If my dogs are not okay, life stops until they are. Orion had surgery 5 days ago to repair his knee and when Dr.Sams got in there and did the TPLO surgical procedure, he examined it and found that in full extension the knee was still not stable enough for his satisfaction. He did a second procedure, a Modified DeAngelis suture, which provides support outside the joint capsule, cleaned up the damaged meniscus material left over, and then also did a third procedure, a lateral fascial imbrication. This is a surgical overlapping of successive layers of tissue as the wound is closed. This was a lot of really fancy detail and I’m so happy we got to go to Dr. Sams for the surgery.
Leaving Orion there overnight was unbelievably hard for me. He is essential to Loba and I in all of our daily routines, he has little rituals upon waking up, eating, going out, coming back in. Every second he was away his absence was so obvious. I was in distress and that made food unappetizing and sleep elusive and I needed help. Very kind friends kept me company, took me to dinner and a movie, made me food. I was such a mess. I gave Loba a lot of attention and she was gracious but also it was odd and she accepted my advances politely if uneasily. The vet techs texted me sweet photos of Orion in their laps looking very high on drugs but wrapped up in his fleece blanket from home and being held, that made me smile. The following day I did all the laundry, cleaned the house, made sure we had whatever we would need in case we were homebound for a while when he came home. The clinic has an amazing check out system where they explain what was done, explain medications and how to give them, what to expect, and what to do next. Then you pay and they bring your dog out once all the business is complete. I cried, I held him, he looked exhausted and wrapped his head around my shoulder while I whispered into his fur about how much I love him. It was great to have him back home safe.
He had a beautiful bandage that stayed on for 4 days and it held his leg in a resting, partially straight position and after day 3 or so he was able to bear weight on it. He did some trial and error to figure out how to get around and how to pee and poo while being a bit woozy on pain meds and trying to figure out how to stand and lift a leg and crouch. Once I removed the bandage I had to add a cone so he would not lick at the incision and sutures. Within the very first hour with the bandage off and the cone on he tripped over the big cone and screamed and fell. I was scared he may have re-injured himself and I think it was kind of a PTSD experience for me. I’m really not recovered yet. Dr Sams said it is not unheard of for dogs to stumble and tweak a leg that is fresh out of surgery and bandages, and it is normal for them not to use the leg even for a few days sometimes. I was reassured but also really anxious to see improvement and to see Orion telling me he was okay.
Many stories have bad guys who want to hurt the heroes and the best way to cause them pain is not to hurt them directly, but to hurt those they love and make them watch. Especially the vulnerable loved ones. I have been through some serious illness in my life, potentially life-threatening illness. I developed coping strategies, learned to knit and do little internal guided imagery. I learned to reach out to people and experience the comfort that can be found in others who understand and have gone through it themselves. I am revisiting some of those skills now, and noticing how different it is. I wish it was me and not him, if I were injured I would know where it hurt and how badly, and I would be able to understand the prognosis and treatment and make choices for myself. Seeing him go through all this is so hard, and I feel so heavily responsible for him. I have to make all the choices for him, hoping that I am meeting his needs, hoping he is not too disoriented by the medication, the pain and the many environments where people are doing all kinds of things to him, and hoping he can live fully again, run again, be well again like he was before. I have always purposefully allowed my dogs to make choices and offer ideas in our relationships, and I’m always looking for more ways to do that since they really don’t get to choose where they live, who they live with, or a lot of the things in their lives. Being in a position where Orion doesn’t get to choose feels so wrong to me, and I need to have the fortitude and mental discipline to choose for him and take that responsibility and inhabit that role with comfort. The more comfortable I am, the better support I will be able to offer him as he continues to recover. I want to learn how to be mentally tough like that. Frankly right now it is a huge learning experience and a difficult one for me, and I am not feeling mentally tough at the moment. When he tries to stand and wobbles, when he tries to find a comfortable sleeping position and can’t, when he stops walking and looks up at me with eyes glassy and ears laid back, I don’t feel strong at all. I ask him “may I pick up?” and he turns toward me and rests against my hands, and I pick him up to carry him home and think I better hold gently but securely, I better not fall, I better stay balanced and calm as we go. He doesn’t need me to be flustered and devastated, he needs me to walk gently and firmly forward, making the decisions, holding him.