Trail riding with a 3-legged dog


I was talking to my brother Seth this morning about my dog Chilibean who recently had to have her rear right leg amputated. Seth (aka. Bubba) works for Yeti in Golden and he mentioned that you have a dog with a similar condition.

I was wondering if you could shed some light on how your dog responded after surgery to trail riding. Chilibean is my number one riding companion and I am trying to find the best way to get her back in the woods. I would appreciate any insight you could lend.

Thank you, Ben

Hey Ben,

Dude, my heart goes out to you. Rufus’ amputation was really tough. The cancer was in his leg bones, and it was threatening to spread to his internal organs. What a crappy day, when amputation is the most humane choice.

As a Lab, Rufus was never a huge trail runner. He’s more of a sprinter-then-walker. When he was four-legged he loved chowing around town, sessioning at the dirt jumps and doing epic backcountry ski adventures, but he could never keep up on fast trail rides.

This was six months before the amputation. He was so sore that night! But very happy.

Rufus took the surgery very hard. He was on the couch for a full month, crying in a way you’ve never heard a Lab cry. What a heart breaker, to watch your innocent, tough-guy best buddy suffering like that. For 30 days I hand fed him and mixed beer into his water. Heck, I promised I’d do anything for him.

On the 31st day, Rufus got up and said “Let’s go!” We started gradually. He tired very quickly, so we rocked two short walks a day. His endurance gradually came up, and he worked up to 30-minute walks or 15-minute runs. He loved hanging out at the park. He got very tired, though, and it was hard for him to get up later in the day.

I’ve seen some three-legged dogs run very well. I think it’s a matter of breed, age and fitness. Start very gradually, and don’t put Chilibean in a situation where she gets stuck somewhere and has to suffer to make it back. She’ll still be your best buddy; you’ll just have to slow down and shorten your adventures.

Rufus still loves getting out, but he has slowed down.

Epilogue: A year after the amputation, the cancer had reached Rufus’ liver. The vet said Rufus needed aggressive radiation therapy. I said forget it, he’s been through enough. That was three years ago. Rufus turns 12 this summer.

4 replies
  1. FMJeff says:

    Hey Ben,
    Just had to put my Ian down this summer after 16+ years of fun and good times. Same but different type thing as your Chilibean my dog just got old but he still wanted to ride and hang with me he just wasn’t able to keep the same pace so I slowed down to keep him with me. For him still an adventure for me still a day with my buddy it just took a bit longer. It wasn’t the same but still good.
    Give my best to your buddy! I’m sure both of you will be fine.
    Hmmm. Could it be yogurt that keeps Rufus looking so young and healthy! We should all be so lucky to have such a good friends.

  2. keith D says:

    “I wish I was as good a person as my dogs think I am!” Ben,
    the important thing is to make sure that you don’t over do it for Chilibean. gradually increase his/her exercise and pay attention to how she/he reacts to what you two are doing.
    Dogs rule, I wish I could be as unconditionally loving as my dogs are.


  3. Rob Calma says:

    Man, that is to bad about the dog.

    I ride with my dog all the time, he is the best riding partner, does not complain when I ride to fast or to slow, only that we are not out long enough.

    I have been riding with him for the last 6year.

    He knows all my riding cloths and when they go on he assumes it Ride Time.

    Good luck and give the dog a rub.

  4. Darel says:

    Sure is nice to hear about folks that are crazy about bikes and crazy about pups 😀 I have two young dogs now, both a bit over a year old.. hope to have them on the trails with me by the end of this season, just now getting them use to being off leash. Sure is sad to hear about pups with cancer.. my sis has a doggie that had the same thing happen to him and i know its tough.

    take care

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