[The 13th Edition of Smile for the Camera Carnival theme is All Creatures Great and Small–The Family Pets. Get ready to meet my three legged wonder dog, Sierra…]
My brother gave us Sierra as a gift. She was a wobbly legged flat faced 8 week old Lab/Golden Mix pup. She cracked us up as she slid across the linoleum. I think it took about 10 seconds before I was in love.
The first year was a challenge, to put it mildly. She was a wild one and got into trouble on a daily basis. She dug holes, she chewed on furniture, jumped all over people, and she stole anything within her reach. At 6 months things got worse as she became aggressive. It’s pretty bad when your dog training teacher has to pull you aside to tell you your dog is out of control.
I was determined that I wouldn’t have a dog people were afraid of. I was persistent and Sierra was a quick learner. By the time she turned 3, she because one of those lovable Labs you see on TV. She lost her aggression. She developed the sweetest personality. She enjoyed being with people, loved being around kids, and would tolerate pretty much anything for a treat. She would still attempt to steal food from your plate, but she was getting better. In fact, she leaned towards the lazy side preferring her favorite sunspot to playing fetch.
Over the years, Sierra has been my constant companion. When I developed a debilitating form of arthritis, Sierra seemed to know my limitations. I often remarked at how she knew that she needed to be gentle around me. When we took walks, she slowed her pace for my benefit. She enjoyed sitting on the bed with me, but she was careful not to touch my feet which were very sensitive. On my worst days, she’d come over and lay her head gently on my legs letting me know she was there.
Three years ago, it was my turn to return the favor. She developed a tumor on her leg which was tested and determined to be a fatty tissue lump. But in February of 2006, that tumor ruptured and I learned that Sierra had cancer. Two weeks later the situation became dire. She was losing alot of blood and having bandages changed daily. We had two choices: put her to sleep or amputate her leg.
One morning she didn’t want to get up for breakfast and I knew we were running out of time. I called my Vet, took her right in, and we consulted. She was a perfect candidate for amputation. The cancer was a slow moving form, so her chances were very good.
As it turned out the surgeon was there that day and had some extra time after a surgery. I handed over Sierra’s leash and we drove off in the pouring rain. Two hours later I got a phone call. She had come out of anesthesia and was eating her first meal.
We had to pick Sierra up the night of her surgery and take her to the emergency hospital for over night care. When I saw the technician bring her out and she was walking by herself just 7 hours after surgery, tears welled up in my eyes. Can you imagine what it must have been like for her to wake up and her leg was missing? Her will to move forward overwhelmed me. I felt like we had just fallen into a Disney movie.
It was a long, hard month. I was little prepared for what was to follow emotionally or physically. Sierra wasn'[t bandaged and I had to deal with her shaved, stitched up wound.
Doubts plagued my mind over whether I had made the right choice. At first, Sierra needed constantly attention. My normally independent dog whined if I went to the bathroom. She couldn’t stand me to be out of her sight for the first five days. I slept in the living room for four weeks, tending to her wound, taking care of her, as she recovered.
Sierra is a fighter. I’m fairly sure she got through the month alot easier than I did. Though she was confined to a small area so she couldn’t move around, she was determined to stand up while eating two days after surgery.
Things went along nicely until that August. One day she let out a yelp and couldn’t walk. Six hours later in emergency we got the bad news. She had severe arthritis in her remaining hip and leg.
Things seemed bleak at that point. The Vet was not optimistic at all. She’d need medication and probably would be house bound. But, no one asked Sierra what she thought! Once she got on medication and the pain subsided, my wonder dog was determined to do everything she had done before though a little slower. She demanded her two walks a day. She demanded to be taken to family parties. She refused to give in. Exercise, supplements, and pain medication have kept her happy and mobile.
Sierra is 13 1/2 now. It’s been 3 years since her leg was amputated and almost 3 years since she was diagnosed with arthritis. She is just starting to show signs of age. But, she’s still the first one up in the morning, she’s happy to visit with people and manipulate them into a tummy rub, and, she never misses a meal.
I have my own limitations because of arthritis. But, when I see Sierra waiting at the door in the morning to start her day, I am reminded that at least I have all my limbs. If she can get up, then I can get up. It is hard not to appreciate her incredible spirit. She is my inspiration.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com