Our sweet boy has had a traumatic week. The good news is that the worst is over. I think even Argus can see the light at the end of the tunnel at this point.
Melody and I drove Argus to Davis on Monday morning to meet with our student doctor and the teaching professional for a consultation. Argus has the waiting room thing down and was not frantic to leave, as he often is at our normal vet’s office. In fact, he made himself right at home!
Our appointment started on time and I was immediately put at ease. Our student surgeon, Kristy Bowles, and her teacher, Dr. Lauren Larue, were very professional. While I had done my research and already knew most of the information they shared, they did answer my few questions honestly and compassionately.
One question I am thrilled I thought to ask: How big will the incision be? My expectation was literally 3-5 inches — you know, about the width of his arm. Dr. Larue held up her fingers to show the distance and it was LONG. Like, a foot long. I did not realize they were taking his entire scapula as well as the arm! Thank goodness for expectations being set!
They also managed my expectations regarding his homecoming. Both doctors seemed quite concerned about the size of “this big guy” and his ability to find balance and coordination immediately. In some cases, they keep the amputee for a couple of days so their team of aides can work with him and send him home set up for success. They would not know until Wednesday morning if we’d be able to take him home that night or if we would need to wait.
I waited impatiently all day Tuesday for the call from Ms. Bowles to let me know how the surgery went. The call finally came at 5 PM and was positive. The surgery was a success! She assured me that she would call me as soon as she got him up on Wednesday morning to see how well he was ambulating.
Wednesday’s call came at 8:20 AM. She was surprised and delighted to inform me that when she walked in to get Argus, he popped up on three legs as if to say, “Good morning!” What a good sign! She was able to walk him out to go to the bathroom, assisting him with a sling under his chest and he was adapting very well. We could take him home! Greg and I left at 3 PM to go get him (it’s a ~2 hour drive to Davis from San Mateo).
I was nervous. I brought a roadie in the car, just to dull my nerves a bit. Specifically, I kept picturing the estimated length of the incision. I don’t do well with stitches or staples and I knew they’d be right out there for the world to see. I also knew I needed to suck it up. So I sucked up some wine first and that helped!
It was dusk when Ms. Bowles walked him out to us. It was clear he was pretty drugged-up, but his tail did wag when he saw and heard us. It was pretty amazing to see him “walking” with a slight assist. From my vantage point for the below picture, I can’t see the damage and I think he looks great!
He was walking reasonably well, I’d say. Inertia kind of sets in on both ends. It takes him quite a bit of cajoling to get going, but then he gets on a roll once he starts. It was ungraceful getting him in the car, but we were finally on the road. I opted to sit in back with him. It was all I could do to comfort him (and be comforted myself).
The car ride home was uneventful. He settled well and rested his head on my lap. Once we got home, we fumbled around to get him out of the car. We ended up just having Greg carry him into the house, knowing he had to be in pain from all the movement and still very tired and woozy from the drugs. He seemed happy to be home, especially when he heard us preparing his dinner. Some things never change… He waited patiently on his bed, rather than at my feet.
Obviously, you can see the large area they shaved for the surgery, and you can see part of the incision. There is no “stump” left. The whole area looks very swollen and bruised. After dinner, I sat on the floor with him and he fell asleep with his head in my lap. I was confident he would sleep well through the night based on all the drugs and the exhausting day overall.
I could not have been more wrong. Misery loves company, as they say, and we were all miserable.
Argus cried all night long. He wasn’t comfortable on his bed on the floor in our room, even with me laying next to him. We lifted him into our bed so he’d be cocooned between us. He still cried. Even with pain meds administered at 7 PM and 10 PM, we gave him more at 2 AM. And still there was more crying. He tried to get off the bed on his own, and luckily Greg woke up and caught him before he fell off. I walked him out to the living room and laid next to him where we had been earlier in the evening. He still cried. Around 4:30 AM, he got up, wanting to walk. He walked to his favorite spot on the couch, so I helped him up. I laid next to him and he still cried. He wanted up again, and he led me into our bedroom and crawled up into bed with Greg. More crying. None of us got any sleep. Greg and I were at our wit’s end, wondering what was wrong and how to make it better. Is this what parents of newborns go through??
Finally, when the sun came up and everyone was up and moving, he quit crying. We have no idea why he was crying to begin with or why it stopped at that particular time. Maybe he’s afraid of the dark all of a sudden?? I was concerned about spending the day with him by myself based on how laborious the night was. Greg went in to work late and busied himself building a ramp for easier access to the yard.
We got him to go down the ramp to try and potty, but he was having none of it. He did seem to be more stable standing on his own and we lingered a few minutes.
Looks pretty precarious, doesn’t he? I fashioned that bandana around his neck as a quick way to grab him if he starts to go down. It isn’t as abrasive as his collar and gives him a bit of flair! From there, the day got much better. Argus settled down and started to snooze. I cleaned up the “slumber party” that happened in the living room overnight and made breakfast. At least he wasn’t crying!
Needing a little fresh air myself, I barricaded him in his corner and went for a run. While I was nervous the entire time (especially since I forgot to put his anti-chew collar on), I knew I had left him in a safe spot and we both needed the solitude.
Here’s what I found when I got back:
Argus made his way through my barricade (a chair turned on its side, covered with pillows), walked the ~10 doggy steps across the living room, and made it up onto his overstuffed chair BY HIMSELF! And, he didn’t tear all his staples out.
I am in awe.
He has been in the chair for at least five hours now, and has even gotten himself up and turned around 180 degrees to find a different comfortable spot. He greeted the UPS man with a growl and then graciously accepted the treat he was offered. Things seem as normal as ever.
We’ll see how tonight goes when the lights are out, but I am hopeful that we have his pain under control and he feels more in control, in general. With two competitive triathletes in the house, I guess Argus is making his statement as a successful tri-pawed!