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.

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