At this point it’s pretty safe to assume that when I miss big chunks of blog time it’s for one of two reasons. (1) Work got crazy and life got insane or (2) something happened to my dog. Since work finally calmed down a bit, this absence can be attributed to reason number 2.
As you’re likely aware, I have not yet been blessed with any babies of the human variety (ugh, we should really chat about that at some point). But I do have a dog.
If you have any human children or find yourself lacking in love for all things puppy, you’re probably going to hate me a bit for saying this right now, but that’s ok… my dog is my baby, and I totally treat her like one.
I absolutely adore my Curly girl and love her more than I love myself. I’m pretty sure that if a car were careening toward my Curls, I’d jump in front of it to save her without a second thought.
Curly came into our home in October 2012, the same weekend my friends Ellen and Rob got married (such a happy weekend!), and my husband and I have been absolutely in love with her ever since. She’s a high-energy, super happy, double doodle (her parents were a golden doodle and a labradoodle) with cream colored curls befitting of her name (although she’s actually named for Curly Lambeau, the founder of the Packers).
Last fall, we started noting problems with Curly’s knees and our local vet recommended surgery to repair patellar subluxation (her knee cap is not where it should be). Doing what we thought was best for our sweet girl, we took Curls to an orthopedic surgeon in Appleton where she had her first surgery in October 2013.
And so did the next.
And the damage got worse after the second failure, necessitating a more extensive third surgery.
Which also failed.
Last Thursday, I took Curly back to the surgeon noting a decrease in her willingness to use that leg and the x-ray painted a rather grim picture, worsted only by the picture the surgeon painted me. Essentially, I left with two options, including doing nothing and hoping for some sort of adaptation to the new anatomy that would allow Curls some function in that leg or… amputation.
Ugh, my stomach.
The surgeon was apologetic, but resigned. Those were our options as far as he was concerned and that was that.
I had to call Seth and tell him the news. And then I had to drive the 2 hours home from Appleton, mulling it over in my head and nursing a nagging stomachache. I called my sister on the way home and, forgetting she’s preggo, ended up making her cry (hormones and all…), but she really is the best pup-auntie (or p-auntie– read it out loud, ha!) ever and it really helped to chat with her. Later on I talked to the incredibly kind and generous animal-loving folks I work with who were super encouraging and suggested we seek a second opinion at the University of Wisconsin – Madison vet school.
And that’s where we spent our day yesterday. So glad we did! We don’t necessarily have good news, per se. But we do have a new found cautious optimism based on the extensive examination and imaging studies they performed, the shocking amount of time the orthopedic surgeon was willing to spend with us talking and drawing diagrams and showing us 3D models and such, and the willingness of the folks in Madison to collaborate with the previous surgeon in Appleton as well as others to really think this through and come up with some better options (better than amputation, anyway) for our girl.
It was a long and exhausting day, but it was definitely worth it. And while I’m constantly worrying about the decisions we have made (Curls is essentially worse off at this point than if we’d never done surgery at all all– did we make the right choice?! should we have gone to Madison sooner? would they have done anything differently if we had???), I had a long car ride last night on the way home to think about what this has taught us, Seth and me, as future parents to more fur babies (pleeeeease, Sethy?!), human babies (hopefully), and as leaders of our family unit (said in my dad’s alien/robot voice, usually reserved for comments such as “hello, daughter unit…”).
- Second opinions are a good thing, medically or otherwise. It never hurts to get someone else’s take on something. Especially something big and important. (Like a career change and cross country move.) But even sometimes things that aren’t. (Like whether or not you should include a funding statement on a poster if there was no funding.) Knowing what we know now, I think we would definitely have had an additional medical consultation for Curly earlier. But when I think about it, it’s the same thing for my GI woes– it wasn’t getting better, so I kept pursuing alternatives until finally I found someone who did the right tests and asked the right questions and got to a diagnosis. When I have questions, or am afraid that the doctor might have questions of his or her own, from now on, I’ll be more willing to seek alternative advice, opinions, or just general thoughts. It never hurts to ask.
- Collaboration is so worthwhile. Oy, this is ironic. Seriously. Group work? I’ve never liked it. Never. I begged and pleaded my way out of it through elementary school, I stressed and worried my way through it in middle school and high school, I just did all the group work myself in college, and made sure I had a very solitary, dependent-on-no-one kind of thesis project in grad school. And then, I entered the real world and figured out why all those teachers had been trying so very, very hard to get me to participate in a team setting for all those years– because it’s necessary and it produces better results. Every project I work on now is a team effort and cultivating good team relationships has become a key aspect of my daily life– and thank goodness for it! I’d be l-o-s-t without the biostatisticians and programmers and budgeting folks who can do all those crazy things that just hurt my head to even think about. And I suppose it’s truly no different in medicine, human or veterinary. I’m sure Curly’s first surgeon is top notch and used to success. He should probably have consulted someone else or suggested that we do ourselves, if not after the first revision, than definitely after problems arose with the second. That’s what they’re doing for Curly down in Madison, because that’s what’s going to result in the best care. An introvert’s nightmare, true, but there’s definitely some merit to this whole collaborative practice thing.
- You don’t need much to be truly happy. Curly has been through a lot. Her first surgery was October 16th and she’s spent the past 5 months cut open, stapled and stitched closed, bandaged up, wearing a cone, confined to her kennel, limited to short leash walks with a sling, and pretty much continuously drugged. I’ve pulled at mats in her fur and cut her hair myself (and even accidentally nicked her once! it was the worst!!! I felt so horrible!!), I’ve spent an entire night wiping her backside and washing her blankets, I’ve sprayed her with stuff that stings and fed her stuff that’s bitter. Yet, through all of that, Curly still loves us and she’s still ridiculously and unreasonably happy. She goes crazy and tries hard to sit still despite her frantically wagging tail every time we walk in the door. She brings us toys and blankets to play. She bounds through the snow stopping to eat a bite here and there. She gives kisses and nuzzles my hand when it falls over the edge of the bed at night. She’s just such a happy girl. And that’s what every veterinary employee we’ve seen in the past couple of months has been amazed by– she should, by all accounts, not be this resilient. But she is. And thank goodness! We love, love, love our happy girl!
- Pets are a great source for giving and getting unconditional love. I love my pup. I love her like crazy. I know she’s not a human (seriously, I do know that) even though I often treat her like one. My mind is on her constantly and even if she ends up with no back legs, I’ll feel bad only at the thought that it could be somehow my fault, never about her condition. Because it truly doesn’t matter to me. She’s perfect, exactly as she is, no matter how ultimately functional or irreparable her leg ends up being. Taking care of her after surgery can be hard, but it’s worth it. Even the tough cares (seriously, the diarrhea after surgery #2 was not a joke) are totally worth it and done without a second thought because they’re done for her and I love her. Curly has taught me, for certain, that Seth and I are capable of great love– both for one another and for our family, whether fur or flesh. It’s a reassuring thought!
This has been a tough few months, for no one more so than Curly, I’m sure. But she’s just done so ridiculously well. We can’t explain it, but it seems like she knows we’re only trying to help her and that trust is amazing. (The only thing she doesn’t trust is that the treat your holding doesn’t have a pill inside of it– that still requires some trickery. Trickery or salami.) I’m certainly not glad for any of this, but I am grateful for the small reminders day in and day out that our household is a happy one, bum legs and all!
Coming up in the near future (in no particular order):
- A second look at STEMinity
- A more inclusive definition of family
- The adult version of “If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands”
- A book club quarterly review