The Bionic Mastiff: TPLO Surgery

I never miss an annual vet visit. I joke (but it’s not really a joke) that veterinarians must think I’m crazy because I ask for full explanations of every. single. medical term they say. Finding a vet that gets you is a challenge which is why it’s important to question your vets and ask lots of questions because you may find something they don’t suspect! A particular annual for Fiona two years ago turned out to be life altering because I decided to push my vet to do something that he typically didn’t in annual exams. I also should say I’m by no means have any medical training and am a normal girl sharing my experiences. Always talk to your vet before making any medical decisions for your dogs!


Discovering Something Was Wrong

When we moved back to Austin from Los Angeles, I had to find a different vet because the one we went to prior to moving to LA was no longer in practice. Due to the fabulous care of my LA vet (shout out to Dr. Pavlina Burpee at Burbank Veterinary Center), she educated me on general mastiff care and aging mastiffs specifically. On my first visit to the Austin vet, I kept asking if he’d check her hips, joints, bones, muscles, etc. as part of her annual exam. Upon my request, we found out that Fiona had ruptured her cranial cruciate ligament (equivalent to a human’s ACL) which is one pretty major reason why my aging girl was slower on walks.

Fiona must have known something was up. Here she is during that vet visit.

She never showed signs, symptoms, or that she was hurting. Admittedly her pain thrush hold has always been quite high so I never know that something’s going on with her. It’s a somewhat common injury in giant and large breeds due to the amount of weight on their joints. Some of the symptoms for this type of injury include:

  • Lameness or limping on hind leg
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Decreased speed on walks (this is the only one I ever saw)

What Does it all Mean?

Immediately I took her to a specialist in town who is apparently “the doctor” for Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery. Dr. Stephen Kerpsack at Central Texas Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital quickly agreed on the diagnosis and gave me multiple options. He indicated that smaller dogs who have this type of injury can sometimes just “heal” or let their bodies take care of the injury itself however with the big dogs, surgery was almost always needed. Previously Fiona had been on all sorts of medications for joint maintenance and he indicated that this would also help eliminate that need. For mastiffs, he explained that they’d insert a metal plate that acts as a support as the ruptured area doesn’t regenerate itself. The metal plate would add additional support to help with the load bearing weight and stabilizing her knee.

Very nervous Fiona.

I couldn’t find too much information online about this surgery in mastiffs so I talked to others in my community about it. Multiple people gave me glowing reviews of how much their dog had benefited from it and specifically Dr. Kerpsack’s surgery. Upon hearing all the positives about going through with the surgery, I decided to move forward with it for Fiona. Refusing to believe she’d have a poor (or even painful) quality of life, I selfishly put everything I have to get her the surgery… and at whatever cost… thank you family too.


Day of the Surgery

Morning of her surgery. 3/30/17

The morning on Fiona’s surgery, I loaded her into my car and we drove to the vet with her head out the window. She is always so calm and didn’t indicate that she was scared but rather displayed confidence. She’s my hero. I was a mess and wanted nothing more than for her to be healed without having to go through such an ordeal. I dropped her off, told her I loved her so much, and wished her good luck!


I’ll tell you what… that experience was amazing! Dr. Kerpsack and his crew were AMAZING! In a matter of time, they made her the bionic mastiff by inserting the plate in her leg! They were very honest about the process and kept me looped in! Even going so far to post on their social media with a technician holding Fiona post surgery while she woke up to recovery. It’s the level of care and love I would hope all clinics provide and it was just very comforting to see!


Driving down there I was a bit nervous to see what kind of state Fiona was in mainly because I thought “how am I (a 115 lbs girl) going to take care of her (a 120 lbs mastiff)”. Luckily the staff helped me get her in the car and she was mobile enough to get from point A to point B when we got home. I was very surprised how she was able to walk after a day like she had!


Why I Chose TPLO Surgery

I got her home safe and sound and just let her rest. She was still pretty medicated and that was very helpful to getting her comfortable. I remember sitting there and just watching her rest and asking myself, why did you do this to her?! Ultimately there were a lot of positive factors involved with making this decision:

  • Cost. As costly as it seems upfront, I guarantee you that the medication regiment I was on, I would be well beyond the cost of the surgery by now. Fiona was (and still is in peak health) so I was not fearful about the return on my investment. Again, thank you family!
  • Good results. I only heard good things about this surgery and the nonsurgical options seemed fine but they wouldn’t fix the problem. Rather it’s be a management situation rather than a fix.
  • Quality of Life. After my numerous conversations with people I knew that had the procedure for their dogs as well as my vet specialist, her quality of life would just be better. She’d be more active than she was and she’d be able to get up and down easier.

