Living with a Tripawd


Brittany Cinderella

Shimmer in her shirt.

Brittany Cinderella, Columnist

There’s no easy way to tell a dog owner that their 11-and-a-half-year-old husky needs to have her leg amputated to save her. Unfortunately, I had to have that discussion with my dog’s vet in December of 2022, but I’m forever grateful I did. 

Around November of 2022, I noticed a lump on my husky Shimmer’s right shoulder area. After numerous visits to her vet and lots of tests, it was determined that she likely had a soft tissue sarcoma (cancer) tumor growing at a steady rate.

Brittany Cinderella

A soft tissue sarcoma is a “broad category of tumors including those that arise from the connective, muscle or nervous tissues in dogs and cats.” There is no way to prevent them from starting or stopping easily, but in most cases, they present as the “15% of cancers of the skin affecting dogs,”  according to the VCA website. 

After booking her an appointment with an oncologist, a cancer specialist, we were able to see what her options were moving forward. 

To be honest, I was worried, I was waiting to hear that cancer had spread too far for her to be saved from it. Thankfully, with the amazing team she had working on her, they removed her right arm from her shoulder blade to her paw, hoping to isolate and remove the cancer in time. 

I couldn’t be there for the surgery or the start of recovery, given I had to get back to Ellensburg, and she was over on the west side for surgery. She woke up and I got to video call my parents to check in. She looked a bit off from the anesthesia, but the dying skin infesting her arm was gone, and I think she was the happiest about that part. 

After finals week, I was finally able to get home and see her. She was excited to see me, and even walked over to me! Her new balance stood on three legs and I got to watch her learn and adjust to a seemingly impossible task. 

I was not prepared to adapt to a three-legged dog. For all of her life, she had all four legs and ran to her heart’s content. To keep her steady now, we had to get carpets and rugs down for her balance and had to put a t-shirt fitted to her size on her to stop any effort to touch the stitches. I was told she’d learn to get out a dog door on her own, figure out how to run and even that most dogs aren’t worried or upset about losing a leg.

Brittany Cinderella

It’s been almost a month since her surgery, and she’s been running around our yard, playing with her sister Shadow, as if nothing has happened. Sometimes she struggles with the deck, so we built a step for her, and are accommodating her every step of the way. 

There’s no how-to guide on learning to live with a three-legged dog, but if I had one piece of advice, it’s to let them show you how amazing they are in recovery. I doubted a lot, but now she’s running, happy as can be, as if nothing has ever changed in her life. 

The internet calls her a “tripawd”, a tripod dog, and it’s such a cute nickname that I can’t resist calling her that! Sometimes, I forget she lost her paw, or that she even had anything going on since she is still the same husky that I love and adore. As for her progress, she’s getting a chest x-ray in June and the vets are extremely happy with her condition now that her stitches are out.