Charlie’s Angels

December 21, 2009 at 9:20 pm 19 comments

Charlie and I took a field trip last week.  We went to see a veterinarian whose specialty is orthopedic surgery.

Charlie has had a noticeable limp since he arrived here.  He avoids putting weight on his right leg, his knees turn out in an odd way, and he can only get up on the furniture if we help him.  I waited to take him in to get it looked at for a couple of reasons.  First, he was a snarky, stressed-out little snot and I wanted to wait until he’d progressed to a point where the visit would be only moderately stressful for him and the vet; and second because I had a nagging suspicion that the help Charlie needed would be more than either NESR or I could afford right now.

Last week I knew we were both ready to make the trip — and now I have good news, bad news and more good news to report.

Good news:  Charlie stayed remarkably calm for more than an hour while he was in a strange place surrounded by strange people who did strange things to him.  It was a bit of a hike to the clinic — the kind of drive that would have provoked a frantic, scrabbling, whining, puking reaction in him a couple of months ago — but today Charlie and Audie rode together without incident.  The clinic staff didn’t coo or gush over Charlie (he hates that), and he and I both appreciated the professional, matter-of-fact way this clinic operated.   I stayed with Charlie and held him during the exam.  While I’m sure it was painful, he took it like a trooper and we didn’t need to muzzle him.

Bad news:  Charlie has a grade four luxating patella on the right and a grade two on the left.   The right knee isn’t just painful, if it isn’t repaired soon the misalignment will damage his knee and hip.  The left knee, while not as severely affected as the right, also needs to be repaired.  Net cost – about $3,500.

Good news:  Not only has the surgeon offered to give us a discount — but in a stroke of wild, wonderful, good fortune — an anonymous benefactor (or benefactors) has volunteered to pay for Charlie’s surgery.

This wonderful, beautiful, unselfish, anonymous gift was given in the true spirit of Christmas.  And we will always be grateful.

I’ll call to schedule surgery on Charlie’s right knee this week.  The goal is to stagger his surgery and mine by a couple of weeks to reduce the level of inconvenience involved.   One armed handler and three-legged dog, Charlie and I will rest, heal and work on physical therapy together this winter.   Audie will go back to being my service dog, and Zip will sulk because we’re not focusing on her needs (throw!)

By summer both of Charlie’s knees should be healed.  According to the orthopedic vet, when both of a dog’s knees are damaged as badly as Charlie’s are, repairing them has an almost immediate positive effect on behavior problems like shyness, reactivity and aggression.  So this surgery should help heal his soul along with his body.

Thanks to Charlie’s Angels a truly wonderful little dog who was once tossed out like a piece of trash gets a chance to move on to the kind of life and home he deserves.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts —

Next winter Charlie will be leaping through the snow - at his forever home

Entry filed under: amazing, dogs, injured, rescue. Tags: , .

Hunting For The Spirit of Christmas Hunte Corp Fined for Chemical Violation

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rob McMillin  |  December 21, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Um, you’re welcome.

  • 2. Rob McMillin  |  December 21, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    And, what is up with your comment timestamp? Looks like its stuck on UTC.

  • 3. SmartDogs  |  December 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm



    I had no idea.

    And now I’m all weepy again….
    [hugs Charlie]
    [would hug you too if you were here]

  • 4. Miz Minka  |  December 21, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Hi SmartDogs, I’m a long-time lurker. I’m currently dog-less (not by choice), but I have loved reading about Charlie’s progress and the wonders you’re working with him! This tale of generosity and good news is a wonderful and uplifting gift for the season. Happy Holidays to you and yours (two- and four-legged)!

  • 5. bluntobject  |  December 22, 2009 at 5:10 am

    Aw, HELL YEAH. I think my misanthropy just went into temporary remission.

    Need travel funding? Send me an email and I’ll send you a cheque.

  • 6. SmartDogs  |  December 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Thanks sweetie, but with Rob’s help we can cover the rest of Charlie’s expenses (food, travel, followup visits) – but – NESR has other dogs in need, so if you’re suffering from a serious deficiency of misanthropy, send them a little love on Charlie’s behalf. Checks and paypal cheerfully accepted.

  • 7. Rob McMillin  |  December 22, 2009 at 7:31 am

    And as with Henry and Copper, I want to stress that this was not done by us alone. The NESR has helped a lot.

  • 8. Rob McMillin  |  December 22, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Argh, that sounds presumptuous. This wouldn’t be possible without the NESR.

  • 9. H. Houlahan  |  December 22, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I wonder now about Charlie’s knees …

    Luxating patellas, while not unknown in ES, are not common.

