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Day 2 – Picking Up Our Girl

The vet tech opened the side door, and out hopped Marley. Half of her body was shaved, and there was that awful incision – I won’t downplay it, it was incredibly tough to see it. We had a hell of a time trying to get her into the backseat and onto her bed. At 75 pounds, she isn’t a small dog, and she hates being picked up and squirms like a madwoman during any of the approximately 4 times in her entire life I have tried. My partner and the vet tech each took a front and a back and got her in. She ended up squealing quite a bit, which immediately made me feel disgusted with my decision. And helpless. So helpless. She looked confused and sad and not her usual self – all of which I knew was normal, and I was expecting it, but it was STILL tough to see. I sat in the backseat and scratched her head for the 40-minute drive back home.

Getting her out was another big problem. We didn’t want to pick her up due to the squealing previously. Her incision was incredibly high up and there didn’t seem to be any “good” spots on her body to pick her up. We gathered several couch cushions and positioned them as stairs for her. She was 0% interested in moving. She was on her dog bed so we very carefully just moved it down each “stair” until finally, it was flat on the pavement.

She hopped through to the backyard, but it was painful to watch. Again, I KNEW to not expect much, but seeing it firsthand with your own dog vs reading blogs on the Internet is much more heartwrenching. We managed to get her into the basement (her spot for healing and where she had spent the vast majority of the past 3 months given her sore body) and she laid down on the carpet. I have to admit, she looked like an adorable seal.

She was really sleepy (they said she didn’t really sleep much at the hospital and was very vocal / anxious) and passed out for a couple of hours. She refused to get up and peed herself a couple of times, so we put puppy pads down and decided we wouldn’t force her to get up, not on day one. She had been through enough.

The night was mostly uneventful although she did bump her stitches when she stood up to readjust herself on her bed and yelped. As I was sleeping beside her on the couch, I just tried to reassure her and give her pets. She quickly fell back asleep.

Day 1 – Amputation Day

Today was the big day. We met the surgeon the day before for our consultation, and he miraculously had an opening the following day for the surgery. This was the only time throughout our entire ordeal that anything had been turned around so quickly – and of course, I was a nervous mess. I still wasn’t sure I was making the right decision. People offered “Trust your gut” but my gut wasn’t telling me anything. Logically, I knew this was her best shot at life. There was no way we could keep her hopped up on pain meds (that frankly were doing nothing to manage her pain) forever, and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet. I argued with myself: am I being selfish? Have I already given her the best life possible? What is this surgery doesn’t work? What if she passes in a couple of months anyway?  I didn’t want a Frankenstein dog just to appease my need for her, so it was incredibly difficult for me to differentiate and something I am still struggling with today (on day four).

I woke up early to give her paws a kiss and she hopped into my partner’s SUV and was on her way while I was a blubbering mess. I obsessively checked my phone all day for updates, and finally got a call from the surgeon at 5PM. Surgery went well, and he felt like he was able to get all the affected nerves. They didn’t reach her spine, but were close, he said. All in all, he considered it a success. She would stay overnight and he could call in the AM to set up a time for discharge.

I felt incredibly relieved, but also nervous. I knew that seeing her incision would be tough. Obviously – a missing leg would also be tough to see. I felt sick thinking about what I had agreed to, while simultaneously feeling a bit of hope that she would do just fine and come home and be back to her usual self in a few weeks. I reflected on how just three months ago our lives were completely normal and now, in July, my dog is getting her left amputated.

Meet Marley

Marley is an 11-year-old GSD/husky mix who I adopted in 2012 as a playmate for my other pup – it was love at first sight! She’s a beautiful pup, and so spunky, feisty, and talkative. We have a super special bond; she’s my best buddy and we’ve been through it all.  Here is the picture her rescue used for her adoption post – how could you not love this smile?!

Earlier this year, Marley went to our family vet for some vaccinations and was also given a physical exam at the same time. When she came home (my partner had taken her), she just curled up on her bed and didn’t want to move. Really didn’t want to move – she refused to stand and peed herself. I was shocked as she was fine prior to the visit. I called the vet who advised she had pretty bad arthritis (?? news to me!) and recommended we start putting her on a cocktail of medications to thwart it as best we could. We loaded her up on gabapentin, started cartrophen injections, and Metacam. I researched the heck out of arthritis and bought joint supplements, orthopedic beds, anything I could do to give my girl some relief. I also booked a consultation with a rehab centre so she could start to get some physical therapy and maybe explore acupuncture and laser.

While we waited for the appointment (~1 month), she had good and bad days. The good days showed just a tiny limp in her back legs. The bad days were almost a full-body limp. A couple of weeks in, her pain seemed to move entirely from her back legs to her front – now she was limping quite a bit on her left front leg.

When we finally got in to see the rehab vet in May, she immediately announced Marley didn’t have arthritis. She thought it was something more sinister – like bone cancer. Cancer never even crossed my mind and I was shocked. She did an x-ray where she didn’t find much, and put out a referral to another centre, one that had an MRI. She did not want to treat Marley at all until we had a diagnosis one way or another.

Now my head is reeling. It took approximately two more months (and thousands of dollars) to learn Marley had a probable nerve sheath tumor in her front left leg. The only real solution would be amputation so long as her spine wasn’t already impacted.

We spent about a week going back and forth between amputation and having her euthanized. She had already been through so much, and it took such a LONG time for her to be diagnosed. There was so much waiting, follow-ups, advocating on my end, referrals, shoddy clinics… you name it. We were all exhausted and I thought maybe it should just be time to give my girl some rest. Seeing her struggle to walk and by this point even settle down and get comfortable in bed broke my heart. Could I put her through a surgery like this when she had just turned 11? (It didn’t help the peanut gallery came out to play and offered opinions that no one asked for either.)

When we looked at amputation more seriously, I spent a lot of time on tripawds. I watched videos of other dogs (seniors, specifically) bouncing around on three legs, and read account after account of progress. I felt hopeful.

It is because of that that I decided to create this blog after going through with amputation for Marley. We are on day four, and I will capture everything we are going through.


Marley’s Journey is brought to you by Tripawds.