Let me begin by saying that Belle found us– I believe in fate and that Belle was meant to be a part of our family. On 13th June 2015 we had to have our beloved German Sheppard, who had literally been with me all day every day for 10 years, put to sleep. My heart was broken and I swore I would never have another dog. Then Belle came along.
We knew a breeder of Pyrenean Mountain Dogs– his bitch had a litter of pups, of which he kept only one. He often came into our office with this big ball of white fluff, and I fell in love. One day when she was just about eight weeks old and I could just about lift her, I scooped her up in my arms and said to my husband “look I’ve got us a puppy”. As Pascha (her original name) grew older and heavier she started to struggle with her back left leg. By the time she reached three months it became quite apparent that she had a serious problem which was only going to get worse. The breeder asked if I wanted her.
I knew then that we had made the right decision whatever lay ahead of us.
Now, I knew I had to broach this with my husband when he was in a good mood and possibly a few beers down– “hey babe– you want a polar bear with a knackered leg that will probably end up costing us thousands?” was not going to cut the mustard. I was also slightly nervous about taking on a giant breed dog, as I had no experience with Pyreneans and her mum was massive! It turns out we like a challenge, and off I set one Saturday morning with a very excited three-year-old and a dubious husband to collect our fluff ball. My little girl fell instantly in love with Belle, and within seconds of meeting they were racing around together playing. I knew then that we had made the right decision whatever lay ahead of us.
Once home the first port of call was to get Belle’s leg X-rayed, start hydrotherapy, and get her some pain relief. Belle was initially diagnosed with a luxating patella (which basically meant her knee cap was floating), but an operation was not possible until she was fully grown. Belle did really well with her three functioning legs, but she was a nightmare on our ceramic kitchen tiles, especially when she had wet paws.
I had no option but to change the flooring in the hall, kitchen and dining room. Then I got to thinking, while we were doing that we should take the wall out and get a brand new kitchen! It made perfect sense to me, just the little task of running that one past my long suffering husband. It was at this stage the concept for “Floors For Paws” was born, when looking at alternative flooring solutions we found there was nothing on the market specifically designed for “paws”, fortunately having worked for a flooring company for the past three years we had a starting point.
Sitting a three-year-old down and explaining to her that her best friend was going to have to have her leg cut off was both quote difficult and slightly amusing
After many months of R&D we took the remit to our chosen manufacturer. There were three main elements which we were imperative: anti-slip, hard wearing and easy to clean, plus it had to look good! The technology in the factory where it is manufactured blew us away, our flooring ranges are basically programmed into a computer and then 3D printed. Each plank is printed twice giving the double wear layer whilst allowing enough thickness for the deep grain, the wood effect design has been computer generated and each pantone colour individually chosen to give it the most realistic look possible. If you look at the planks they are not uniform– you can see wood knots on some planks. Eventually we got to a stage where we had a range of samples ready to test; and where better to test them than in my new kitchen, diner and hall?
Around this time, we had Belle referred to The Queens Veterinary School Hospital in Cambridge. The older and heavier Belle became the more apparent it was that there was something seriously wrong with her back leg. Belle was away from us for two days for a thorough investigation which told us Belle’s femur had been broken, possibly whist she was being born, and as no action was taken this resulted in her leg becoming deformed. Belle had no groove for her knee cap, her knee cap was on the wrong side of her leg, she had bone mass where the break occurred and both her femur and fibula were twisted. In short we were told the most realistic and kindest route to take would be to amputate her leg. Sitting a three-year-old down and explaining to her that her best friend was going to have to have her leg cut off was both quote difficult and slightly amusing– “no we couldn’t just put a plaster on it”, “no I don’t think they will want to borrow your scissors” and “no we can’t keep her leg” answered most her questions.
The day of Belle’s operation arrived I was both pleased as it was apparent she was in pain and really nervous. The operation took four hours, Belle was in hospital for five days however she was up and about on her three legs literally straight away, all the vets and nurses were amazed at how quickly she seemed to adapt. Once home we contained Belle to the rooms which had our “floors for paws” in as it had already made a massive difference to her stability and balance and tried to keep her as quiet as possible (this is not easy when you have a dog who for the first time in her life is not in pain and a three-year-old who wants to play with her best friend!).
Over the course of the past six months Belle has gone from strength to strength, I can honestly say she is fitter, happier and healthier than she has ever been, she still has her hydrotherapy every two weeks although it is mainly because she enjoys it and gets a shower! We forget that she only has three legs until we walk her then everyone points it out, to us she is just our big fluffy puppy who has cost us a fortune and caused me lots of heartache and worry, the inspiration for Floors for Paws.
Belle found us, I believe in fate and Belle was meant to be part of our family and an integral part of our business.
Tracy Topliss is a founder of Floors for Paws, pet friendly flooring designed for dogs and dog owners, check them out here: https://www.floorsforpaws.com/