Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 13, 2010

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE - When Bad Things Happen to Good Dog Owners

Posted at 10:03AM - Comments: (7)

‘Twas a few weeks before Christmas, and all through the house,

The Miller family was heading for bed, including the spouse.

I carried Scooter upstairs with care,

Because his tiny Pom legs can’t carry him there.

I returned downstairs for the rest of the crew,

Knowing they wanted to go to bed too.

When up in the bedroom there arose such a clatter,

I sprang up the stairs to see what was the matter…

Okay, my feeble poetry breaks down here – I’ll have to continue in prose. The “clatter” was husband Paul, hammering on a wooden box we were turning into a bed for Dubhy, our Scottie – followed by a yelp from sound-sensitive Scooter as he was startled into flying off the bed. I scooped him up and carried him downstairs so Paul could finish without further Pomeranian trauma. As I sat on the bottom step, waiting, I moved one of the stress-panting little dog’s hind legs and he yelped again. My heart sank. This wasn’t just fear, this was pain.

When the hammering stopped I carried Scooter back upstairs and set him on the floor. He was on three legs, his right hind leg held far off the ground. My heart sank further as “ACL” leapt into my brain. We’ve been through two TPLOs (Tibial Plateau-Leveling Osteotomies) in past years for torn anterior cruciate ligaments with other dogs, and I knew the cost for surgery runs several thousand dollars, not to mention the extensive follow-up care.

Scooter’s eyes were wide and he was panting heavily. We knew he was in significant pain. We discussed the emergency clinic but his leg didn’t feel broken, so we settled on a dose of Rimadyl and a trip to our regular vet first thing in the morning.

Following a restless, sleepless night for Scooter and me, Dr. Doering suggested two days of pain meds and muscle relaxant. If he was no better, then radiographs. Three days later we were back for x-rays. I reluctantly left Scooter with the tech, and went home to wait for the phone call.

“It’s not his ACL,” the vet’s informed me on the phone a few hours later, “It’s a luxated patella. We’ll refer you to an orthopedic surgeon in Frederick”

I had a brief chat with her when I arrived at the clinic to pick up my little dog. Cost of surgery, she said, probably $1500 to $2000. In answer to my hopeful question, she replied that luxated patellas rarely resolve themselves, and if it hadn’t done so by now…

She left. The tech brought Scooter out and set him on the floor… and… miracle of miracles - he walked on all four legs – as if nothing had ever happened! Tears in my eyes, I stared in amazement. Somehow her manipulations while he was sedated must have popped his knee joint back into place. I sent the tech back to tell the vet, who said to keep him on pain meds and restricted activity for a week, and if it holds – you’re just lucky.

It’s been two weeks now, and he’s bouncing around as if nothing ever happened. I’m still beating myself up for putting Scooter on the bed, knowing Paul was going to hammer Dubhy’s bed box. I should have known better. Paul says he should have known better. But, I remind myself, stuff happens. No matter how much we try to wrap them in cotton wool and keep them safe, bad stuff still happens to good owners – and their dogs – from time to time.

We’re lucky. Scooter seems to have fully recovered with minimal intervention. Sometimes when bad things happen to good dog owners the outcome is much worse. And we always blame ourselves.

Accidents happen. That’s why they’re called accidents. All our dogs ask of us is that we use reasonable care to protect them, and we learn from our mistakes. We are, after all, only human. If something bad happens to your dog, be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself. Your dog forgives you. I’ve almost succeeded in forgiving myself for Scooter’s bed leap, and I know he’s forgiven us. His amazing recovery is our Christmas miracle. My holiday wish for you is that any and all of the “bad things” that might ever happen to you as a good dog owner end just as happily.

Warm Woofs and Happy Howl-idays,

Pat Miller

Comments (7)

December 28th,2014
Approximately 10 days ago my Bichon, named Tinkerbelle, fell down a short flight of stairs. I took her to the vet, who xrayed her and told me she had a torn ACL. He referred me to the animal hospital who said that she had a torn ACL as well as a torn Meniscus without reviewing her films or taking anymore. The opinion was surgery for a cost of between 4,200.00 and 4,300.00. She is scheduled for January 6th, but I'm having 2nd thoughts. What are your feelings about this?

Posted by: Sue M | December 29, 2014 12:25 AM    Report this comment

I feel much better now. I "knew" this before, but it always reassuring to have it reinforced. "Stuff" Does happen and not everything is always within our control! Thanks!

Posted by: Joanne M | January 28, 2011 5:50 AM    Report this comment

Please write MORE info on the non-surgical option (or where one can get more info-- we specific directions on how to do massage, dosing of supplements, etc) ...I'd love to know how to address a potential ACL problem (doc warned me that he's 'susceptible')

Posted by: MuttLover | January 6, 2011 10:58 PM    Report this comment

I have 3 pit-mixes, 11 and 12 years old. Two years ago, Gypsy tore her ACL. The vet did the usual wait and see protocol for 2 weeks but no improvement. With surgery imminent, I wanted to know my options. The vet said surgery would require months of recuperations but her knee would be back to 90% at best; alternatively, if I did nothing it would be the same. Six months later, with daily massages, glucosamine/chondroitin, tumeric as anti-inflammatory, as well as other supplements and a grain-free diet which included raw meat patties, Gypsy is running around like a maniac again. Once in a while, if she overexerts herself, she'll hop a bit; but after a nap, she's her old self again.

Three months after Gypsy first tore her ACL, Brandy also tore her ACL. I followed the same regiment. It took her a little longer to completely heal--I gauged her recovery by how well she climbed stairs--but today she's trotting upstairs and playing in the snow with no signs of slowing down.

If the injury is not severe, surgery is not the only option. I chose not to take the surgery route because of the age of my girls and all that surgery involved, e.g. anesthesia, medications, e-collars--not because I was stingy. I believe one should always ask the vet direct questions and do some research instead of yielding to an "easy" solution.

Posted by: Czerny | January 5, 2011 9:50 AM    Report this comment

So glad Scooter is ok! My little dog has luxating patellas too, but, knock wood, she's had no problems so far. A year ago though, she went to leap into my lap, somehow "missed" and twisted. She threw her back out. Luckily it resolved after a couple weeks of complete rest and doggie doses of aspirin. If that hadn't worked, it could have meant surgery, according to her vet. She's about 12 yo now, so that was my cue to no longer allow lap jumps.

Happy Holidays to all!

Posted by: Carolyn M | December 20, 2010 9:31 AM    Report this comment

A true Christmas blessing. Scooter is adorable.

Posted by: Ada S | December 16, 2010 8:59 AM    Report this comment

Beautiful article - it helps to be reminded that accidents happen despite our best efforts. Kayla had a tumble down a short flight of stairs yesterday. No injuries or even mental trauma. She popped to a sit, looked as if to say, "ta da" and waited for the customary treat provided to quadrupeds upon returning indoors. We felt sick as we watched the tumble unfold. Kayla has become hesitant at stairs since her legs have grown weak, but she was confident and hurried at the exhilaration of cold weather and a pending biscuit. We now know we need to manage her on the landing while we take off layers and boots. Thanks for a gentle pat on the conscience. Bob

Posted by: Robert R | December 13, 2010 3:05 PM    Report this comment

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