One week ago, on Easter afternoon, we took the dogs for a long walk in Robinson’s Woods in Cape Elizabeth. Our walk was probably 3 or 4 miles and no one could have been happier.
When we got back to the Jeep, Brody went to jump into the car and something went very wrong. He screamed in pain and there was obviously something very wrong with his hind, right leg. We calmed him as best we could and got him to lay in some leaves at the edge of the woods. We knew we were not going to be able to get him into the small Jeep and had to find someone to come and help us.
After a good friend drove from three towns away to help us, we as best we could scooped broken Brody into the back of the vehicle and made our way to the Animal Emergency Clinic. Poor Brody was in so much pain, it was absolutely heart breaking.
When we were able to see a vet, the first impression was not good and he eluded to some very big problems that they may not be able to fix. Brody was knocked out and xrays were taken.
Brody has bone cancer – Osteosarcoma
Brody had severely broken his right, hind leg right at the hip. It was shattered. The cause for such shattering with such little force was that he has bone cancer, or Osteosarcoma. The bone cancer had left the bone so pockmarcked and hollow that just the force of jumping into the car shattered it.
They were going to keep him heavily sedated and have a surgeon look at it in the morning to confirm that she could not repair the bone. There was just too little to work with.
We were sent home to wait. Adam and I didn’t talk much. I was beyond hysterical and did not/could not sleep. I could feel my heart breaking and was most frustrated that I didn’t even have anything to hope for.
Very few options
The surgeon called. The bone could not be repaired. She was in agreement that it was Osteosarcoma. She said he could be a candidate for amputation. Brody is 11 years old; don’t tell him that either – he thinks he is 5. Dogs his age were less likely candidates for amputation because their other leg that would need to support them was old or arthritic, and their blood work could come back poor because their body is already fighting the cancer or the cancer could have already spread into their organs – especially their lungs.
I asked for the support of my family and my husband that this decision was mine to make. It has been ‘Brody and Amanda Takes on the World’ for 11 years. He is a momma’s boy and I am completely enamored with him. There were two paths to take – let him go, or amputate and hopefully buy the guy some more time. I can’t even begin to walk you through every thought I had while making that decision. What were you doing for the dog and what were you doing for yourself? I can say after all of it, I decided that Brody wasn’t done yet.
It was a long shot but we had to let the Brody man give it a try. For the first time in this whole experience, I had something to hope for.
So we got more tests taken:
- His other leg… remarkably strong
- His blood work… normal except some elevated counts that were from the trauma of the broken leg
- His chest xray… totally clear
11 year old Brody, was cleared for surgery to remove his leg.
Three legs… ain’t no thing!
Brody’s broken leg was removed Tuesday afternoon. We were able to pick him up Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday and early Wednesday Brody had decided he didn’t want to vet techs helping him anymore and wouldn’t let anyone near his cage. As we walked in and I started to talk to him, he started talking back (he thinks he can talk). We pulled his blanket out of the cage and he buried his head deep into my chest.
He was heavily medicated, very bruised, wearing a cone and most notably, missing a leg. We removed his IV, he continued to bury his head and ‘talk’ to me until we asked him if he wanted to go home. He clumsily (think Bambi on ice) got up and did his best to run all the way out of the vet’s office. He crashed into a wall or three but he was intent on breaking out of this joint. Outside, he took the longest pee with a new aggressive lean maneuver and let Adam carry him into the car.
The car ride home was very emotional as he continued to bury his head into my chest and ‘talk’ to me. I felt like he was telling me about the very bad last few days he had and I would like to think he was thanking us for making the decision we did.
Wednesday at home was slow. Still heavily medicated he was not very interested in eating or drinking. He slept a lot but did make it outside on the leash a few times. He even tried to make a go at the back steps when we took our eyes off him for a second.
Thursday was better. We began to get our appetite back (including me). We drank water on our own. The heavy medication was worn off. Outside trips were easier and when Adam came home that night, Brody got up to meet him at the door all smiles and wags. Not a dry eye in the house.
Friday was even better and we moved the recovery room to the upstairs. He navigated down steps well but needed a little help on the way back up. He would look back at Adam with an look that was easily read as ‘little help here?’ and Adam would carry him the rest of the way. He even spent some solid hours outside in the lawn, just standing and smelling but it was awesome. He also snuck out of the bedroom at night and helped himself onto the chair in the living room.
Saturday, we may have outdone ourselves the day before because Saturday was a little slower. Appetite was back all the way though, he was interested in toys and loved having a few visitors. He slept really well through the whole night in his bed.
Today, well today has been awesome. Our first adventure outside was hysterical. Brody even attempted to chase a squirrel. He pranced around for awhile and even mistakingly tried to lift the only good back leg he has to go to the bathroom. He was literally standing on his two front paws for a second, until that obviously ended they way you expected. My parents came to visit their grand-dog and brought delicious bones. He has gotten on and off his chair a few times, rested in between adventures but Brody seems to be back.
Adjusting to Three Legs
I am shocked at how quickly Brody has adjusted to three legs. Of course he slips sometimes but he doesn’t seem to be phased by it much. There was an incident where he rested against the fence to go to the bathroom, stairs are tricky and need supervision, backing up and tight turns are hit or miss but it is absolutely amazing how well he is adjusting.
The surgeon told us that dogs don’t feel that sense of emotional trauma that humans have when they lose a limb, they just adjust. She also warned us that is was harder on humans to see a dog with three legs than it is on the dog. She seems to know what she is talking about so far.
What is next?
Physically, Brody is under surveillance for two weeks after the surgery. We don’t want an infection or for him to fall on that already very tender area. Then after that, we adjust as a family. I am looking forward to some good walks and enjoying Maine in the summertime with my best friend.
The cancer will be back. In my non-medical way of explaining it, bone cancer is already in the rest of your system. It is in your body and your blood – just because we amputated that ‘bad’ part doesn’t mean it went away. We had them send the leg away for more tests and hopefully that will be able to tell us more about how advanced this is. Hopefully we will get more of a timeline on how long we may have with old man Brody.
Emotionally, we heal and try to get back to normal, or what our new normal is. After the decision was made I found some really awesome resources online. A friend sent me Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Beyond Surgery, Chemotherapy & Radiation, which then gave me a better idea of what things I should be looking for. I stumbled on Tripawds – A User-Supported Three Legged Dog Blog Community. I am still going through a lot of information but it is a whole online community for dogs who have lost a limb, usually from this type of cancer, and their owners.
Huge Thank You
This was honestly one of the hardest weeks of my life. If you are a dog lover, you may understand. If you are not, you think I am crazy. I got Brody when I was 20 years old, living in an apartment in Durham, NH. He has done more than change my life, I honestly think he has saved it. He changed me, he showed me our new life and he is my bestest friend.
I didn’t talk to a lot of people as this was happening. To those that I did, I owe you big time. A huge thank you to our families that let this be my decision and who backed me after I had made it. A huge thank you to family who brought us food, when we didn’t realize we weren’t eating. To the family and friends that sent Brody flowers, toys, cards and their thoughts and prayers – every single one of them helped.
Thank you in advance to anyone who wishes us luck from here forward.
The biggest thanks is of course to my husband, who grieved with me, cried with me, accepted my decision, made the cutest pill calendar in the world, who carried my 80 pound dog when I cannot and who loves me and my very special dog Brody.
Wish us luck!