Lessons in patience from a puppy

Reba Schnyder and Elliot Tolkin holding Cricket the puppy, outside on a lawn
After hip replacement surgery and TLC from foster caregivers, a puppy stands on her own four feet again.
By Nicole Hamilton

A daily agenda full of fun met Cricket when she arrived at Best Friends in Salt Lake City. First, there would be playtime, followed by kisses and cuddles (albeit between wiggles). Naptime would be next, if needed, followed by more play. Throughout the day, there would be plenty of time for treats, too.

There was just one hiccup: The 6-month-old puppy wouldn’t put any weight on her hind right leg when she walked. The cause, the Best Friends veterinary team determined, was a severely fractured leg. And while it’s not clear how she sustained the injury, recovering from it would test the puppy’s patience.

Cricket needed a full hip replacement to be completely mobile again, and that meant playtime would be off the table for at least four months — a tall order for a puppy.

But this isn’t a sad story. Rather, it’s one about the indomitable resiliency of animals, the power of (puppy) positivity, and what can happen when a team of people come together with a shared vision to help a young dog stand on her own four paws again.

Surgery, but first: fun

Soon after coming to Best Friends, Cricket went to stay in a foster home with Sariah Howell and her family. “She was absolutely full of energy and didn't seem to mind using three legs,” says Sariah. “She still jumped, walked, and ran around just like, if not more than, any other puppy. She loved playing with toys, especially fetch, and getting bum scratches.”

Cricket also loved riding in the car with Sariah and accompanying her when she taught preschool. In fact, Cricket herself was a good student. “She is incredibly smart and learned cues instantly,” Sariah says. “In her first week she learned come, sit, shake, stay, potty, and lay down.” She also made fast friends with Sariah’s kids, dog, and bunny.

Cricket had about a month to settle in at her foster home before her total left hip replacement surgery, a procedure that involved replacing her left hip joint with a prosthesis. Then, she came back to Sariah’s home to begin a long crate rest period.

[How to Crate Train a Puppy or Dog]

Cricket’s movements needed to be significantly limited for at least a month or until veterinarians were confident that she was far along enough to start putting weight on her leg again. In the meantime, Sariah was given a sling that she could place Cricket in to move her on stairs, slippery surfaces, or uneven ground.

Little by little, Cricket’s surgery site healed. Eventually, Sariah got the OK to start taking her for little walks around the yard. “She just wanted love. And toys,” Sariah says.

As Cricket recovered, Sariah got to see her resiliency in action. She even gave Cricket the nickname Avi, short for Vishpala, a warrior queen in an ancient yogic text who is given a leg made of iron after she loses hers in a battle. “Cricket was a warrior from the moment we brought her home,” says Sariah.

Puppy makes herself comfortable

A few months after Cricket’s surgery, Reba Schnyder and Elliot Tolkin inquired about adopting Cricket and asked to foster her first. By then, Cricket was able to take longer walks and stay in rooms unsupervised, provided they were free of anything she’d be tempted to jump on.

Reba and Elliot have fostered many dogs with Best Friends and decided they were in a good place, literally, to adopt. “We just bought a house and got engaged, so a lot of big changes,” says Reba. “We thought Cricket might be the right one for us. She seemed like just the sweetest little thing.”

Within a day of coming to stay with Reba and Elliot, Cricket showed them how well she gets along with everyone, including other dogs. Reba and Elliot had friends in from out of town soon after Cricket arrived. Their friends were missing their puppy back home, so they decided to foster a dog while they were visiting. Cricket excitedly welcomed all the friends — human and canine.

[Puppy Care]

Like Sariah, Reba and Elliot took things slowly with Cricket, helping her recover from her hip replacement in small increments. Although she’s still a puppy with seemingly unlimited energy, Cricket impressed Reba and Elliot with how good-natured she was when it was time to put the brakes on playtime for the day.

They were still contemplating adopting Cricket when they got a call from Best Friends that someone was interested in a virtual meet-and-greet with her. The online introduction went well, and a plan was made to bring her to the lifesaving center for the potential adopter to meet Cricket in person.

When they changed their mind and decided not to go forward with the adoption process, Reba and Elliot felt a wave of relief. That’s the moment they knew Cricket was already home and adopted her.

From crate rest to mountain views

Now it’s nearly impossible to tell that Cricket recently had her hip replaced, although she still has to take it easy for a little while longer. “We’ve got puzzle games for her, Kong toys, anything that involves thinking and not moving too much,” says Reba. “She’s super smart.”

In fact, the day they brought a dog bed home, Cricket seemed to know it was for her. “She’s very aware,” says Elliot. “We know we’re lucky.” Lucky, too, adds Reba, to have welcomed Cricket into their lives after Sariah did such a great job caring for her in those early days after her surgery when she couldn’t walk on her own. “She did the heavy lifting,” says Reba. “We got the easy part.”

Cricket’s surgery and the careful, diligent care she got for months in her foster home mean that the world (or at least Salt Lake City) will be her oyster. Reba recently enrolled her in puppy classes that will start soon. And they are looking forward to taking Cricket on lots of hikes in the mountains this summer.

Reba and Elliot say having Cricket around has taught them how to stay calm and patient when life gets stressful. “She is so ready to be excited, and yet she had coped so well with such a long recovery process,” says Elliot.  Adds Reba, “She has taught us to slow down and be happy in the moment.”

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