Chandler and Me

Now that Chandler, my husband, and I, are 9 ½ months past our surgery experience, I can say I am happy with the outcome. It is important to note we are still working towards the ultimate goal of letting Chandler run the 2 ½ acres we own.  I can also say though that the burden of worry is gone now because our life is basically back to normal around here.  So even if we have to make a few adjustments to meet Chandlers needs by keeping him on a leash when going beyond his smaller doggie yard outside, that is OK.  The positive gain from this experience is more in the forefront of my mind now.  I know Chandler is no longer  living with the pain he had in his knee.  We can put him in our car to travel and visit family worry free.  The option of boarding him with someone is now open to us because he does not need special care for a lame leg.  The IF factor in our lives is also gone.  You know that constant wondering and issue, IF, we had only done something to give Chandler and us a chance to make life better.  Do understand this has been a journey of challenging experiences of which I would not find  pleasant to repeat.  Only because it is timely and takes dedication.  But I can truly say that I think we made the right choice in going ahead with this surgery  and rehabilitation because right now, we are all OK.
Chandler, an Australian Shepherd I adopted 3 1/2 years ago was just shy of 7 years old. A joyful and energenic attitude is what drew me to the breed. Of course a little push from my daughter who raises Aussies helped a bit too. Chandler was just what I needed after loosing my old dog Buddy who had been with us for 16 1/2 years. To our suprise, we soon found out Chandler came along with a little baggage. Scared of Thunder, the sound of the microwave, gun shots, rain, sudden noises and sometimes even the wind, it just seemed like a continuous array of noise issues were becoming problematic. I pondered over what we were facing and knew we had our work cut out for us with this guy. My thoughts shifted over to a more positive attitude while considering how this dog would fit into our lives. High on my list of requirements in dog ownership are good house hold manners and good bathroom habits. Chandlers were impeccable. Those virtues coupled with his good attitude were a sure recipe for making this partnership work.

About a year into our partnership Chandlers strong focus on running with boundless energy got the best of him. I started to notice some lamness in his left rear leg. Overtime it became more evident we had a problem that needed tending to. We decided to take Chandler to the Vet and found out we had a knee problem. With the Vet’s advice, we put him on pain medication and a rest program for a few weeks hoping the problem would improve. His lamness soon came back. We practiced the same routine again and again, until the problem became cronic. Again, the decision was made to take Chandler back to the Vet, but for a more intense look at what was going on. At that time we found Chandler had not only torn the cruciate ligament in his knee, but there was a high chance the meniscus was also damaged. We had let this issue go to long. His lamness was clearly indisputable.

My husband and I were now faced with the thought of putting a 10 year old dog through an expensive surgery and rehabilitation, or being saddled with a lame dog. My worse fears were starting to emerge. I invisioned Chandler possibly loosing his leg if we kept going down the same path we were on and did nothing to change the situation. Or worse, having to put him down. It was too soon to even face that scenerio after having just lost a dog a few years prior to getting this one. Chandler was starting to put most of his weight on his good leg in order to function. In doing so he was loosing a significant amout of muscle mass in his lame leg from the lack of use. Besides I was getting a bit over the top with ridiculous concerns instead facing the reality of what could be done. It had finally come down to only one option, TPLO surgery. The TPLO surgery sounded so radical. The thought of cutting completely through a dogs leg bone and rotating the end to a different position, then holding it together with a plate until it healed, was frightening. All that, just to fix a knee! My reaction was you’ve got to be kidding! I wanted more options, and needed time to absorb the whole idea. The problem was, there weren’t anymore options. At least none that would improve Chandlers quality of life. And improving his quality of life would ultimately improve ours, would it not? A few days went by before we made our final decision. My thoughts were cluttered with questions. This is a large dog, an energetic dog, and a fearful dog. How are we going to help this 60 pound dog in and out of the house to relieve himself? He will have to be contained somehow after surgery. Will he stay in a kennel and not go crazy? What will we do during the monsoon season when he gets fearful? How long will it take for him to heal? How long will it take for us to get full recovery? Surely he will go nuts and blow this surgery. He’s an old dog. Will the effort and money be worth it? I prayed for peace of mind and help with a plan. Our final decision was made. Go through with the surgery.

Once we excepted our decision and scheduled the surgery I started working on a plan. I ordered a wire crate for a dog one size larger than Chandler’s size and weight. It had 3 doors so I could reach him at all angles. Chandler would be able to move around enough to change positions and stand up comfortably. I would also be able to crawl in to help him up if needed. I made Chandler sleep in the crate before his surgery to get used to it. We also placed the crate near our back door. This was to shorten the walking distance from the crate to where he would be relieving himself on bathroom outings. We ordered a body lifting harness for older dogs to help support him when he had to go potty. It had a thinner strap to support a male dog when relieving himself that would make the task easier. I also slept on the floor next to his crate on a mattress. This was so I had fast access to get him out of the crate when bad weather occurred. I was in for the long haul. I was looking at several months of nothing else but taking care of our dog. I just kept telling myself that time marches on no matter what we spend our time doing, so make the best of it. A few months out of my life taking care of this dog now, will certainly benefit us in the long run. The surgery was done and the follow up of appointments would begin.

The first few weeks were filled with some pretty intense care until we got the stitches taken out. Then the hardest part of the whole ordeal began. Waiting for the leg to heal. My husband and I spent time in rotation babysitting so Chandler would not be left alone. Soon we would be facing rehab to a better life. The first rehab session was scary too. I was not sure that Chandler was ready for what we were being asked to do. Will this work I wondered? Am I going to damage his leg with the flexion and extension exercises we were supposed to do? What if I do them wrong? Will Chandler recover to that 98 to 100% I was promised by the surgeon? Concentrating on the exercises helped curb the worry. As the days past, they soon turned into weeks. Each time we went to rehab Dr. Armstrong kept assuring us Chandler was making progress. Then she would add to our exercise program. My husband was busy building all the new agility items we needed for the tasks we were given. Thanks to him we saved some money because of his talents. As time passed I could finally see Chandlers improvement. That was the motivation I needed for seeing this through. This is working.

We are now seven months post surgery. Chandler is doing fine and so am I. Mind you, we still have a ways to go, but the hardest days are behind us. We will continue our exercises and walking program, because the benefits have included more than just rehab for Chandlers leg. During this time Chandler has gained some confidence and shed some of his fear issues. I have found my leadership role in this exercise program to help our relationship considerably. And the walks are good for my health as well. We have overcome fear issues to embrace a stronger relationship. This journey has been worthwhile. I guess the moral of this story would be, pray, stay hopeful, work hard, don’t give up, but cherish the time together, and you will reach your goal.

Demarise DuBord

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