Tally’s Update: TPLO Surgery

This post is sponsored by Wellness Natural Pet Food. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

I once read a quote that said, “If you’re lucky, a dog will come into your life, steal your heart, and change everything.”

That’s my Tally.

I never imagined 11 years ago that the bedraggled mutt I salvaged from Denver’s Dumb Friends League shelter would become one of my favorite personalities on the planet. She quietly sat in the passenger seat the entire way home, watching my friend and I with wary eyes and her ever-moving eyebrows as we navigated Denver’s traffic corridor. Once we reached my parents’ house {where I was temporarily living}, she proved her intelligence to me within the hour.

Yup, Tals house trained herself within the first sixty minutes of me bringing her home!

TPLO Surgery

Upon reaching the house, she got intimidated by my parents’ then-boxer Zeek, a massive 95-pound giant animal with a head the size of a battering ram. He was a gentle giant but his sheer mass literally scared the pee out of Tals and she urinated right on the carpet. Without thinking, I let out an audible, “Oh Tals!” as I went to clean up the mess.

Once I was done, I walked her over to the dog door where my mom crawled through it to show Tally how she too could easily access the backyard {My mama is only five feet tall so this was a much easier feat for her!} Tals was a bit confused as to why this bizarre human was crawling through the door, and I could see her puzzling out the situation behind those sharp-as-a-tack caramel eyes. Finally, she acquiesced and followed my mom through the dog door.

And that was it; Tals has never had an accident in the house ever since.

TPLO surgery

PC: Will Rochfort

Eleven years later and a lot has changed in my life; I moved away and back to Denver, finished grad school, spent some time abroad, launched my writing career, met my now-husband Will, got engaged and married, bought and sold one house and then built and moved into another, and am currently expecting a baby in the next nine weeks. But one thing remains the same, and that is the ever-constant Tals by my side.

That’s why this week is going to be absolutely brutal.

Awhile back, I noticed Tally had a severe limp. After a few vet visits and a follow-up with a specialist, my worst fears were confirmed: Baby Girl tore her ACL.

TPLO surgery

This is where a lot of back and forth came into play. ACL tears in dogs are common, especially of her size and breed. Unfortunately, Tals is on the older side and the TPLO surgery is not cheap {we’re talking $4-5k}. After two vets confirmed she needed the procedure, they both listed my options:

  1. Do nothing and accept that she is 11-year-old. This would mean a solid year+ of hobbling around and doing some PT as her leg built up enough scar tissue to act as a quasi-brace. Of course, it could take much longer and there was a good chance the scar tissue will brace her leg at a bad angle, leaving her more uncomfortable than before. This would also likely lead to pretty bad arthritis as she gets older. Finally, it meant her life as an outdoor/active dog was likely over.
  2. Do the surgery. For a dog her size, the procedure is called TPLO surgery. TPLO surgery is recommended and many vets consider it to be the “gold standard” of doggy ACL surgeries. Instead of going in and replacing the ACL, they instead cut and rotate a portion of her tibia so that it works more smoothly with her femur without adding an ACL substitution. Of course, they are cutting on bone for this surgery so it’s a more invasive surgery and the recovery process is a lot tougher on the dog, both physically and mentally.

After talking to the vets, Will and I spent a solid month debating the pros and cons of our options. I’d be a liar if I said we didn’t consider the financial impact, especially with a baby on the way. But once we accepted that we could come up with the money, I began to seriously evaluate whether an intense surgery like this was in the best interest for Tally. At 11 years old, would she be able to recover?

We watched her walk around for a month and we both realized that we couldn’t let her live out the rest of her days in this manner. As it stands, Tals can’t go upstairs so Will has to carry her into our bedroom every night so she can still sleep with us. Instead of heading out into our backyard in the morning {where she has to walk down our deck stairs to get into the grass}, I realized she was holding her pee to avoid the staircase entirely. She can handle a 20 minute walk through the neighborhood at best; anything more than that and it hurts her leg too badly.

Finally, we realized we couldn’t let it be this way. This sweet dog has devoted her life to taking care of her mama and we both arrived at the conclusion that she deserves better than hobbling away through her remaining days. All of her blood work has come back perfect, indicating no reason that the anesthesia should cause her any problems. I asked the surgeons for their personal recommendations and they all said the same thing: “I see no reason why she won’t recover perfectly and have another couple years of happy frolicking on the trails.”

And so it was decided; Tally was having TPLO surgery.

TPLO surgery

The surgery is scheduled for this Wednesday, August 9 and truthfully, I’m a basket case. I am beyond worried about her and I imagine my pregnancy hormones aren’t helping with the tear factor! Honest to God, I began crying on the phone with the secretary at the animal hospital when I made the appointment! {And truthfully, writing this got the water works flowing again!} Poor Will is the one taking Tals in on Wednesday morning because I know I won’t be able to make it into the parking lot–let alone the building– without losing my cool in a very public and emotional manner.

In the meantime, we’ve been trying our best to maintain Tally’s weight so that her recovery is easier and quicker {and so that she has a slimmer chance of busting the other ACL.} Fortunately, thanks to Wellness Pet Food, Tals still has the good luck to be a sponsored dog!

