We have welcomed a new member to our family. We actually brought her home over 2 months ago, but there were a few hurdles that we needed to get over before I could officially introduce her to the world. We leapt over our last hurdle today, so without further adieu, I will tell you the story of Pinecone.
I worked the day after Thanksgiving and had a dreadful day. I euthanized five animals during that awful shift and was feeling absolutely worthless. There was a French Bulldog sitting in the hospital, brought in the night before. She had apparently been hit by a car and some nice person brought her in. My most excellent colleague, Dr. Sarah Whitley, treated this dog for shock and the pain she was most certainly suffering. With no owners, Dr. Whitley was very limited as to what she could do to help this little dog. When I saw the Frenchie the next day, I figured that she would be shipped out to the appropriate animal care agency so she could hopefully be reunited with her family. If her owners didn’t come forward, she would likely be euthanized as she had some significant injuries that would be quite costly to fix. I didn’t think much about her on that awful day… I didn’t want to get attached to something that was going to just go away.
The next day I mentioned to Gary “hey, you want a French Bulldog?” to which I was expecting him to reply “we don’t need another animal… have you seen our house?”. To my surprise, he just stared at me, kinda blankly, which I translated to mean “I’ll think about it”. I jumped on the opportunity and called the clinic to see if anyone had claimed the dog yet. Nope, she was still sitting in the hospital, gorked on her pain meds. I asked Gary if he wanted to meet her and, again, stared back at me with a blank face. Taking the cue that he was still interested, I asked the staff to take some X-rays of her so we could see just how bad the damage was. It was bad. Her pelvis, femur and tibia were fractured. I could hear the “ca-ching” ringing in my ears, indicating just how expensive it would be to fix her. We strapped the girls into their car seats and drove down to the clinic to meet her. I opened the cage and Gary said “wow, she’s really ugly. She’ll fit right into our home”. I told him how much I figured it would be to fix her and he said “if we fix her, no camera for you”. I have been wanting to upgrade to a professional camera, but can’t justify the cost yet. Without hesitation, I determined we would be fixing this dog and taking her home. I mean, look at her, she is adorable!
I contacted my friend and classmate, the esteemed veterinary surgeon, Dr. JT Vida. I asked if he would look at the dog’s x-rays and see if there was something that he could do. He agreed to come in the next day and surgicate on her. Her “stray hold” was up, so I agreed to take financial responsibility for her. I was a little worried when both he and the radiologist conferred about how they haven’t seen such a fracture before. It is always worrisome when the experts are perplexed. But being the kick ass surgeon that he is, JT went in there and worked his magic. Would you like to see them in surgery? A quick warning: if you are squeamish about blood and broken bones, either close your eyes or suck it up because I’m about to show you.
Here is Dr. Vida, working his surgical magic. Would you like to see what I asked him to fix?
At the top of the photo, just below the set of retractors… do you see it? That white, sharp object that looks like a bone? Well, it is a bone. It is the top half of her femur. The other half is down in that bloody mess you see there. Want to see how he fixed it?
I’m sure there is a fancy name for that piece of hardware, but it is a plate with 7 screws, spanning the fracture and holding the bones in place. JT has this really cool plate bender, so he was able to custom fit the plate to the contours of her bone. There is also a very large pin extending down the inside of her femur, to add some extra support. Next, he performed a femoral head osteotomy. Sorry, I don’t have any photos of that but trust me, it was way cool! He did not repair the pelvic fracture because it would heal on it’s own. But he did put a pin and a screw in her tibia, since the radiologist felt that it had a spiral fracture that involved the joint.
Yup, that would be a pin sticking out of her lower leg. Don’t worry, Dr. Vida cut the end of it off.
It was an amazingly successful surgery. JT did an outstanding job at putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. I don’t have words to eloquently or appropriately thank him for the ridiculously incredible work that he did. And “thank you” just doesn’t seem adequate. So whether you like it or not JT, you are getting free photographs for the rest of your life. And that includes wedding photos of your son, even if he doesn’t marry my daughter.
I brought the sad little doggie home and nestled her into her crate, to which she would be confined for the next 8 weeks while she recovered from surgery. Chloe looked at the dog and immediately fell in love. Gary asked her “what would you like to name her?” to which she instantly replied “Pinecone!”. Not the first name that comes to mind when naming a dog, but oddly enough, it seemed to fit. Gary wanted to name her Nikon, after the camera that I forfeited in exchange for this dog. I don’t know about you, but I think Pinecone is a waaaay cooler name than Nikon. Anyhow, Chloe and Pinecone have become BFFs, and Chloe has loved accompanying Pinecone outside for her supervised outings. She also has been very helpful with giving Pinecone her pain medication. It has been really sweet to watch the two of them together.
This was Pinecone’s first time outside since her surgery. I think the sun and fresh air made her feel so much better.
Now I must confess: nothing in my veterinary training prepared me for the enormous undertaking that is rehabilitating an injured animal. As a veterinarian, I give orders as far as what medications to give, what type of nursing care is to be done… all of which is carried out by my staff or by the owners once they are home. I don’t think that I have ever had a case this intensive, even in vet school. Caring for Pinecone has been an eye-opening experience for me. I have realized just how difficult it is, physically, emotionally, financially, to provide care for this little creature. It has forced me into the position of client, rather than doctor. And I am thankful for that because I has reminded me why I became a veterinarian: to help animals. Because on the other side of all the pain and work that went into rehabilitating this dog comes the satisfaction of knowing that I helped her. While I didn’t resuscitate her on her first night or put her bones back together, I knew the right people to call. And the joy that comes from seeing this dog recover into a happy, thriving member of our family is absolutely priceless.
Pinecone still isn’t normal: her hair hasn’t grown back and she walks with a little skip in her step. But she is happy. She is thriving. And she is alive to snort and drool to her little heart’s content. And that, my friends, is all I need.