Traveling Dog Lady: September 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Caring for Ctitters - Life on 3 legs

As mentioned in my most recent post, we are pleased and honored to participate in the Caring for Critters Round Robin, hosted by Jodi at Heart Like A Dog. How it works is, each participating blogger writes about their own experience with a medical condition, injury, disease or illness.  Then, the blogger "passes the baton" to the next, sort of like a relay race in words, online!  Yesterday, Sue Oakes at The Golden Life told us about her pack's digestive issues and how each one presented its own challenge before they were able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.   I'll be passing the baton to Kelsie at It's Dog Or Nothing (don't you love that name!?  Actually, I love all the names of the various blogs involved.  A lot of clever critters out there in the blogosphere!).  

Today, I'll be writing about our personal experience with amputation of a pet's limb due to injury.  In short, it's not so bad!

Our dog, Cooper, wasn't part of our family when he injured, and subsequently lost, his right, front limb.  He's the littermate of Charlie Brown, whom we adopted first.  Cooper was with his original adopters when, at about eight months of age, he somehow injured his right, front leg.  We do not know how he sustained the injury -- that information was either unknown, or withheld, but it appeared to have been a crush injury that could not be successfully repaired. Unable to afford the expense of the medical care, the well-meaning family confined the puppy to a crate for several weeks,  and eventually returned him to rescue when it became clear that the scope and expense of the medical concerns for Cooper would be out of their reach.  That's where we came in!  Rescue sent out an "APB" to all the other littermates' parents asking if anyone wanted a brother with a messed up leg. Of course, we got all wrapped up in the drama, and several friends suggested I'd be nuts if I didn't adopt him (and equally nuts if I DID!).   True to form, and always up for a challenge, we chose the former.

Cooper, with four legs; pre-amputation.

It was not to be our decision whether to attempt repair, or amputate.  That would be up to rescue, who was the owner of record of the dog at the time, because the family had surrendered him back to the rescue agency.  After extensive testing and opinions, it was decided that the only repair possible would have been "experimental" and ill-advised. To use the vet's own words, "I wouldn't put my own dog through that."

Even though we had known other tripawd pets, and knew they were able to get around just fine, we didn't want this very young dog (now 10 months old) to have to go through amputation and living on three legs for the rest of his life.  But, like I said, it wasn't our decision.  The surgery was planned, and a donation campaign began.  We donated a portion toward the cost ourselves, thus reducing the eventual adoption fee we paid in the end. The surgery was performed in mid-August, after all the donations had come in, and about two weeks later, Cooper came home to live with us.  I had gone to meet him, with his brother, Charlie, when Cooper still had four legs (one useless and dragging around on the floor); and then met him again after surgery.  

A pile of puppies... Charlie in the middle, on the left (with slightly darker markings)
and Cooper (the so-called runt of the litter) on top of everyone!

The treatment was basically quite simple.  Amputate the leg, rest, recover, enjoy the rest of your life. And that is pretty much how it went.  Cooper lived with his original foster mom during the 10-day recovery phase.  We humans were all worried about the amputation, and foster mom was able to observe him in the recovery room using a web-cam that the vet had set up!  She shared still photos with us by email and Facebook.  Cooper did astonishingly well that first night, and then went home to the foster house, where he promptly jumped up on the bed with his canine foster sister!  The worst part was trying to keep this puppy inactive so the stitches did not get disturbed.  After all, he had been dragging around a useless leg for such a long time, it was probably a relief to be rid of it, in his mind.

Cooper was on Tramadol for about a month, and the wound healed nicely and there is now no sign that anything happened.  In fact, it takes most new people a few minutes (sometimes longer) to realize that he has a missing leg!  He was not tired, lethargic or sad.  There was no change in his spirit or even his activity level.  He simply moved on with his life and didn't look back.  Cooper truly lives in the moment.  He can chase a ball just as fast as his brother, sometimes faster.  He jumps onto and down from the bed, furniture, picnic tables (his favorite) and is Chief Counter Surfer.  He can jump into my car if the driver's side window is all the way down, from a seated position on the ground -- like a cat!  When we go to our birthday reunion parties on the beach in Gloucester, Mass. he runs so much I have to put a leash on him to make him take a rest.  He tends to "slam" the remaining left leg a little too much.  That being said, he is all muscle, and loves to chase his brother around the back yard at super-high-speed!

Cooper in the car.  "Let's go, Mom!"