I’m tremendously happy she went through the surgery and more to about her recovery and the process of getting her back on our regular walks in our next post!!

Day Hiking: Pedernales Falls State Park

I love being active and outdoors as much as the dogs do (if not even more) and one of our favorite activities to do together is hike! English mastiffs aren’t made for long hikes because it’s not tremendously helpful on the joints. That much body mass climbing and jumping is tough to support on the joints they have. Don’t get me wrong, I always take them on short hikes and long walks but it’s just tougher on the giant bodies to go super long distances.

Fiona’s Hiking Profile

Fiona has always been incredibly active and been able to sustain activity in the heat! We used to run on the beach, “hike” in the Hollywood Hills, and of course hit up the Texas hill country. Since Fiona has had her tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery I try to keep her active minutes to a healthy level as to not overexert her. More to come on her surgical experience because it’s definitely a major part of her!

Bruce’s Hiking Profile

Bruce on the other hand will run/hike/swim/be a total dude until he over heats himself. Nothing dangerous and more just him not being able to see that enough is enough. He has a different type of regulating and I more or less practice preventative health with him.


Pedernales State Park

Back to wonders of Texas State Parks! Living in Austin gives us reasonably close access to a lot of state parks. One of our favorites is Pedernales Falls State Park located right outside of Johnson City, Texas which is a little more than an hour west of Austin. For non-native Texans, Johnson City is the birthplace of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Prior to the state adopting it as a park, it was a working ranch in the Texas hill country. There is a ton of this cool history that has been preserved in the park!

Red dot is Pedernales Falls. Blue dot is Austin, TX.

Not only are there some spectacular views and great trails but it’s also really dog friendly! You must keep them on-leash while in the park. Real talk – it’s that kind of place where everyone seems cool if you let them off leash for a moment (say to swim) and as long as everyone is respectful of others. We took Ladybird, the Australian shepherd in the pack, with us this time because we wanted to go the distance. Bruce has been to this park with us before though and has absolutely loved it!

Previously we’ve hiked Wolf Mountain trail which was the longest and pretty physical in terms of the hills. This time I wanted to explore Trammel Crossing Trail. Mainly because I wanted to get to the other side to reach a scenic outlook. After about 10 minutes on the trail, we landed at the river. Naturally, we took our shoes and socks off and went about crossing. Talk about an exhilarating way to start the day! Ladybird loved it and then we realized it was um… a little.. rapid. She got picked up and carried to safely to shore. (Video above is us on the other side)

Up the trail we went and because we went pretty early in the day, we encountered zero people on the way to the lookout. It seems like outside of the colder months this hike would be rather warm as there wasn’t a ton of tree coverage but it made for beautiful fields with lots of cactus. Once we made it to the top where the scenic outlook was, we had the most beautiful view of the east side of the park’s perimeter. (Pictured below) A couple of vultures were up there trying to scare us by circling around us but we didn’t let that get to us.

View from Scenic Point.

Going down back to the river, we hiked on the perimeter of the park which was nice and secluded. It was very rustic and Texas feeling with that barbed-wire fencing along the edge. We encountered a few people with the dogs’ on-leash as well on the way down that were nice and friendly!
Once down at the river we (Ladybird) took a nice dip in the river. She loved it so much and luckily we chose a nice “beachy” area where there wasn’t a giant current so she could get in a good amount.


After her shaking out as much water as possible, we took our socks and shoes off and crossed the river again. Learning our lesson from the first time we crossed, I asked my handsome travel buddy if Lady could be on leash while walking across because it looked more daunting. He ended up carrying his girl because it looked like we may have lost her to the water. Both of them were pretty wet but it was more funny than anything.

Standing in the river about mid-way through the crossing

Couple of takeaways from this hike:

  1. Outside of the river, there isn’t a good place to grab water so please make sure to bring some for you and your pup!
  2. This was a rather gradual climb so it wasn’t too strenuous on us or Ladybird.
  3. Be careful and play it say in the water. Make sure you furiend is comfortable in water and water that can pick them up and go! Luckily, Ladybird was carried by her best friend so it worked out well.

