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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.