there were other 3 legged Pyrs BIGGER than mine.  There was light at the end of walls that seemed to be closing in around me.

We had to wait overnight.  The surgeon wanted to evaluate him to be certain there were no internal injuries from the accident.  Our guy had been transported from the vet who stabilized him, to the specialty hospital for the surgery.  The surgeon called in the morning and said he was healthy enough for the surgery (good news!).  We would still be bringing home a large dog with a leg missing – a large dog who LOVED to go on long long walks everyday.  Everyday I took him, morning and evening, on two car rides, to different parks and trails, and walked miles.  He loves the variety of trails and the bushes to pee on that they offer. He is a Pyr and he does have his territory to mark and maintain!   But, what would happen when he couldn’t do this for a while.. would he be sad, depressed.. my mind would think of too many things.

After the surgery on Thursday,  we were called and told that there had been no signs, not one, of arthritis anywhere.  Good news!  The vet told me that whatever I was doing, keep doing it.  Well, I do cook him beef stew with veggies for over his kibble and feed him treats for healthy hips and bones.  I wasn’t gonna stop before and I’m not gonna stop now….

Friday I visited.  That was hard.  I read that I needed to stay strong and be happy.  If I was sad he would be worried about me and why I was sad.  I knew this was true.  It was great to see him.  He drank lots of water for me and ate some food too.  I took his own treats and food, and informed the techs he was used to being fed by hand and off of wooden spoons, which I also brought.  They did this for him.  They fell in love with him.  Who couldn’t?   I brought the Ruffhouse Webmaster harness the surgeon recommended.  Size L/XL – the biggest it comes in.  It JUST fits…  It is a life (and back) saver.

Look at that happy smiley face!!  


Saturday we visited.  They showed us how to get him up.  Harness and sling at this point.  But he can walk and he’s doing good.   Good, until it’s time to pee.  Sniff, sniff – oh this bush is interesting… (I can see his mind working…need to pee on this bush! Lift a leg!  No leg to lift! Fall over. Refuse to pee.)  Saddest site ever.  He has to be catheterized.  Did I mention that my dog never peed to empty his bladder?  He only peed to mark his territory.

Sunday morning update from the vet:  Tahoe is doing great! Except that he won’t pee and he still has to be cath-ed.  Argh. On Sunday when I visit I have a “serious discussion” with Tahoe.  I explained to him that he cannot come home until he figures out how to pee standing up.  And that it would have to be one or two long pees, not 86 short squirts.

Monday – Phone call  – Tahoe peed Sunday night, and in the middle of the night and Monday morning!!  Tahoe can come home!  Yeah – we were ecstatic!  We left immediately to get him.  (Did I mention we bought him a mini-van to accomplish this? No offense, but we were not the mini-van types.)

Tahoe with his gifts and cards from friends and family…

We had been told by other tripawd owners that the first 4-5 days are the hardest.. and boy they weren’t kidding!  I slept on the main floor with him.. he’d go from room to room every hour or so, and not easily. I ‘d hear him and help him.  I really never quite slept those first few nights.  He was eating and drinking though – and  – peeing and pooping.  I was all going to be ok.  And it still is.

His stitches came out on Oct 31.  FrankenPyr was his natural state for a Halloween costume – a foot long incision will do that.  He felt fine enough to bark at the doorbell for trick-or-treaters too!  His walks are still very very short, but they are getting easier for him.  And he loves to get out in his mini-van for a ride and  a short walk somewhere different from time to time.  We are slowly getting back to normal.

What has helped?  Well, he hated the “cone” and we got the “cozy cone”.  It was ok that he hated it anyway since he really didn’t bother the incision very much.  So, I put a skirt on him.  A girls size 14-16 elastic band skirt.  Why? I could attach it to the harness and it covered the incision in case he felt like a lick, he couldn’t get at it.  And most importantly, it can be “hiked-up” for peeing and pooping.  It’s not easy putting things on and off of a 3-legged Pyr… there’s just no stability.  🙂

He sometimes whines a bit in the middle of the night.  The only thing that helps there is a huggie.  I get out of bed and hold him and kiss him for a few minutes.  I tell him how brave and strong he is, and that he is a trooper.  He falls right back to sleep.   He is a sweet baby.

Healing sleep..