Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dog Days

Apparently it's my year for doggy drama. First losing Izzi in October to a rare heart explosion.

Then my friend Rob asks me to dog-sit for his brother for a month. No problem, right? Sweet dog. Calm. Smart. Chocolate lab -- very soulful eyes.

But he's an escape artist, and soon he and Cleo are out on the town. He returns like a gentleman a day later, strolls right back through the back door as though in from a jaunt.

Cleo takes advantage of the freedom and ROAMS. Flyers and many panic attacks later, I call about a cryptic note on the Animal Services Website: "Female tan pitbull. Age unspecified." Worth a call, right? She's been found by Paul, who sounds nice enough. I describe Cleo, he describes the dog he met, and they don't seem to match up. His mention of the brindle on her belly is particularly disappointing. That's not my sweet girl. He's had her chip read, and it came up with a couple of names from somewhere in the NE heights. Doesn't sound like my dog. But he says, you should come by or else we'll always wonder. Wise man. So I hop on my bike on one of the hottest afternoons of this summer, and haul up to Stanford and Lead -- a good five miles from my house at least. And there she is. All unapologetic smiling girl herself.

Bring her home -- she's all casual. I'm in disbelief but happy -- sooooooo happy. I really didn't think I'd see her again.

The next morning, the dogs are in the front yard. I'm changing to take them for a long Sunday morning hike. Hobbes slips through the picket slats, Cleo follows, I run down screaming at them both, and suddenly, Cleo can't walk on one of her legs. She holds it at an odd angle as she hops around. But it serves her right, right? This will teach her! She'll hobble around for a couple days, and then she'll be fine.

Only she doesn't get better. She can't get comfortable. She's sitting on her knees holding herself up with her front legs. It looks awkward and painful, with her leg crumpled beneath her. I take pity and take her to the vet. They have no time for an appointment, so I drop her off so they can take x-rays when they have a minute during the day.

Bad news: her hip is dislocated, and she'll need surgery. So I try to make her an appointment at the surgery clinic, but of course they can't get her in until the morning. We wait 45 minutes in the lobby, where she can't calm down, and each time she settles, another dog comes along and gets her up and agitated. It takes the surgeon 10 minutes to say there's no hope for reconstruction (it's been too long since the original trauma, which we're still not sure of -- maybe she got hit by a car? No guilt about waiting to take her in. None at all! Gulp.) unless I want to replace her hip altogether for the bargain price of $3700. Ummm... what's the next best option? Cutting off her femur.

What's that? You heard right. They cut off the top of the femur so that the bone no longer comes in contact with the hip. The dog can walk on the leg, but she'll never be able to run normally or for very long. There goes jogging. And one of the reasons I got a dog is to go jogging and feel safe. Guess it's time for yoga! Lots of down dogs. Literally.

So I take her back to my vet, where at least she got good attention and lots of love. In fact, the nurse offered to take her home -- okay actually threatened to steal her -- AFTER I pay for the surgery. That was funny. At least, I think she was kidding. She was. She's the sweetest vet assistant ever. Cheers to the Manzano Animal Clinic. Best vet in town.

But of course they can't do the surgery until tomorrow, so 2.5 hours and 3 car trips later, I take Cleo home, drug her up, and head to work.

Tomorrow's the big day. Say bye bye to cartillage.

I've been telling people I'm going to have to get one of those medical tags that declares her condition so that the next time she escapes whoever finds her will know she's missing a hip and shouldn't run! I can just see Mr. Skateboarding trying to leash her up again for a quick pull and running over her when she falls!

Send us your fastest healing wishes. We'll need them.

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