Things vs. Other Things

Dear Internet,

Sorry I’ve been so… so… casual about our relationship over the last few days.

No, the dog hasn’t eaten my posts here and my comments elsewhere. The dog — specifically, The Pooch — has in fact eaten damned little of anything at all. She’s recovering from surgery on both back knees, to correct a problem called either luxating patella or patellar luxation — I guess depending on whether one wants to emphasize the kneecap (= patella), or to emphasize the thing which happens to the kneecap.

Basically, the problem — common in small dogs, but it also can affect other small animals — seems to be that the bones of the knee are too small. The kneecap fits into a groove in the femur. The groove keeps the kneecap from moving from side to side, while allowing it to slide up and down as the leg straightens and bends. In many small dogs, the groove is too shallow, and as a result — as pressure is put on the leg from turning, or simply standing in place — the kneecap slips out of the groove, rotating to the outside (in The Pooch’s case)… where nothing in particular keeps it in place for much of any use at all.

Over time, the kneecap tends to stay displaced, so the dog not only develops a sort of bowlegged stance (no doubt considered “cute” by some humans) but becomes lame: unable to climb stairs, for example, or change directions easily without falling over.

(We’d already seen some signs of this in The Pooch. Our living-room floor sits about four to five inches below the level of the foyer, hall, and dining-room floors; if The Pooch was with you in the living room, and you threw a rubber ball down the hallway, you might see her jumping up and sideways onto the raised floor area as she took off to chase it — scrambling eagerly to her feet as her back legs collapsed under her. Not cute. Not cute at all.)

The surgical procedure to correct this is simple in the abstract, but very complicated in practice — complicated by the small size of the bones in question. The vet goes in and intentionally, and temporarily, displaces the kneecap off to one side. Then s/he deepens the groove at the front of the femur — not too much (the femur itself isn’t all that big on such a dog), just enough to keep the knee functioning as it’s supposed to function.

Our vet warned us in advance that the recovery period would be up to a couple months long, just as it is for certain human knee surgery. Furthermore, he would probably have to do the two knees one after the other, meaning Do Leg 1, allow it to recover, then Do Leg 2 and let it recover. Three to four months total.

Luckily, The Pooch turned out to be one of those cases in which he could do both legs at once, combining their recovery periods, halving the need for anesthetics, and so on.

On the downside, of course: this way, The Pooch has full use of only two legs during recovery. For the first two weeks, especially, we have to keep her confined to a fairly small dog crate/kennel, except for bathroom breaks.

I won’t go into details about why the latter are so complicated in This Pooch’s case. I’ll just say that in the universe inside her head, no bathroom breaks exist, because the sheer thought of them — let alone of taking them publicly, as the idiot humans seem determined to require of her — is enough to immobilize her with embarrassment. So imagine the humiliation of having a human put a harness and leash on your shoulders, as usual… and then add a second leash to your hindquarters as s/he walks you around the front yard like a marionette, never quite able to crouch enough to do your business, adding just the right (or wrong) amount of additional pressure around your lower abdomen…

No, dear Internet, The Pooch has not been radiating happiness these last few days. (Even with plenty of highly effective painkilling drugs.) So basically, I (alternating with The Missus) just sat with her as much as possible.

Meanwhile, I have learned that I’ve won a free book. A signed copy of a free book. A signed copy of a free book which — if all that’s not enough — illustrates almost too well the truth of the “youth is wasted on the young” adage. This book:

If you’re interested in learning more about it, I direct your attention to either the site of its author, Chris Barton, or to this interview at the incomparable Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast children’s-books blog.

(But of course you already know about those two sites, O Internet. They are, after all, on you.)

I shall be getting back into my own groove over the next few days.

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  1. Aw, sorry your little doggy is under the weather, but I’m glad the problem is fixed. She’ll be scampering about in no time, hopefully.

    Congrats on your loot!

  2. Best wishes to the pooch.

  3. Dear ‘The Pooch’ owner,

    It is so difficult having pets in many ways. I was very reluctant to take on a cat because of the responsibility. “The responsibility!” I hear you cry – “this is nothing, think the pressures of a responsible life saving job, having children, having a partner or other relitive reliant upon you. – fg! A cat is a small responsibility”, you might say.

    But it weighed on my mind because though “only a cat” (I adore her but still) I could not bear to see her suffer one bit (she recently did and I flipped out).
    So its tricky with all the costs you mention above. I guess the key is, do you think she’s in or will be in pain?

  4. Sherri and marta: Thanks! And yes, we’re counting on the return of the scampering phase in what will seem — when we’re looking back on it — to have been no time at all.

    fg: Everything is relative. Coldly and objectively, a pet is “just” one more thing in the household requiring attention. But I’ve found it pretty much impossible NOT to develop a sense of huge responsibility for the animals that have shared our home, no matter how much it upset me at first to have the delicate equilibrium of relationships thrown out of whack.

    With Sophie (The Pooch), yes, the tradeoff we came to — we dithered about this for a looong time — was to accept her short-term suffering in place of long-term misery. Which sounds awfully easy, in bare words like that. But it’s really NOT that easy in practice, not psychologically anyhow.

  5. Dear John,

    The wonderful thing, though, is that you DID take care of her. You didn’t abandon her to her troubles as many seem to do (just take a look at the local animal shelters). I think having animals and taking care of them, no matter what, is noble. I really do! And the fact that you are such a compassionate person really helps a lot. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for little Sophie and thoughts and prayers to you and the Missus.

  6. My best wishes to the pooch, too!

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