Lucy update: 4 April 2012

Overly-ambitious by bad9brad
Overly-ambitious, a photo by bad9brad on Flickr.

Lucy had her annual exam today. Everything appears okay with her: her teeth are in good shape, her heart and lung sounds were good, and she’s lost a bit of weight since the amputation surgery. Lucy now weighs 70.3 pounds — she had gained a bit before the surgery as I kept her inactive. Lucy’s vet was very impressed with her progress and the surgery site is completely healed. Even the “armpit” area is filling in with hair… you can only find it if you’re looking for it.

Tri-pawed

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After scheduling Lucy’s amputation surgery for tomorrow (Monday) morning, I’ve been doing some reading and research about three-legged dogs. Although several people made jokes about changing her name to “Hop-a-long” or “Tripod,” I’ve discovered that a lot of people with a three-legged dog use the term “tri-pawed” or “tripawd” when talking about their pet — it’s become shorthand in some circles. Please note, I am not changing Lucy’s name to any of these terms; if anything, I would call her “money pit.”

One of the items I’m looking to purchase is a full-torso harness with a handle on it. The handle will allow me to lift and assist Lucy over rough terrain and rocks as well as up and down stairs and into the truck. Many tri-pawed owners recommend the Ruff Wear Web Master Harness and I think I’ll purchase one of these for Lucy. She’ll still jump in and out of the truck and run up and down steep hills, even if she shouldn’t, but she will certainly need some assistance for the first few weeks after the surgery. There is also a D-ring in the harness itself, situated midway on the back that will allow her leash to attach instead of on her collar — I’ve read that three-legged dogs need to have a leash centrally-located to keep them from being pulled to one side and losing their balance.

I spent the day today playing with the dogs and taking them for a long walk in the nice weather (shh, don’t tell our vet we took a walk). We’re headed to the pet store in a while to grab more dog food and probably some special treats, too. Lucy deserves a good day before losing one of her legs.

We Tried

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After two and half years of fighting Lucy’s leg injury with bandages, a toe amputation and an arthrodesis surgery, we’ve come to the point where a decision had to be made: continue spending time and money to “save” the leg (and potentially suffering from an untreatable infection the next time she cuts her paw open), or remove the leg and let her live a more normal life. It’s a tough decision.

I’ve been told by many well-meaning people that three-legged dogs do just fine. They run and play and don’t seem to notice they aren’t like the other dogs. I’ve seen this myself as there are quite a few three-legged dogs in the area. I like the thought that Lucy will be able to play and go hiking and camping without the concern that she’ll lose the hiking boot she wears and cut her paw open (again). We won’t have to worry about bandages and the eventual resistance to almost all types of antibiotics and downtime healing up her paw. The money saved on many fewer visits to the vet for exams and bandaging and re-bandaging and more antibiotics… well, that would be nice too.

The hard part is making the decision… making the decision for a family member who cannot make the decision herself. It’s not a decision I am making lightly, either. If somebody came to me and told me that for everybody’s benefit I would need to have an arm amputated, I’m not sure how I would feel. I know dogs don’t have the mental capacity to reason through this process and I shouldn’t anthropomorphize their “feelings” into the decision, but I can’t help it. It’s a “life-changing” decision for her and for me. I’ve made the decision and I have to convince myself it’s the right thing to do.

We have a consultation with one more specialist tomorrow afternoon, and while I don’t want to go into the appointment with my mind pre-determined on the course of action, I’m unsure what he can say that will change my mind about the amputation. I’ve also decided that I don’t want any kind of prosthesis for her — all of the dogs I’ve seen with an amputation seem to get around quite well without any prosthetics.

Pending some miraculous and game-changing treatment option from the specialist tomorrow, we’ve tentatively scheduled the surgery for Monday 28 November.