The Most Expensive Dog in the Worldposted by conebaby on Tuesday September 6th 2:44pm
Last Friday Josh returned home from a week-long business trip in Utah to a Very Excited Wife and An Even More Excited Dog named Sandy. But I should begin at the beginning.
Sandy has been experiencing knee/joint issues in her two back legs for a couple of years now. She tore an ACL in her right rear leg about a year ago, and so her left leg has been her "good" leg. Slight limping has been the norm, we skip stairs completely, and her longest walks are around the block. Overall she's been happy, if not active. We avoid strenuous activity, the aforementioned stairs, and any jumping/lunging motions as often as possible. This includes that classic "dive-for-the-toy" move that labs (and dogs in general) love so much.
Last Friday Sandy got so excited to see Josh, that she dove for the toy (in this case, a sock). I saw it happen even before it happened: I saw Sandy look at that sock and the rest--her dive, the collapse of her back legs, the roll onto her back, and the yelping and crying--happened in slow motion. And it's seared into my memory forever.
Sandy doesn't usually alert us that she is in pain, nor does she acknowledge that she's in pain by not doing things that cause or exacerbate pain. That she could not stand up, or walk, and that she was crying and whining was cause for serious alarm. We called our vet (Bissonnet Southampton Veterinary Clinic) who immediately referred us to the surgeons at the Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists. Our vet also gave us a powerful pain killer ("We give this to dogs who have had amputations.") and comforted a very hysterical me when I went in to pick up the prescription.
The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists were kind enough to see us on Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m.--no small miracle during a long weekend. The wait on Friday night was unbearable. Sandy could not walk or stand for very long, and she had to put weight on what was previously her bad leg because she had clearly blown out her "good" leg completely. We used a towel as a sling to support her back end for two, terrible trips to the lawn and back to the apartment. All three of us slept on the floor--we pulled out our camping gear, and Sandy slept on her bed--but it was uncomfortable for everyone, and Sandy was clearly in pain, confused, and scared. Although we had an appointment to see a surgeon, Josh and I were terrified that Sandy's age, combined with the obvious severity of her injury, would lead the doctors to advise us to put her down. We cried all. night. long. This scared Sandy even more, as you can imagine. I stayed up all night, at one point taking pictures with my phone of all of my favorite parts of Sandy, just in case.
When we got to the hospital the next day I was a complete wreck; little kids stared at me while I cried behind my aviators. When a cable news channel began broadcasting Sarah Palin's Iowa Tea Party speech I stood up and announced to Josh (and everyone else in the waiting room), "She's not my governor anymore. I don't have to listen to this. Come get me when the doctor gets back!" Then I stormed out to a waiting room down the hall. (A few minutes later another woman from the first waiting room joined me, and picked my brain about Alaskan politics.)
Throughout the day we saw surgeon Dr. Benjamino, an Ohio State grad who put us at ease immediately with his gentle, humorous bedside manner. We were taken into a new office when it came time to review Sandy's joint x-rays, and that is when Josh noticed some photos on the wall--photos of the head of surgery, Dr. Beale, who has performed surgery on pets belonging to the first President Bush; this greatly impressed Josh. Our dog is three degrees from a former president's dog! She is going to be just fine.
There were several rounds of exams, tests, and advisory sessions with the surgeon during our three hours at the hospital, but ultimately Dr. Benjamino said Sandy would be an excellent candidate for surgery, provided that her blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasounds came back clear. Due to the long weekend, the radiologist wouldn't be back until Tuesday (today) so they wanted us to wait to schedule the procedure, called a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, or TPLO, until we were sure Sandy was clear of any other health issues. We took Sandy home Saturday afternoon, along with a surgical sling and a lot more hope than we had when we walked in that morning. Saturday was spent on the floor, sleeping and hugging the dog we thought wouldn't be going home with us, ever again.
It was a long, labor-intensive weekend. We slept on the floor with Sandy every night, and we stayed with her on the floor for most of every day, too. Sandy is loveable, though not always super-snuggly, but she welcomed the extra attention; being unable to walk definitely unnerved her, though she appeared to be getting into the routine. We had to make adjustments, particularly in order to take her outside for bathroom breaks. Normally we walk her about 20 feet to the elevator, go down three floors, and then walk another 40 or so feet to the lawn (Sandy is a picky pooper). Even that was too much for her, so we began driving her down to the street and then driving her back upstairs, carrying her between the car and our front door, and from the car to the grass and back. The hospital gave us a sling to support her hindquarters and it worked quite well once Sandy got used to it. Interestingly enough, she was still able to launch herself into her favorite position, which makes me wonder if there is something about this particular position that relieves pain in her knees.
Josh and I took her in early this morning and Dr. Benjamino just called to tell us that for an 11-year-old, Sandy is in wonderful health. He anticipates this surgery improving her quality of life; while the first surgery will be a slower, more painful recovery, after the second we should be able to take her for walks again.
We're cautiously optimistic. Surgery carries inherent risks, and Sandy is senior citizen. Josh leaves for The Netherlands on a 3-week business trip this Saturday, and I canceled a trip home for a family wedding to care for our post-op puppy. Surgery number two will occur mid-October, depending on Sandy's recovery from this first procedure. Oh, and this is all costing an obscene amount of money--don't ask, I literally can't speak or type the number--but who cares? It's worth it for this crazy, neurotic, loveable beast who makes everything about our lives a thousand times better, if not simpler.
That said, if you know someone who needs a kidney, we've got a couple to spare.