Well, anyway, he’s lost a pants leg.
A few weeks ago Gromit developed a slight limp. It went away for a few days and then returned, and B and I debated about taking him in to see the vet. We figured since it was barely noticeable and it didn’t seem to slow Gromit down, we would just wait and see.
We finally took him in on Saturday morning, and the vet said to give him Rimadyl for pain/inflammation and just wait some more. On Sunday evening Gromit bounded off the porch and immediately stopped using his right rear leg. We took him back to the vet on Monday, where he was sedated for a full examination. The vet determined that he had a full ACL tear, and a referral was called in to a local surgery clinic. We discussed our options, researched all available surgeons, called for references (no joke), and decided on a repair procedure known as TPLO. We took turns working from home so we could sit with him and haul him back and forth from the backyard when he needed to potty. We fretted over our choice of surgeon, our choice of procedure, and what the next ten weeks would be like.
The surgery took place yesterday (Thursday), and we got to pick our little boy up today. Since I had to return to work, B opted to stay home with him this afternoon. For the next few days we’ll administer antibiotics and two types of pain medication twice daily, ice his leg, massage the area around it to encourage blood flow to the wound, and, when he’s up to it, manually flex the knee joint to prevent stiffness. For the first two weeks he’ll wear the cone of shame and we’ll carry him back and forth from the backyard so he can do his business. The rest of that time he will have to remain stationary. And if we leave him for any length of time, he needs to be crated.
After two weeks, we’ll take him back to the surgeon’s office for an evaluation, to remove his stitches, and to plan his therapy. At that point we’ll begin taking him to the clinic twice weekly, where he will work with a therapist and walk on an underwater treadmill. We’ll also start our own therapy routine at home. After six weeks he’ll be due for a re-evaluation and X-rays, to be sure that the bone is healing properly. And from that point until the ten-week mark, we’ll keep him from running, jumping, or playing…a seemingly impossible feat with this dog.
Here’s what all of that has meant to us.
On Monday when B and I found out Gromit needed an operation, we were both very upset. B came home to sit with Gromit while I returned to work. The vet recommended that we separate Gromit and Molly from one another during at least the first part of this process, so I drove to meet my mother and hand Molly off to her. I knew Molly would be spoiled rotten at my parents’ house, hanging out with their two labs and getting treats just for being there, but I couldn’t help crying most of the way home. I felt as though I’d banished a member of the family and dumped her, and I kept picturing her face in my mom’s car window as she watched me drive away.
On Tuesday I stayed home while B went to work and made arrangements to cancel his upcoming travel. (Thankfully, we work for a company that allows us to work from home as needed, and our bosses are compassionate people who didn’t laugh when we told them we wanted to sit at home with our dog.) I spent the day at my computer with Gromit at my side, taking breaks to half-carry, half-guide him out to do his business. B came home early to be with us, and we spent our evening on the living room floor with Gromit, watching TV together.
On Wednesday we met with a surgeon to discuss our options, selected the surgery we wanted Gromit to have, and bawled our eyes out–okay, I bawled my eyes out while B quietly hugged me–as Gromit was led away. We got a call that evening to say that the surgeon was stuck performing an emergency operation and we could take Gromit home for the night to wait for his postponed surgery the next morning.
On Thursday B and I went together (again) to leave Gromit at the clinic. He cheerfully bounded away from us on his three good legs (probably thinking, “Ha! These guys don’t do anything! They just put me in a cage and don’t stick me with needles or make me take pills!”) and realized just before walking through the door to the surgery wing that he was going in alone. Again, I had that feeling I was leaving my child behind as he turned toward us, saw us standing far behind him, and immediately his ears flattened and his smile disappeared. B had to usher me out the door before I could start crying again at the thought of all the pain he was about to endure and how I couldn’t explain it to him.
Last night I realized how truly lonely our house can be without our dogs here. We went out for dinner (plus appetizers! plus dessert! plus more time spent stalling!) after work just so we didn’t have to spend the whole evening at home. I was restless and depressed, so I spent the rest of the evening on the phone with my dad, who has been spoiling Molly this week. He stopped at one point during the call to tell me that Molly had heard him say Gromit’s name and immediately she’d started searching the house as if she thought she’d find him somewhere. Then he cheered me up by telling me that he was baking gingerbread cookies, and that he’d let each of the three dogs make one with their pawprint in it. I made the mistake of thinking he was only joking.
My boss, who is somewhat indifferent to dogs, has taken the time to ask me about Gromit every time we’ve spoken this week. Several coworkers have also been stopping by my office to check on things, and my facebook wall has been filled with well wishes for Gromit. (Not to mention, my friends haven’t harassed me for the fact that all of my recent updates have been about our dog. And that’s not only because he has a nationwide fan club of people who have fallen in love with him.) My mother has been calling to check in during her vacation in Florida, and my dad and sister have been relaying updates about Molly, telling us how much she’s enjoying her little vacation.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on why this is so hard for us, and why it was so easy for us to declare that price wasn’t an issue when the surgeon told us we were opting for the most expensive procedure. I’ve known lots of people that I thought were a bit ridiculous about their dogs, either because they dressed the dogs up in clothing and ribbons or because they constantly referred to the dogs as “children.” (So I may be guilty of the latter, but I always begin the conversation by saying “our dogs” first so the person I’m talking to doesn’t jump to the conclusion that I’m talking about real, human children. And that makes it okay, right? Right?) And to be honest, I often laugh at those people.
Yet here we are, spending our weekend on the floor with our dog and fretting over him because we know he’s uncomfortable. And here we are, realizing we just gave up a significant chunk of what we’re saving for a down payment on a house, just so we’d know Gromit has full use of his leg for the rest of his life. And we’re both perfectly content with that.
We love our little boy. And we love and miss our little girl, even though we truly hope she’s forgotten about us for the time being. And I’m ready for this next ten weeks to fly by, so we can all be under the same roof again, healed, jumping, playing, and running like we used to. Or maybe I’ll just leave the jumping and playing to the hounds, who I know will be ecstatic to be reunited with one another.
And ohhh man. If this is how I deal with our dogs being hurt, I know that one day our real children will absolutely break my heart.