By Rene Agredano
What do Jon Stewart, Sandra Bullock, and John Legend have in common? They all have three-legged pets! Until recently, amputee animals were an anomaly because most pet parents had no idea that physically-challenged pets could enjoy a great quality of life. But thanks to growing numbers of high profile celebrities with happy “Tripawds,” as they’re affectionately called, animal lovers are enjoying glimpses into the joyful lives of three-legged dogs and cats.
No matter who you are, all Tripawd pet parents will tell you: Living with a three-legged dog or cat can change your life for the better. From nervously shadowing their first inspiring steps on three legs, to watching them exuberantly dig with one front leg, three-legged pets have lots to teach humans about living life to the fullest no matter your circumstances. Every Tripawd dog and cat is full of happy surprises, such as:
1. Amputee dogs and cats don’t want a pity party…they just want to have fun!
When you see a Tripawd, do you feel sorry for them? Don’t! These cats and dogs don’t pity themselves the way humans do when coping with a physical challenge. Unlike people, Tripawd animals don’t have the psychological baggage of anger, blame, or regret to hold them back. Although every dog or cat has a unique recovery story and some have more challenges than others, in general the new Tripawd just wants to feel better and get on with the business of enjoying life.
2. Life doesn’t end after amputation.
Three-legged dogs and cats are always in pursuit of a good time. The dogs who loved to chase a ball will still want you to throw it until they’re exhausted, and a cat who lived for that sunny spot in the window will find another precarious way to get there. Most humans automatically assume that amputation will put an end to their pet’s old way of life, but the majority of cats and dogs still find enjoyment in their favorite activities. The only real difference is that after amputation, pet parents must learn to modify and monitor those past-times to ensure the animal doesn’t get injured or experience long-term joint stress. For those lucky Tripawds who can wear prosthetic devices, the addition of an artificial limb offers even more quality of life enhancement and less risk of injury.
3. Doody Calls, Even on Three Legs.
As soon as people learn their pet needs an amputation, one of their first thoughts is: “But how will they go to the bathroom?” It doesn’t take long to see that most Tripawd pets adapt quickly to basic bodily functions. And while some pets with health issues like obesity or arthritis will have balance issues at first, in general most dogs and cats will leave the hospital knowing exactly how to shift their center of gravity so they don’t fall over when going potty.
4. Amputee dogs are good swimmers (and they don’t spin in circles, either).
Water fun isn’t limited to those with four legs. Even with three limbs, a Tripawd can still enjoy swimming after amputation recovery. When it’s done with the guidance of a professional vet rehab therapist, swimming is one of the best ways to build stamina and endurance in a new Tripawd. Since most dogs will swim until they’re exhausted, putting a dog flotation device on a Tripawd gives an added measure of support and safety during playtime.
5. Felines make better Tripawds.
If cats and dogs competed against each other in a Tripawd Olympics, the fabulous three-legged felines would win the lion’s share of gold medals. With their fine-tuned sense of balance and superior skeletal flexibility, Tripawd cats typically enjoy better mobility than their canine counterparts. Although amputee cats and dogs both benefit from veterinary rehabilitation therapy and conditioning, in general a healthy, adult cat enjoys more years of injury-free, good health on three paws.
Living with a Tripawd is a daily dose of inspiration. Whether you’re intrigued by the idea of adopting one or are facing amputation with your current pet, don’t let your own human-centric view of the world convince you that life on three legs is a handicap. While Tripawd dogs and cats need us to help them stay strong and avoid injury, their ability to overcome obstacles is a positive influence that changes our lives for the better.
Rene Agredano is co-founder of Tripawds, the world’s largest support community for animal amputees and their humans.