It was almost exactly a year ago that this happened. My dad and I were walking Chester up to the local Starbucks where he was a bit of a local celebrity. We were more than half way there when we noticed that Chester had a slight limp, but thought he must have just stepped on something. We checked his paws, and although he whined when we touched his front left paw, we couldn’t find anything that would cause discomfort. We continued, thinking maybe a rest on the patio would be all he needed, but within 5 steps he could barely put any weight on the paw and seemed to be in pain. So my dad turned around to go home and get the truck while I stayed with Chester, who was becoming more agitated by the second. His whining soon turned into howls of pain and it seemed like nothing I could do would help. Waiting for my dad to return with the truck was the longest 10 minutes of my life. We rushed Chester home and tried to give him some pain killers, but he was too distraught and wouldn’t take it.
We called the emergency veterinary hospital, loaded Chester back into the truck, and drove like there was no tomorrow. As bad as Chester had seemed before, now he was only worse. His howls turned into screams, and he was writhing on the floor. He bit his leg, his tongue, and the seat and lost control of his bowels. The whole time I couldn’t stop crying. We finally got to the animal hospital and Chester was rushed to the back to be pumped full of pain killers and steroids. We’d told the vets about his history of meningitis, and we all thought the symptoms fit. But we were wrong.
The next day we learned that it wasn’t meningitis – it was blood clot. It was a full blockage of the artery that supplied all the blood to that leg, and in the 18 hours that he’d been there the leg had gone cold. Unfortunately, the steroids that would have treated meningitis made blood thinners useless until they were out of his system – which would be a couple days. It seemed to best option was to amputate. We were put in touch with Dr. Couto, and he became a wealth of information in the coming month.
Before we could amputate we needed to make sure Chester’s clot wasn’t caused by a heart defect that could prove fatal during surgery. Unfortunately the resident cardiologist had just retired the week previous, and couldn’t be called back because he was on vacation. So on July 4th my dad and I took a heavily sedated Chester on a road trip to a cardiologist 500 km away. After a bunch of tests the cardiologist green-lighted Chester for surgery, gave him enough heavy pain killers to last the trip home, and we returned him to the care of the Alta vista animal hospital, where he was scheduled for surgery on Monday morning.
Monday morning came, and we got a call saying that his leg had warned up, and they would not amputate if there was a chance it could recover. After spending a few more days the hospital, Chester finally came home with an intense drug regiment so that we could see if there was a possibility of saving his leg. However, over the next 3 weeks it became clear that the chances of a full recovery were extremely slim. The leg atrophied, and Chester could barely do more than swing it from the shoulder. The skin on his paw became necrotic and started falling off, leaving just brown and pink flesh underneath. He became depressed and withdrawn, and stopped eating or asking for attention. The foot dragged, and eventually became dangerously infected. That’s when we decided enough was enough, and we checked him in to be prepped for surgery. We have the surgical team Dr. Couto’s research and insisted that they use Amacar and provided them with the capsules. But the hospital did one better and ordered it in an intravenous solution. Once the amputation was complete, the surgical team said that they’d never seen a dog with so little bruising afterwards. Chester was kept for observation for 2 more nights, and because everyone there loved him so much he was given a cozy bed in the middle the room so he never had to feel alone.
When he finally came home we thought all the drama was behind us, but we were really only half way through. His first day back he had a reaction to his internal stitches and had to be readmitted to the hospital for another night. He loved sleeping on his back, but would sometimes accidentally roll into his amputated side and start shrieking. I think he was freaked out more than anything else, because once he was rolled onto his other side he calmed down right away, but there were many days we were surprised that the neighbours hadn’t called the police. And despite our best efforts, we couldn’t completely stop him from licking the bottom of his scar. He learned how to escape his cone, and eventually licked the bottom stitches out so that it had to be re-stapled. However, the flesh underneath eventually became necrotic and he had to go in for debridement surgery. Once he was home he was exhausted, dehydrated, in pain, and then started losing blood. Once again my dad and I were rushing Chester to the emergency vet, and he was checked in and kept for 2 or 3 nights.
But once he came home, things turned around. Chester was happy again, and gaining more energy every day. We started going on short walks and Chester was getting back to his old self. Six weeks after his amputation was the greyhound planet day event, and the moment Chester walked in was filled with cheers and applause. And since then, Chester has gotten back to his normal self, and even uses his missing leg to convince total strangers to come and pet him. Now there are many days that I forget he’s missing a leg, and I think he does too.
Despite everything he went through, and thanks to the help of Dr. Couto, Chester is completely happy and living his dream retirement.
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