    Charlie has one possible relative who produced a couple pups with bad knees in one litter out of many that he sired. But that relationship would depend on Charlie being a descendant of ONB Sam, and I’ve no reason to think he necessarily is. And it would be a very distant relationship at this point, anyway, even if Sam was his sire, which is unlikely.

    (BTW, the dog I was telling you about a while back that I was remembering with a bum knee — brain fart, it was an ACL tear.)

    So, Henry’s vet thinks that Henry’s bilateral knee problems are traumatic in origin — that he was squashed down from above as a very young pup.

    I have heard stories of animals being stood upon as “punishment.”

    So now I wonder.

  • 10. SmartDogs  |  December 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Can you pm me info to get in touch with Henry’s vet? I may want to put Charlie’s orthopod in touch. The idea that the same thing could have happened to Charlie makes me feel physically ill, but it could certainly explain a few things…

  • 11. Rob McMillin  |  December 22, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    So, from what I can tell at the link in the story above, the problem is mainly that the patella isn’t running true in its natural groove (and in the case of Charlie’s right knee, can’t even be manually manipulated back into its normal position). From the little I know of anatomy, does this imply the problem really is one of the connective tissue being damaged and then re-growing in such a way as to pull the kneecap out of alignment?

  • 12. SmartDogs  |  December 22, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Yes, this is the problem. Luxating patellas can arise from either soft or hard tissue abnormalities or a combination of both.

    In C’s case the groove on one edge of the right knee is completely gone so it can’t hold the patella in at all. To repair it the vet will need to do two things: router out a new groove on the femur and then, because it the patella has been pulled so far off to one side (sorry, I do not know which side – &^%$ dyslexia), he will cut off the bit of bone where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibia (keeping the tendon attached) then move it to one side and re-attach it. Bone heals more easily than tendon, so this speeds up rehab (wish they could do that to my shoulder…)

    After that we do about 3 months of physical therapy (husband and I will do that at home) to help the soft tissues heal correctly. Then we do the left one.

    We *hope* the left knee only requires re-grooving of the femur, but it ortho vet says there is at least a 50-50 chance that it will require re-attachment of the patellar tendon too as, while he can put the left patella back in, it slips back out almost right away.

  • 13. Rob McMillin  |  December 23, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I keep looking at his picture.

    I can’t wait for him to be well.

  • 14. Helen McMillin  |  December 23, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    He looks like such a happy boy in the picture. It’s such a great shot. Thanks for sharing it.

  • 15. Rachael Roper  |  December 24, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Regarding the possibility of ONB Sam being related to Charlie – just a reminder that Charlie’s possible mom is Skye, who’s possible dad is Sam. I know that is a lot of “possibles” but you never know… I’m so excited that he will get the surgery he needs to be a happy healthy dog.

  • 16. Chas S. Clifton  |  December 26, 2009 at 4:41 am

    What a time that Charlie has had. You are amazing to take such good care of him, especially considering that you plan to give him up.

    I’ve relied on a couple of your posts about him in dealing with my maniac Chesapeake, but I hope to get the payoff of a good better dog in the future.

  • 17. Mike  |  January 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Our Akita had the surgery for a level 4 luxating patella about three months before we adopted her. Recovery seems to be slow and frustrating for the dog, but she is 100% now and loving it. We are so grateful for the shelter fund and the volunteer vet who handled the surgery so we could end up with her. At about 3 months she was walking without a real limp, but was still supposed to be off of running or bouncing anywhere, and couldn’t support her weight on three legs if one of them was the bad one.

    You may want to re-evaluate how well the dog is doing after he is mostly recovered from the first surgery to see how necessary the second knee is – not just from a cost standpoint, but from the fact that it is a very long recovery process for the dog. Ours is down to a level 1.5-2 in both knees after surgery on her first, and the surgeon took a look at her and said he wouldn’t recommend trying to fit things any farther. The dog’s happy and doesn’t seem to notice. She’s never going to be comfortable enough on the knees to be as fast as she could be, or to do flyball work or something, but she walks and runs around happily and has started jumping up onto things (oh joy).

    Just letting you know how our experience went. It was soo hard to make sure she didn’t overexert during recovery, especially toward the end of it when she started feeling comfortable enough on the knee to get excited and starting playing again. Absolute best of luck to you and Charlie. He’s so lucky to have you.

  • 18. SmartDogs  |  January 6, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Thanks. We have a very good orthopod and plan to take his advice about a second surgery later this year. The right knee is a big problem – it provides almost no support, so it’s not optional to leave it the way it is.

    Having had some experience of long, frustrating, painful rehab myself – I feel uniquely qualified to nurse Charlie through the process.

  • 19. Mike  |  January 6, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, I have no doubt to your vet’s competence nor to your ability to help Charlie through these troubling times. Just wanted to share our experience with the surgery and recovery. I wish you both the absolute best luck.

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