A 3-legged dog gives a Utah boy the courage to deal with a rare genetic disorder


Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes

Salt Lake City – At just 14 years old, Travis Carpenter sometimes needs a little caution when making tough decisions.

“I love racing because it is full of action and you never get out of it,” Travis said.

Here on deck, he is actually the “trainee crew chief”, communicating critical information to the driver. Decides the speed. Decides on the risks.

“The dangerous part is a lot of the excitement,” Travis said. He decides the strategy.

He said he’s been interested in it “maybe my whole life now.”

But the biggest decision this kid ever made had nothing to do with racing, and it had nothing to do with cars; It was a decision that was all about the only thing missing in his life.

“It was really hard, it’s really tough,” said Travis’ mom Kelly Carpenter. “I don’t even know how I’m going to handle it. How am I supposed to teach my child how to handle this? I mean, it’s my son.”

It’s been a short time since her son had two working legs. But one of those legs didn’t work as well as the other.

“So, Travis has a neurofibromatosis,” said Kelly Carpenter. “It’s a genetic condition that affects about 1 in 3,000 people, and it causes tumors to form on nerves anywhere throughout the body.”

For Travis, the affected nerves were in his left leg. An MRI taken not so long ago shows multiple white spots. Every spot in that picture is a tumor.

“There’s a whole bunch on one side that isn’t on the other,” said Kelly Carpenter. “I’m sure it wasn’t supposed to be there.”

“I mean, there was almost no muscle in his thigh; his entire thigh was made up of this tumor,” said Dr. Kevin Jones, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. “He was so weak in his bone that he kind of gave up.”

Travis broke his leg once. I broke it twice. After the third fracture, Jones said, “We fixed his bone with a rod.” Travis’ leg was so worn out by tumors, bone growth had stopped, muscles got weaker, and life-changing decisions had to be made.

“Travis, that’s not working out well for you, and if you want to talk to me at some point in the future about other options, I’m happy to talk about that, but it will be on your terms,” ​​Jones said.

Since Travis was left to think about those other options, the family invested a little, well, let’s call it a puppy treat. It came to my hand – an Entlebucher mountain dog which is part brown, part black, part white and all a puppy.

“It was a really good bright spot for all of us in this really,” said Kelly Carpenter, “like, ‘Man, you know, this stink, Travis broke his leg, but it was really a fun bright spot.”

Now there are two things you should know about this boy and his “really fun luminous place”. Travis likes to raise the level five. A lady who loves a high four. And the best part is – the lady does every little part of it minus her front leg.


I think it’s really cool to have a dog just like me.

– Travis Carpenter


“She has a deformed limb, a front paw,” said Kelly Carpenter. “They think it was just something that happened in the womb, trapped in amniotic bands.”

In the canine world, the lady is lovingly referred to as a tripod. You probably don’t know what push she was giving Travis.

“When I saw her get around really well, I’m like, ‘Maybe I should do it so I can get around better than I do now,’” Travis said.

So, on April 29, 2021, his left leg was surgically removed. It was hard. It was emotional.

Mentally, it’s still tough, and you just, you still just cry,” said Kelly Carpenter. What he lost that day is not easy to describe in words.

“It was a very difficult decision because you can never get your leg back if you get rid of it,” Travis said. But despite that reality, Travis will be the first to tell you that the swap was a whole new life. He started doing things. He started testing things out.

“Yes, I am a very good driver,” he said. He started pushing toward a future in things he never thought were possible.

“I just wanted to shake it off so I can go out and have fun, and push harder than ever,” Travis said. And pushes his three-legged dog beside him.

“She seems to know, like, yeah, he’s a little different; I’m a little different,” said Kelly Carpenter. Travis and those around him will tell you, even without the lady, he would have made the decision to amputate in the end.

“He just needed a little judge; he didn’t need a big push,” Jones said. Sometimes in life, when making difficult decisions, each of us needs a little caution.

“We all need something that kind of gives us that taste of courage to say, ‘I can do this.’ And Travis found that in his puppy,” Jones said.

“I think it’s really cool to have a dog that looks just like me,” Travis said.

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Mike Hedrick

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