Sweet Dog with Deformed Paws Waits Patiently for Surgery

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The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things
Their tops are made out of rubber
Their bottoms are made out of springs

-From “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers”

Tigger, 2, is as bouncy and friendly as his beloved namesake character. And that’s despite being born with a condition called ectrodactyly, also known as split hand or lobster claw.

Tigger is unable to play and be active like this other doggie friends on the property near Albany, OR, that he currently calls home. His foster parents, Eve Good and Troy Riggs, have five other dogs and a few cats, as well.

“I’ll take the other dogs out for a walk, and Tigger will jump up on his back legs and wag his tail and get excited,” Riggs told the Statesman Journal. “He’ll take off with us, but after anything more than a few steps, he stops because he knows he can’t keep up. So he’ll just patiently stay behind. Sometimes he whines, and that’s hard on us.”

Tigger was born with a condition called ectrodactyly, also known as split hand or lobster claw. (Photo: Danielle Peterson/ Statesman Journal)
Tigger was born with a condition called ectrodactyly, also known as split hand or lobster claw. (Photo: Danielle Peterson/ Statesman Journal)

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The ends of Tigger’s front legs become raw, as they are not well formed for mobility.

Often, the first question people ask Good and Riggs is, “Why wasn’t he put down before now” and “Wouldn’t that have been the humane thing to do?”‘

Their passion for this Tigger’s cause has given them patience; they see such questions as the opportunity to educate.

“His original owner loved him, but that owner lost his home and couldn’t care for him, so he put him up on Craigslist,” Good will explain. “That was about a year ago, and he was turned into Savin’ Juice Medical Dog Rescue.”

Good said a veterinarian for the rescue was considering amputating the paws and giving the dog prosthetics, but Good and Riggs asked to foster the dog, agreeing that Good would stay home with him during the day. They are determined to see if they could find an alternative and permanent solution to the dog’s disability.

“The rest of our dogs are failed fosters for a reason; they have issues, but we love them and wouldn’t have it any other way,” Good said. “But Tigger, gosh, he’s just so easy. Put him on a couch or a bed where he can bounce around, and he wants to play and love and play and love. He’s a happy dog who is good with other dogs who just happens to not have front feet.”

Dr. Jennifer Warnock, an orthopedic surgeon at the College of Veterinarian Medicine at Oregon State University, believes she can help him.

Tigger's foster family hopes to raise the money necessary to pay for his reconstructive surgery. (Photo: Danielle Peterson/ Statesman Journal)
Tigger’s foster family hopes to raise the money necessary to pay for his reconstructive surgery. (Photo: Danielle Peterson/ Statesman Journal)

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She said human children can have ectrodactyly, and that often in dogs and humans there will be other problems associated with the condition, such as deafness. Fortunately, Tigger has none of these.

Warnock said that while his is a particularly severe case, (he has bones that never fused and toes that are split) for all intents and purposes, he’s walking on lobster claws sideways with all the bones that make up his paw all separated. But other than having pain in his elbows — you can see him grimace after a few steps and when he has to sit down — I know this dog is not ready to die. This dog is a character, and he has a lot of tail wagging left and a smile for everyone he meets.”

Warnock has agreed to do one of the two surgeries Tigger will need. She’ll handle the orthopedic side that will hopefully resolve the crookedness and instability, and another OSU veterinary surgeon will handle the soft-tissue reconstruction.

She said the surgeries will take all day, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours, because she’ll also have to repair his paw pads, which are in the wrong place and worn down.

Tigger will always be a special-needs dog, but she says he should come out of surgery with greatly expanded function and be out of pain.

“There is a 100 percent chance of complications because, face it, we’re rebuilding his legs. But I believe he would make a great therapy dog after the surgery,” Warnock said.

She added that she wouldn’t undertake the procedure if she thought he was too far gone and the expense couldn’t be justified.

Both his fosters and his vet believe Tigger will one day make a wonderful therapy dog. (Photo: Danielle Peterson/Statesman Journal)
Both his fosters and his vet believe Tigger will one day make a wonderful therapy dog. (Photo: Danielle Peterson/Statesman Journal)

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An animal physical rehabilitationist has already agreed to donate her time to help Tigger, which the vet estimates will take at least a couple of months at Good and Riggs’ home.

But due to its operating costs, the College of Veterinary Medicine has to charge the going rate — an estimated $10,000-15,000. Good and Riggs don’t have it in their budget.

Warnock said the veterinary hospital requires half of the payment up front to perform the surgery. They will arrange a payment plan for the rest, but Good hopes the public can help make Tigger’s surgery possible.

“I know people will say that that money could be spent on spay or neuter surgeries for a lot of other dogs, but it’s a living dog who knows how to bring joy to others,” Good said. “Are we just supposed to kill it? That’s what our options are. Cut off his feet or kill him. I can’t do it. And Dr. Warnock said we can raise awareness with this surgery. She wants to write a paper on it, so saving Tigger could help save other dogs.”

If you’d like to read more about Tigger, or contribute to his surgical fund, visit the “Paws for Tigger” Facebook page where a donation link has been set up.

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