While this series is intended to feature some of the most popularly known names in the WordPress community with their pets, this week we have decided to feature one of our favorite multisite communities. Tripawds Blogs is a user-supported blog community that helps to provide information, encouragement, community and support for owners of pooches who have had to undergo amputation.
Jim Nelson, the founder of the Tripawds, kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions about his unique community.
Why did you start this community in the first place?
Shortly after our dog Jerry lost his front left leg to bone cancer in 2006, we created a simple website to document his progress and share his three legged adventures with friends and family. I used our web hosts “one click” install to start a blog, and then discovered WordPress.org. After installing WordPress, creating some pages with videos and helpful resources we found, and posting regular updates, traffic to the site grew.
We began getting lots of emails from concerned dog lovers asking us questions, so I installed SimplePress discussion forums(1) for others to share their stories and advice. That’s when the site really took off. We then added a chat room, and offering member blogs was naturally the next step to grow the community. I discovered WordPress MU and successfully migrated the site with lots of help from the now defunct MU forums.
Thanks to WordPress multisite and our WPMU DEV memebrship, we now maintian the largest online community for canine amputees and their people the club nobody ever *wants* to join. With more than 600 three legged dog blogs, and 2500+ registered members and more joining every day we are fulfilling our mission to maintain a community of support for those faced with amputation for their dogs, by providing educational resources and a platform for discussion.
What advice could you give to a dog owner whose best friend is about to undergo amputation?
The best advice we have to offer anyone facing amputation for their dog, is to remain calm, and do your homework. Dogs are incredibly resilient creatures, and most cope with amputation recovery much better than their people do. But every dog is different, the vast majority recover quickly and adapt well to life on three legs, but complications can ocurr.(2) So it’s best to unerstand what to expect, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. That’s why we created Jerry’s Required Reading List(3) which compiles links to the best Tripawds blog posts and forum topics offering helpful tips and recovery advice.
2) Veterinarian Video Interview about Common Complications: http://tripawds.com/2011/03/08/post-amputation-side-effects-in-dogs/
3) Jerry’s Required Reading List: http://tripawds.com/2010/06/01/first-tripawds-required-reading-list/
How does an amputee dog’s quality of life and capacity for recreation compare to that of a quadroped canine?
For most tripawds, after the initial recovery, amputation doesn’t slow them down one bit. We have had members with bird dogs who continue to hunt, or with agility dogs who keep winning awards. Due to the extra exertion required to compensate for additional weight on remaining limbs, however, three legged dogs do tend to tire more easily. This is easily managed by keeping them fit and trim(4) and moderating activity. But ask any Tripawds member, and they will likely attest to their pup’s passion for life. Jerry certainly taught us to make the most out of every day, no matter what life throws your way. And his quality of life never deteriorated until his final days when cancer took over his body.
4) Tripawds Recommended Fitness Equipment: http://gear.tripawds.com/fitness
Is there any one pooch on your site that stands out as a truly amazing example of the potential a post-amputation pet can achieve?
The Tripawds community is full of success stories, which help inspire others new to the group or who may be dealing with hospice care for their dogs with cancer. One hero that currently stands out is Nova(5), a three legged blind Great Dane with osteosarcoma who recenctly celerbrated her 30-month “ampuversary” what we call celebrations commemorating amputation dates.
Of course, we like to think Jerry’s story has been a huge inspiration too. He survived two years after being given only a few months to live after his bone cancer diagnosis. Producers from the Nature series on PBS found his tale intriguing enough to feature our travels together in the documentary “Why We Love Cats and Dogs”(6) which first aired in 2009.
6) Nature, Why We Love Cats and Dogs: http://tripawds.com/2009/02/23/check-local-listings-for-nature-reruns/
We saw that you have a radio show. How long have you been broadcasting and how does the program differ from the online community?
Tripawd Talk Radio is our latest project for informing those seeking advice about amputation recovery and cancer care for dogs. We first started our call-in shows in February. We had previously hosted live chats with special guests on the Tripawds website, but our BlogTalkRadio program(7) allows us to record informative discussions with veterinarians or rehab specialists and make them available as podcasts in our Tripawds Downloads(8) blog. Our most popular show to date was our interview with a veterinary oncologist from Los Angeles, followed closely by our nutrition talk with the creator of DogFoodAdvisor.com.
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7) Tripawd Talk Radio Program Page: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/tripawds
8) Recent Tripawd Talk Radio Podcast Downloads: http://downloads.tripawds.com/2011/02/24/download-tripawd-talk-radio-archives/
Do you power any other Multisite communities?
I first installed WordPress MU to create free travel blogs for RVers at RVblogz.com. This was primarily an experiment to see what I might be able to do for Tripawds.com. Now running on WP Multisite with various WPMU Dev plugins, the RVblogz commnity has not grown nearly as much as Tripawds has, but it does provide a fun network for a number of full-time RVers blogging about their travels.
Why RVing? After Jerry was given just a few months to live, my wife and I sold our graphics business and nearly everything we owned to travel the country together as a pack in our fifth wheel trailer. We lived and worked on the road full time for a couple years. Now we continue to travel seasonally, heading south for the winter from the Rocky Mountain home we call Jerry’s Acres, with our new three legged dog Wyatt(9).
What does the future hold for the tripawds community? Are there any exciting updates or expansions on the horizon?
Last year we published our first e-book, Three Legs and A Spare: A Canine Amputation Handbook.(10) This interactive PDF compiled the most helpful resources available at Tripawds.com and focussed primaily on amputation. We’re currently working on our next e-book about canine rehabilitation and plan to publish others about canine cancer, and hospice care. I also hope to expand upon my novice PHP experience by continuing to hack theme files and edit plugins, sharing how I did things in my Tripawds Behind The Scenes(11) blog.
Finally, we will continue to expand the Tripawds community offline as we travel next winter spreading the word that its better to hop on three legs than limp on four at community dog events and Tripawds Parties around the country.
What an amazing community! Many thanks to Jim Nelson for taking the time to chat with us today! And for all your faithful pet-loving WordPress followers, stay tuned for next week’s Pets Edition.