Thursday, August 4, 2011

Darla's Second Chance

My introduction to Darla began with a phone call from Kim. Kim Barnes is a strong single woman on a mission. I liked her the moment I met her. She is an American Bulldog Rescue founder, foster, volunteer, and breed advocate. She also is a seasoned rescue person. She can assess a bulldog and their odds of becoming a family pet, i.e. “adoptable” very quickly and accurately. She, like many of us in this field, has also learned to look/listen past the stories of “how this particular dog got here” and focus instead on “where can we place you so you can live a long and happy life”. Like the amazing, dog behaviorist Cesar Milan always reminds us, “dogs live in the now”. Kim does the same with her dogs.
Kim answered the call from BARCS, (the acronym for Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, in downtown Baltimore MD) in late May 2011. BARCS had just taken in a beautiful white female American bulldog by a family that had been to a veterinary surgical referral center, and as they claimed, “spent a lot of money already”. They had been told by the veterinary expert that both of her stifles, (that’s a  knee to you and me) had a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. (The CCL is called an ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, to us two legged sports-persons). Because of Diamonds injured knees she walked with a funny back end swagger, and sat down by having to rock back on her pelvis with her rear legs sort of splayed open. Not very, ladylike, but the most comfortable position you can sit down in when your knees are unstable.
When a dog has injuries to both back legs it can be a challenge to even the seasoned vet to be able to identify the source of the lameness by watching them walk alone. It is often difficult to discern knee injury from hip injury at a walk. The real beauty of a veterinarian who has practiced medicine for a good long while is that you learn to see with your hands. It is one of the very biggest challenges a new vet school grad faces. You don’t trust your hands and you don’t see with them, you have to train them the same way a violinist does, practice, practice, practice.
After Kim talked to BARCS she called me. As I began to learn about Diamond, (that was her old name, almost all rescue dogs get new first names when they change their last names). (It’s sort of like anew marriage but you lose your whole name). Kim called me because I am one of a few general practioners who perform this kind of surgery. This surgery is not taught in vet school because the advent of specialty medicine has allowed most surgeries of this caliber to the forwarded to boarded surgery veterinarians. These boarded vets spend four years after vet school learning a specialty, then they have to sit for the dreaded (and elusive) board certification test. So without being taught this procedure in vet school, or by our mentor, we don’t learn it. And if you don’t learn something and then practice it routinely it becomes scary, so most general veterinary practitioners are wary of this surgery. I do them because I had two great teachers, and I can’t stand the idea of not being able to help an animal that otherwise has to wobble around on a busted knee. At my practice I tell my clients that their dogs are far better served by the boarded surgeons, but they come with a $2500 (plus) price tag. The “almost as good as” option is available at our clinic for $1000. For a rescue dog where funds are very limited I do the surgery pro bono. I was Diamonds answer.
Kim was called by the BARCS staff the same day Diamond was dropped off. If you are dropped off, (we call it “owner surrender” the two saddest words in the dictionary) at a shelter and you have any problems you are immediately euthanized. Apparently her owners were under the belief that a local dog shelter would fix her knees for them. Apparently the owners had been give a quote from the surgery referral of $6000 to fix her knees. They couldn’t afford this so they dumped their problem on someone else, BARCS. And, because she was lucky enough to be an American Bulldog with Kim was the next in line. Kim was told by the BARCS staff that she had 24 hrs to pick her up or Diamond would be euthanized. At BARCS it is in no way a reflection of their unwillingness to help or care, but simply a function of Diamonds original problem, a lack of funds. Broken merchandise in any arena has diminished, little, or no value. Kim hung up the phone with BARCS and called me. We discussed what she knew, what she wasn’t sure of, and all I could say was, “well if the diagnosis is correct I can fix them”.  But I had to put a lot of “ifs” in my statements. As I said before, it is really hard to diagnose a problem by sight alone, but verbal hearsay is even harder. I told her I couldn’t bear to hear the story and not help, so I said, ‘if you go get her, I’ll find a way to help get her fixed’.
Kim went down to BARCS and got her. She called when she got home and made the appointment for me to assess her the next day. I decided her diagnosis was correct and she got her second lucky break. We scheduled her to her surgery, which had to be postponed another two weeks, because in her short 1 day stay she got kennel cough.
Two weeks later I cut her first, what I thought was the worst, knee. It was a full cruciate tear with significant joint disease already settling in, and a terribly damaged medial meniscus. (That’s the little cushion that buffers the blow your heavy duty femur, thigh bone, places on the tibia, the bone in your lower leg). She woke up well, and limped back to her foster family. A short 6 weeks later, (actually yesterday the third of August 2011), we fixed her other knee. This knee was unfortunately just as bad as the first. I was told by Kim that she did great after the first knee and saw an orthopedic surgeon post op who remarked how great her leg was healing and how solid her knee was.
Kim also reports to me that Diamond is now officially “Darla”. She has been adopted by a family with two small children whom she loves and adores, and they love her back. She is strong, sweet, and as all dogs are; able to forgive and move on. Darla is a true testament of the best of this breed; kind, gentle, and sweet.  Having an advocate like Kim who answers the call, drives you around to your doctors appointments and doesn’t look at you based on your deficiencies but rather your possibilities is also a very good thing.

If you would like to learn more about cranial cruciate ligament damage or repair please see this link

If you would like to learn more about the American Bulldog Rescue please see the link below

No comments:

Post a Comment