Two weeks ago Leo started limping. This has immediately got us worried. The last time Leo limped it required an operation to repair the cruciate of the left stifle that was fortunately covered by the insurance. Since then his leg has been excluded from any future insurance plans which would mean having to pay for it out of pocket which might be impractical - especially considering Leo's creeping age and the inevitable future complications.
|An X-Ray of Leo's Bionic Leg from late 2010|
So the first thought that crossed our minds when we saw Leo limping was the possibility of putting him down, right around the 3rd anniversary of losing our first Great Dane, Dexter's predecessor, Kato.
It was not the most cheerful thought, but before we get to it, we'll need to go a few days before Leo started limping. If TV shows and movies can use the cheap trick of tedious flashbacks and flash-forwards to grasp the audience's attention, then so can I.
A FEW WEEKS AGO
Leo and Dexter have really settled in their new Winnipeg home. The family room downstairs has become the dog room where they spend a lot of the time napping. Blake also uses it to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and even Miron and I occasionally insert ourselves for some quality Judge Judy viewing. One of the smaller rooms in the house, but when we are all together in it (Judge Judy included), also the funnest and happiest.
A new routine we introduced a few weeks ago is the Sunday outing for the dogs. After Blake's swimming lesson we'd go back home, stick the dogs in the back and drive them somewhere outside of town where they can run freely and stretch their legs. Even at the coldest weather it's doable as long as they are back in the car before they freeze solid into massive dogsicles. Dexter really needs those bursts of unrestrained sprints. The first time he ran so quickly and so far I thought we would never see him again. Fortunately he did come back to us after completing a lap around planet Earth. Dexter puts Leo to shame, but on his own Leo's fitness is very impressive for a 6 1/2 year old Great Dane with a bionic leg.
While there are two dog beds on the floor of the family room, Leo also enjoys lying on the sofa bed whenever he can. As a result it's very common to see Blake and Leo together on the sofa refining their cuddle techniques while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Anyway, so then on Friday night two weeks ago Leo started limping and we got very worried. What could it be? Our biggest worry was that the same cruciate thing happened to his other hind leg. We were warned it may happen: after one leg has been operated on the healthy leg would be used more and be at increased risk. Then we realized that it can't be the same thing as Leo was limping on his bad leg that was already been operated on, not the healthy one. It was a medical mystery worthy of Doctor Gregory House.
Miron and I pooled together our veterinary medical knowledge in order to solve the mystery which resulted in not solving the mystery due to us having zero medical knowledge.
Blake has detected that his buddy was misreable and commenced unprompted to cuddle with him on the floor, a gesture that didn't go unappreciated.
Poor Leo peed on one of the beds which needed to be washed, so when Dexter cuddled with him they had to share one tiny bed between them.
There were many cuddles for the next week as we hoped to see improvement. I spent the first two nights in the family room to keep Leo company. We were afraid to go to the vet and get terrible news. Then each day Leo's leg got better and he started using it more and more. By Tuesday he was actually placing weight on it and his limp was barely noticeable. I had other worries on my mind, so it was such a relief to get rid of one. Leo was going to be OK after all!
Only he wasn't. The next day his leg was bad again - as bad as it ever was.
The Doctor House type mystery evolved: it couldn't be a broken leg or even a fructure: these things don't heal so quickly only to happen all over again. I wondered if it was maybe the cold making the metal in his leg painful. There were a few very cold days the previous week. We decided to keep Leo's visits to the back yard super short and infrequent.
Last Friday night we had our first overnight guest in our Winnipeg home and we went with him to a dinner party with friends. When we came back home Leo made extreme efforts to go up with us to the bedroom. The next morning on Saturday Leo could not get up no matter how much I asked, begged and commanded him.
We decided to take him to the vet, if only to get him some pain killers. By the time we made the appointment and started discussing ways to bring him down to the car, Leo has gotten up and almost ran downstairs to pee as he was bursting.
Obviously we had to take everyone, including Dexter who refused to stay in the car once we got to the vet, so we all went in. Leo went with Miron to be X-rayed and examined while I waited in a small examination room with Dexter and Blake. There were no signs of broken bones or fractures, but some arthritis around his bad leg and plenty of swolen inflammation. When Leo returned to our room, he stumbled and fell flat on his belly. He considered for a second to try and get up, but then was all "f*** it, I meant to do that" and remained lying down. You see, Leo was on injected morphine and was slowly succumbing to sweet dreams about rainbows and unicorns.
We got his antibiotics for the infection (for that is what it apparently was) and pain killers and some human treatment for arthritis. When we got home it was a struggle to take Leo out of the car. He lay at the back and looked at me with big empty cow eyes. He was tripping in another dimension already. I wanted some of what he was having...
So now we wait, a bit worried, to see if he'll get back to using his leg. He is getting lots of rest and cuddles, as well as getting better at using only three legs, but I sure do hope it's not permanent, as I don't see him managing to survive like that for long and it certainly means no more Sunday runs in the prairie for the time being.
Poor Dexter has been quite confused and worried and also somewhat jealous at the extra attention his brother has been getting. So he's been cranking up the cute. Picture evidence:
|Sir Fartalot in his library.|
|Gaining knowledge by sleeping on a book shelf.|
|Leo plays Rear Window|