Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Dog Year (and it's only half over)

Pity poor Zak.
Healthy Zak!

Our beloved rescue dog was found as a puppy scavenging through trash, never possessing good taste in food. A mixed breed of indiscriminate nature, obviously Zak was at least part pit bull terrier. Because of that, he's faced a life-time of prejudice. My mom won't even go near him, terrified (even though her bite is much worse than his). People go out of their way to cross the street when we're out on walks. Upon Zak's entry at daycare, other pet-owners slip him wary, highly suspect looks. (Yes, Zak goes to daycare.)

But the thing is, Zak's a lover, not a biter. His licking might scrub your skin raw, but he won't hurt anyone. Unless of course you wear the U.S. Postal Service uniform. Then all bets are off. But for everyone else? He wants to meet you. Become pals. Have you toss a squeaky toy around, one he can tear apart in seven seconds.

Then Zak's world went grey. Six months ago he developed a limp. Of course, it didn't seem to hold him back. He powered through it, the way he doe everything. Problem is Zak's as stoic as Humphrey Bogart with paws.

We took him to his vet, who sent us to the animal hospital. Zak'd completely blown out his knee ligament. We faced several choices, none of them ideal. We settled on an expensive surgery, one where the doc would basically cut Zak's knee bones apart and reattach them in a new fashion, screws and a metal plate keeping everything in place until the bone healed.
Zak in first post-surgery Cone of Honor
Afterward, we found out just how much work was involved on our end. At least four months of keeping Zak quiet and calm in a small room. (Good luck with that, especially during mail delivery). Short walks, four times a day. Drugs, hot and cold compresses, massages, leg exercises...King for many, many days of sovereignty.

Alas, Zak couldn't climb steps. I volunteered to sleep downstairs with him in the guest bedroom on a lumpy twin bed, apparently built with masochistic, diminutive people in mind. Four months of sleepless discomfort and back aches.

Nothing mattered, though, not really. Zak was our dog, dammit. Besides, the neighborhood's rabbit population had grown out of control without his watch-dogging. Seriously. He needed to come back and rein in the terror.

When it came time for a check-up, bad news smacked us like a two by four to the head. Two screws had broken with the third bent. Somewhere along the line--a fall Zak had, too much exercise, something--things went haywire. But all was not lost. His bone had partly healed. Still, it was back to surgery for the dog, the metal parts had to come out.

After this new operation, Zak's incision started draining, then bleeding a lot. Several Sundays were spent at the animal hospital as the staff tried to diagnose it. At first, it'd been tagged as a seroma, nothing to worry about. But Zak's limp persisted, grew worse. The doc was concerned. For good reason.
Zak showing off, posing for Midwest Dogs Gone Wild. The final night before the BIG operation.
Zak went back under the knife for exploratory surgery. All day long, we waited. Silence. Finally, the doc called.

The news completely blindsided me. Zak's leg bone had developed a deep infection, rendered into mush. The doctor said we could put Zak through another iffy surgery, involving pins, pain, and many months, and the outcome didn't look rosy. Or we could amputate his leg, the doc's recommendation.

We chose amputation. It hit us hard, surprisingly so. Much more than it bothered Zak himself, I'm sure. But it felt like a deep loss. Mostly because Zak lived life hard, played like a hurricane, ran to beat the band and outrace all the other dogs in daycare. Frankly, he isn't food driven. Play is his ruling motivator. 

SO. Five months, four surgeries later, Zak's making a comeback. Eventually we hope to get him back into daycare, something he misses dearly. (My wife says I'm anthropomorphizing. The eternal debate in our household continues...).

My wife said it best..."It's better to have a healthy three-legged dog, than not have our dog back."
Ready for his first off-leash, three-legged rabbit hunt!
Hurry up, Zak! Those damn bunnies are multiplying like...well, bunnies!


  1. Such a sweet boy! (Zac - still not sure on Stuart) 1 less leg won't slow him down at all.