Hill country hikes are great because they offer a good amount of scenic landscape. Walking down the river, you couldn’t help but be impressed with the amount of stone and beauty. It was a very quiet hike and I’ll definitely check it out again… hopefully next time in the hot spring or summer months! Let me know some of your favorite places to hike with you pups!

A Cosmic Celebration!

A coworker of mine recently told me about a charity event where a local dog photographer, Alex and crew from Zilker Bark, was taking Valentine’s Day portraits at a charity event. I immediately was all in once she told me about this opportunity! My initial reaction was that I’d selfishly have a great, professional picture of Fiona in her all her grey glory (pictured in a flower crown provided by Ben White Florists!!). It’s pretty much all I need right now since she’s getting to be an older girl!

Proceeds from the event were going to a local dog rescue called Lizzy’s Animal Hospice. This is not just any dog rescue… it’s a senior dog rescue! By experiencing the aging process with Fiona I have a soft spot in my heart for senior dogs! The incredible wisdom and love they provide are unmatched. I also find their temperament to be way more my speed than a puppy’s: very chill, self-assured, calm. It’s one of the many reasons why I chose to love and live with mastiffs at the end of the day – they’re super low-key.


Party Time!

The event was open to the public (although you did have to preregister for the photos) and it was pawesome! When we showed up, there was a giant line (no worries as that was a good thing) to check-in. The gal who checked us in was so kind and complimentary of both Fiona and my friend’s dog Murphy (Instagram @goldenboyatx). As they were being fitted for their crowns, Fiona’s chin strap broke immediately because I think her head was too big for it. Yep, that’s a giant dog problem! Once we got the crown locked into place, up she went to quickly get her pictures taken! Click! Flash! I absolutely LOVED the experience!! Once we got home, the photographer posted that they photographed 240 dogs in 3 hours!! Talk about a wonderful experience and terrific contribution to the community!


Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden

I had never been to Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden and it blew my mind. They atmosphere was so hospitable and very dog friendly! Like a lot of Austin eateries, it had a substantial outdoor area with ample seating. There were a couple of food trailers there as well but we had already eaten so didn’t sample the cuisine. Seems like another reason for us to go back (when it warms up 🙂 )!

Despite the freezing temperatures, we absolutely loved coming to this place!

Top Reasons to Visit Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden:

  • Dog friendly outdoor spaces!! It got a little muddy with the rain sprinkles and cold weather so wear shoes you don’t mind covered in a bit of dirt if the weather looks dicey. They had a lovely fenced in garden too which I thought was awesome!
  • Great beverage selection! A small group of us stayed to hang out after the session was over and this place had a variety of beverages! Beer, coffee, kombucha, sparkling water, list goes on! Oh yeah and tons of water for our dogs!
  • Considerate and nice staff! The weather was crazy cold and we were able to sit outside because the staff kept outdoor fire pits fed with cedar logs!

If there were any down side, I’d have to say parking was tight. We lucked out as someone was leaving just as we were pulling in. Outside of that, it was easy to find and get to!


I have zero complaints about this wonderful event! There were so many cool dogs to look and at a really great venue! Hopefully they’ll continue with this in the future as it seemed to create so many happy and smiling faces while giving back to a noble cause! Valentine’s Day is only a couple of days away but you would have thought it was on Saturday because there was so much love in a little brewery in Austin!

Welcome to Tales from Tails


Hello friends and welcome to the place where giant breeds are living their best extra-large lives! My life with English mastiffs is amazing! Everything is giant: big dogs, big furniture, big bags of dog food, big s—-, and most importantly big love. I want to share a bit about my experiences living with these gentle giants from their puppy-hood to their health to the many adventures we share!

Trying New Things

It’s a new year and we are very excited to welcome everyone to our new blog! For those of you who don’t know us, I want to introduce to Bruce (left) and Fiona (right)! We experience life through new adventures and trial and error but we wanted to discuss share some of the things we’ve gone through (and are going through)!

Looking forward to letting y’all in a bit of our world and seeing what stories you all have to share!

Austin, TX 2018

Check out our daily lives and follow us on Instagram @texacalimastiffs