Taking a break on Good Harbor Beach, with his sister's tennis ball!

If I had to make the choice whether or not to amputate on another pet, I am not sure we would do it again.  It depends on the situation, type of injury (cancer is the main reason dogs have legs amputated, not injury).  Shortly after Cooper's amputation, people began developing prostheses for canines.  Cooper cannot have a prosthetic limb because there is no remaining bone to attach it to.  If we had to do it all again, I would consider leaving some bone available to utilize a prosthetic.  But honestly, the worry about his spirit being broken, and his activity level being compromised was just human b.s. worry, and nothing more.  It was all for nothing.  If you are ever faced with the conundrum of amputating a pet's limb, just remember, take it from Cooper, it's not so bad.

Be sure to check out ALL of the Caring For Critters posts, here!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Returning from a blogging and social media break (sort of)

We are back!!  Sort of.

I wanted to share that I'll be taking part (later this month) in the Caring for Critters Round Robin, which is sort of like a blog hop except folks can't just hop on and post -- it's an assigned thing.  Our post will be live on Sept 28th, so mark your calendars!  The Round Robin is hosted by Jodi and her pups, Sampson and Delilah of Heart Like a Dog.

We took a month or so off from blogging and social media due to some family medical issues of both the human and canine kind.  I promised I would keep the the human stuff private, so you won't hear about that here. This is the dog and cat blog, anyway!

Our dear senior pup, Hobie, has been having health issues, on-and-off, all year.  There were at least four times this summer when I thought we were going to lose him, but he recovers miraculously and this week was no exception.  After bringing him to the vet two days ago, when he seemed to be on death's door, we awoke this morning with a rather energetic Hobie on our hands.  Just now, he wanted to go down the big stairs into the back yard (he went UP them this morning for the first time in weeks).  I decided not to allow him to go down.  It's a bit too much, too fast, after weeks of him being unable to maneuver just ONE step, let alone 13.  It's nice to see him "chipper" for a change, and now I am starting to wonder if the pain meds we've been giving him for a year were causing his ongoing issues in some part. His kidney tests came back normal yesterday, but he is a tad anemic. We have him on anti-nausea meds for the weekend, and then we'll have the vet run more tests next week to try to determine what may be causing the anemia and constant bouts of vomiting every two weeks or so.

Hobie resting after going to the vet this week.

During this month, we've had lots of doctor appointments to go to, and big schedule changes regarding work and other things.  I did manage to get to the Tori Amos concert, which was so meaningful to me and I'm grateful for the four or five people who helped me out at home so that I could attend the show.  It meant the world to me.

Good seat, bad picture!

The cats have been a source of steadiness, comfort and delight through all of this.  They are the ever-present "anchor" of the household.

Cali on the roof of the car
Newman and Tux holding down the fort.

Other than that, I brought Charlie, just last weekend, to Pet Rock, which is a music festival for pet-related non-profits in our area.  It's been going on for 16 years, and they do a great job, it's a lot of fun for the dogs that is for sure.  I was so afraid Reactive Charlie would cause trouble, but he was amazingly well-behaved, and in fact he was one of the BETTER-behaved dogs at the event, overall!! At PetRock we saw our friends from Great Dane Rescue, Paws 4 a Cure and our human neighbor, who happens to be named.... Charlie! -- with his no-longer-nervous Newfoundland!  We may attend another event tomorrow, hosted by Second Chance Animal Shelter, if we're not too tired.  Two years ago at the same Second Chance event, I wrecked my shoulder walking Charlie, so I'm a bit hesitant ... but we shall see.

Charlie Brown at PetRock Festival
Feeling empowered, a few days later, I brought Cooper to PetSmart for the first time, ever.  Again, I thought Mr. Reactive Dog would be the one to cause trouble inside the store.  But nope! I was pleasantly surprised by my wonderful hound again!!  He was the perfect gentleman, and in fact it was ANOTHER dog that got all up in his face and started trouble!  Aside from Cooper nearly breaking my finger with his collar and leash in his enthusiasm to get inside the store, it was a great experience, and I'm going to bring him to the pet stores with me more often.

Cooper in the car after we went into PetSmart.
Good dog!

Our topsy-turvy schedule will continue for quite some time, so I will probably only be blogging occasionally -- probably on weekends and for special assignments such as the Round Robin mentioned above, DoggyLoot, and a few others.

Until next time!  Keep meowing, woofing and wagging!