In my life time, my family has owned several dogs – all purebreds bought from puppy stores around the area. Having a mother devoted to raising purebred puppies, I grew up with a strong stigma that shelter dogs and mixed breeds were lesser to purebred. It was not until a special someone walked into my life that realized how horribly wrong my mother was.
Ella is a three-month Black Lab, Australian Shepard mix that was found deserted in a field with her own sister and mother (the father is unknown). When Ella was rescued from Dogs from Mars Shelter in Illinois, they had discovered her foot was missing (which they believed was a birth defect). Struggling to survive the elements on her weak leg, Ella’s foot grew infected fast and was later amputated to prevent further infection from spreading. My close friend who worked at the shelter told me about Ella’s story and I was compelled to have her as my own. Within that week my boyfriend and I filled out the adoption papers and drove over four hours to pick her.
Beyond her missing leg, Ella is even more unique. She is my first adopted puppy, my first mixed breed, as well as my boyfriend’s very first dog. Owning a three-legged dog has been already a life changing experience. Originally, I was extremely nervous to bring home Ella and worried she would require some sort of leg prosthetic or even need us to carry her up and down everywhere.
Little did I realize how resilient and adaptive Ella would be. Immediately after picking her up from the shelter she was running around and playing like a champ. The occasional stumble here and there occurred, but she would just get right back up and go at it. After about a week she had already learned to climb up and down the stairs on her own and even some new tricks. From the simplest of tasks to the hardest, it was as if she had never lost her leg.
My advice to anyone is if you ever get the chance to own a three-legged dog, please consider it. Each dog has a unique story and no two dogs are alike, however in the end they are still just a loveable dog looking for a home. The main advice I would like to pass on to you is this following list of considerations:
- Take good care of the remaining appendages, since they are equally working harder to provide sufficient mobility and support.
- Do not exceed daily activity, it can end up putting extra stress on joints.
- Monitor/aid the dog while using stairs or climbing up and down obstacles.
- Consider wraps or socks to prevent calluses or sores if there is some part of leg still present.
- Maintain an overall healthy weight and diet – over weight dogs may put too much stress on joints.
- Exercise regularly (walking, running, swimming, play, etc.)
- In the case of front leg amputations, consider a car seat harness during car rides.
- Invest in a wheelchair or prosthetic, if necessary for mobility (see a vet).
- Give supplements to the dog. Talk to your vet first! (anti-inflammatory, fish oils, joint pain relievers are common).