Even though they knew Tals was going to be heading into surgery this summer, the team at Wellness Pet Food still wanted to be a part of her recovery, which I’m beyond thankful for. Their original CORE recipe is Tally’s favorite and the raw kibble has become part of her weight-loss routine this summer. She gets SO DARN EXCITED every time I scoop her food into her bowl and I can’t even handle the butt wiggle when she prances over to eat her meals. It’s a grain free, high-protein diet that has a lot of turkey and chicken liver packed into the nuggets. To be fair, I haven’t exactly eaten it myself but I know Tally’s face lights up like a kid on Christmas at meal times, so I’m calling that a win!

TPLO surgery

We’ve also been giving her the Core 100% Freeze Dried Boar bites as treats and let me tell you; that’s going over quite well! I didn’t want to give her too many treats since she tends to like the meaty chunks that pack on a lot of weight {which is not what she needs right now!} That said, she is good girl and deserves her treats, so this was a happy medium. They only have two calories per bite so we’re not exactly blowing up her calorie consumption, but she thinks the boar is QUITE fine. I wasn’t sure how that would go over since she had never eaten boar but I dare say it’s her new fave.

All this is to say that this past weekend was filled with a couple walks, lots of cuddles and a few extra bonus treats. Tals is curled up on the carpet by my feet, her little paws occasionally running as she dreams of chasing rabbits or mountain goats. We have one more full day before she goes in for the big surgery, and you better believe that I’m going to give her all the attention and love that Baby Girl deserves!

If any of y’all have been through this surgery/rehab with your pup, get at me! I’m beyond nervous and would love to hear any advice and/or bits of useful information that will make the next eight weeks more bearable.



  • Reply Patrik Mattle at

    Sending hugs & positive thoughts for your furry baby girl. I’m sure she will be just fine and will be able to go on many more adventures!

  • Reply eric at

    Heather, your posts about Tally are my favorite posts of yours. Googling something about “hiking in CO with dogs” is how I came across your blog in the first place. I’ll be thinking of her on Wednesday and I hope she has a speedy and healthy recovery.

    A lot of dog lovers have to make these incredibly difficult decisions about expensive medical procedures for older dogs. My wife and I eventually decided to get insurance for our little Caper, just to avoid such a situation. We got a high-deductible, uncapped benefit policy, so we don’t use it for regular vet visits and minor illnesses, but it’s there to protect us from making the wrenching decision between the health of our beloved pup and a $10,000 or $15,000 bill. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I think we calculated that if Caper lived a long life of 15 years, we’d pay a total of about $4000 in premiums. $4,000 isn’t nothing, but we definitely consider it worth it for the peace of mind.

  • Reply Claude at

    Hi Heather

    This post brought me to tears. I’m so happy you and Will decided on the surgery:) While my Dog was alive, we spent a fortune at the Vet, however for the unconditional love, the special moments, and the emotional support our lives were woven with by this gentle personna, money, though considered, was no object. While Tally is part of your lives, you are the Dog’s life!
    I don’t know what to say to ease your mind, I was a basket case when my Dog was operated on, or spent the night at the Vet. I would just say that it most likely will be ok, it is invasive, but not an organ intervention like lungs or bowl. There just isn’t much room for complication, it’s only akin to repairing an anterior cruciate on a human so the literature says. And it IS the gold standard!
    I really loved reading Tally’s bedraggled Mutt intro, to her present state. I loved seeing her in most posts, reading about her exploits. Bless you both for being so compassionate:)
    They really ARE family, and with a lot less drama!

  • Reply Rachel @ Better LIVIN at

    I have been reading your blog for years and feel like I know Tal! Sending good vibes her way today as she gets her surgery done!

  • Reply Mary at

    We did this for our dog when he was 11. He lived three more years, and they were good ones. I don’t regret spending the money at all.

  • Reply Cristal at

    This post brought tears to my eyes too! My pup had TPLO surgery 3 weeks ago today, and I was just as torn up about it as you. She’s much younger than Tals but she tore her knee only 5 days after had we had to say goodbye to our older dog due to his terrible hip dysplasia, so to say I wasn’t excited to let her out of my sight is an understatement. It’s a long recovery but I know it will be worth it to have her back to trail-loving self. Sending good vibes and the hopes that you guys have a smooth recovery!

  • Reply Robynn Nelson at

    I hope the surgery went well and that Tally has a quick recovery!

    My 4 year old Pitbull/Rottweiler has now had TPLO surgery on his hind legs, both in a year. It is indeed quite an expensive surgery but definitely worth it for an active dog. My vet told me after his first one that Gus was more likely to need one for his other leg, and sure enough, 7 months after, during the period we were reconditioning him, he tore his other ligament.

    I’d say the hardest part is watching them be restricted to a small space and waiting for the day they can once again be able to live a normal dogs life. The best tip I can give is to keep Tallys rehab slow, work on stretches and massages and don’t push her too hard too soon. You may notice that she walks/runs and sits slightly different, the new angle of her leg may be more noticeable depending on the angle that her Tibia needed to be cut to. Just be there for here and support her (literally, carrying a large dog up and down stairs is not easy!) and she’ll come back better than ever and ready to go!

  • Reply Tally's TPLO Surgery: The Two Week Mark -Just a Colorado Gal at

    […] I detailed last month, Tally tore her ACL and we went in for TPLO surgery on August 9. I was stressed beyond belief! […]

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