In June of 2016, a very sick puppy was brought into the clinic I was working for at the time. At only 5 weeks of age, underweight and refusing to eat, his odds did not look good. He was hospitalized at the clinic for the day to receive IV fluid and round the clock patient care.

He was not making progress at the clinic and it didn’t look like he was going to pull through. When his owner never came back to get him, we were faced with the decision of putting him down, or prolonging what seemed to be the inevitable and try to keep him alive as long as we could. I ended up taking the little bundle home with me, half expecting him to not make it through the night. Somehow he pulled through and, to all of our surprise, he started to thrive.

He began eating and his energy started to come back. Before I knew it, he was a healthy puppy tearing things up in the house and driving my older dog absolutely crazy.

By the time Pecos was 3 months old he was almost 30lbs. I had no idea what kind of dog he was, but I realized that the sick little puppy I decided to adopt was not going to be little for long. As he continued to grow, it became more and more clear that I was out of my element when it came to training him.

Exams at the vet were close to impossible. He would throw his weight around when anyone tried to restrain him, it seemed as though he must have been part alligator as he mastered the alligator roll and could get out of almost any situation. I started working with a trainer at my house 3 days a week and spent hours with him on my own working on training and commands. He started to improve but was still very wary of other people when he first met them and restraining him was so far down on my list of “goals” that I had pretty much given up on it altogether.

By the time Pecos was 8 months old he weighed almost 80lbs. He had come leaps and bounds with his training. His voice commands were out of this world. He LOVED chasing rabbits but if he went after one in the park, I could call him and he would stop dead in his tracks and come back to me. Unfortunately, I was still struggling with his “stranger danger” and felt completely defeated.

I had been working so hard with him but he was very uneasy when strangers would walk by us at the park, and I was unsure if he would lunge at them. Ultimately, I decided to enroll him in the prison inmate program here in Colorado. I had heard lots of great reviews about the program and figured the best way to get him comfortable with strangers was to send him to live with a bunch of strangers for a few weeks. The program didn’t have availability to take him for another few months. So I continued working with a trainer and on my own to help Pecos with his aggression towards strangers.

By the time Pecos was 12 months old he was just under 100lbs. A couple of weeks before his drop off day at the prison, I noticed his left knee looked like it was popping out when we was running. I took him to the clinic to have him checked. We ultimately ended up sedating him and taking xrays of his hips and back legs.

What we found was devastating. During exam, we found that both of his knees luxated at a grade 4 out of 4 meaning they were often popped out of place more often than they were in place. Both his femurs were significantly bowed and his hips were in horrible condition.

Ultimately, the doctor told me to continue watching for signs of pain or lameness. Within the next 2 weeks, Pecos started to struggle more and more with his knees. If they both popped out at the same time, his back legs would give out and he would be dragging his hind end trying to keep up with my other dog.

I took his xrays to 3 different orthopedic specialists. One of the surgeons said his joints and bones in his back legs could not be corrected and that he should be put down. The other 2 said they would be willing to operate but that it would have to be multiple surgeries over time. Ultimately, Pecos would be looking at about 8 surgeries over an 8 or so year period and it would cost me about $60,000. One of the surgeons told me that it was doable, but that if it was his dog, he’d never put him through it.

By the time Pecos was 14 months old he was 107lbs. He was full of spunk and wanted to explore the world. His body had given up though and he could no longer run in circles around the kitchen table or bound up the stairs and out the dog door just so he could come barreling back down the stairs and do it all over again.

Even though his life was short, I learned more valuable lessons from Pecos than any of my other pets combined. He taught me that it’s ok to ask for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and that there is never just one way to do something. I am not a believer that everything happens for a reason, but Pecos has showed me that with patience and persistence, I can achieve goals and continue to reach for the stars.

Janet is the lead technician at THRIVE at Highlands Ranch and lives in Denver Colorado and has been with THRIVE since opening in 2017.

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