Looks a sweeet start man!
Have to see how te paws go, there might be a bit of "pinching" at the front area where it bends, but I guess you'll have to wait and see.
You could open it in a new scene, delete everything apart from one rear, quicky rig it then give it a go.
Have you seen the special features on The Lion the witch and the Wardrobe?? They go over Aslan and I think they show the topology and the animation for the walk cycle might give you some ideas etc on your project.
PS Where did you get your references from, they look really good and I wouldent mind giving an animal a go sometime in the furture.
"No pressure, no diamonds" Thomas Carlyle