It was December 9, 1999, when she came into our lives.
I was leaving a meeting at the Banning Museum, crossing Banning Park in Wilmington, when a small reddish-brown puppy ran across my path. It was trying to avoid some kids who were chasing it. I stopped them and asked if it was their dog. They said no and that they thought it was a stray. Once the kids stopped chasing the puppy, it stopped too, turned, looked at me curiously and tentatively came toward me. Only then, did I notice that the puppy was walking on only three legs. The left hind leg was twisted at an angle and didn’t reach the ground as the dog walked. Seeing no owner, and thinking that maybe the puppy had been dumped in the park because of its condition, I picked it up and put it in the car.
It had been only two months earlier that Arlene and I had lost our two much-loved Westies. We’d sworn that we were not going to have another dog anytime soon. The plan was to immediately find a home for this new puppy. Well, we found out very quickly that no one wants a dog with a broken leg. Just as quickly, we realized that this adorable little girl was meant to be ours. We named her Tripod after a three-legged dog in a detective novel I had read just days earlier. (The timing was scary.) At our first visit to the veterinarian, we learned that Tripod was approximately four-months-old, was probably a Lab/Ridgeback mix, was going to grow to be about 65 pounds and would be able to live a normal life if we had the broken leg removed.
On a Thursday afternoon, when she was eight months old, Tripod had surgery to remove the useless leg. We picked her up from the canine orthopedic surgeon Friday morning, gently lifted her into the car so as not to disturb the stitches where her leg had been, cradled her in Arlene’s lap and drove home. When we arrived, Tripod launched herself out of the car, ran in the front door, up fourteen steps, jumped on her couch and sat there with a look on her face that seemed to say, “So, can we play now?”
Since that day, Tripod has been an inspiration and a teacher. At the dog park, Tripod never thought of herself as different than the other dogs, and neither did they. Though she couldn’t run after thrown balls as fast as others, she never stopped trying. She’s come to work at the print shop with me every workday for thirteen years. She’s been our meeter, greeter and goodwill ambassador. She loves kids, and there have been many times a client’s child has crawled in and shared Tripod’s bed with her under the bindery table.
Now, at thirteen and a half (almost 95 in human years), her one functional back hip is wracked with arthritis. I have to use a sling to help her get around and to go up and down stairs. No matter what, though, she still has that puppy outlook on life… always positive, always curious, never judging, never complaining. Every time Arlene and I grumble about our minor aches and pains, all it takes is one look at Tripod to set us straight.
The once reddish-brown puppy now has a very white face. But her eyes still sparkle and her ears still perk up when it’s time for dinner or for one of her favorite treats: a big soup bone that Arlene roasts just for her. I don’t know how much longer Tripod is going to be with us. However long it is, we’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn so many great life lessons from our three-legged “daughter.”
Thank you, Tripod. We love you. spt
Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro.