Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Flying Mo and his TPLO

The Flying Mo

Moses has been a hard charging dog all his life. When he was seven weeks old we brought him home to live with us at Jolico Farm. We took him to the top of the highest hill on the farm and told him that the entire world that he could see from that lofty vantage point belonged to him. He took us literally, as German Shepherds do, and he took charge of his world. Every hill, every valley and all that the farm contained, he became master thereof.

And so he came to know every rock, every blade of grass, every smell, every bush and tree, every groundhog hole, all the geese who stopped by on their yearly migrations, all the muskrats and fish in the lake, as well as the mail lady, the UPS and Fed Ex drivers and the neighbor farmers who work our fields.

Mo has put a lot of miles on his body in his 8-1/2 years at Jolico Farm. Most of those miles were racked up at warp speed and many of the distances he traversed were taken in great leaps and bounds while patrolling his territory. 

When he was seven weeks old he obsessively picked up bits of gravel in his mouth. We retrained him to carry sticks in order to keep him away from the gravel, so he developed an obsession with carrying around wooden sticks. At eight months of age Mo lost a tooth when he ran through a tight space between the barn wall and the post and rail fence while carrying a long stick in his mouth. The stick got jammed between the barn and the fence as he was charging through and out popped a molar which never grew back.

Mo the corn-dog!
At three years of age, while galloping through a snow-covered, harvested cornfield, Mo came down on a sharp piece of corn stubble which sliced into his carpal pad and led to a bloody ride to the vet to be repaired.

At five years of age Mo broke his left rear 5th toenail and wrenched his right knee hurtling himself off a high bank and across a small stream. This time he required surgery to extract the broken nail. His knee was never the same after this happenstance and has caused him painful episodes of lameness over the past three years.

This year in early November we came to that place where the rubber meets the road. After a painful summer, Mo's right knee was frequently limiting his activities of daily living and we knew we had to do something to help him. Our local veterinarians knocked him out and got some stress x-rays of his knees, confirming what we already suspected. Mo had torn his right cruciate ligament and he needed major surgery.

We were referred to Dr. Jon Anderson, a specialist orthopedic veterinarian at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, who recommended a TPLO procedure. The description of a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy would make you squirm if you heard all the tortuous details about how they cut the dog’s lower leg bone in half and re-angle it, securing it with a plate and six screws in order to eliminate the dog’s need for the stabilizing cranial cruciate ligament, and about how they remove the torn knee cartilage. They told us the new angle of the tibia would stabilize the knee joint and in several months, when recovery was complete, Moses could return to full athletic ability.

We were of mixed minds -- obsessively sick with worry over the consequences and ramifications of a major leg procedure. Would it work? Would there be complications? What about infection? What about him surviving the operation? But life was not joyful for him in his present condition so we knew we had to take the chance. Three weeks later, on Nov. 19th,  we delivered up our precious Moses for surgery.

Moses at home after surgery with Louie the cat keeping him company.
Dr. Anderson's initial impression was that Mo had a partial tear of his cruciate ligament. But post-operatively, he told us that when he got into the knee, he found that, unbelievably, Moses' cruciate ligament had been completely torn, and it had already been re-absorbed by his body.There was no sign that there had ever been a ligament present. Moses had been doing a great job of hiding his pain and disability from us. We knew then that we had made the right decision for him. Without this surgery, he would have developed progressively painful degenerative arthritis in the knee joint and decreasing ability to use his leg. He would eventually have been reduced to living his life as a 3-legged dog.

Our world has drastically changed over the intervening month since Mo had his surgery. He has had many restrictions placed on his days, as have we. No running, no stairs, no outdoors except for potty trips, no walking, no slippery floors, confinement to a 10 x 10 space or locked in a crate when not supervised. For a month we could not leave him alone lest he chew at his incision and create a deadly wound infection. We moved downstairs to the living room to sleep on our two couches so that he would not be alone. The cats, not to be left out, moved to the living room with us. We could not leave the house together for the first month; always ensuring that at least one of us was present for our boy. 

His first week or two were spent in a pain-killer haze, but slowly his incision began to heal and the hair has begun to grow back on his shaved leg. He has become perky again, even wanting to chase the cats. It's now difficult to keep his exuberance for life in check.

We are now in the middle of week #5. At this point and until he gets his 8-week x-rays in mid-January, he is allowed to walk slowly on a leash the length of one to two blocks a day. We all still sleep in the living room but we are breathing a bit easier knowing that the leg is healing and gaining strength, and he continues to make small daily improvements.

Now, if we can just keep it all together until we get our collective freedom back, we'll be home free. We'll keep you posted!

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing home your beautiful Moses has ... I admire your strength and dedication to see him through this and understand the commitment it takes. You are all in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas season. Clearly your love for Moses is such a wonderful thing to see.

    Thanks so much for staying in touch. Blessings from SunnyRoomStudio. ~ Daisy, Noah & Orion