ask me anything : the story of puppyface
I’ve had a few people request that I do an open-ended “ask me anything” series on BTHR. So, here it is! You’ll see me answering a reader question each week. Submit your questions by e-mailing me or commenting on this post. If you want to be identified in my answer, include your name and website (if applicable).
Literally, ask me anything. I’ll answer anything!*
*Okay, maybe not anything, but almost anything.
This week’s question comes from my pre-BTHR friend, and avid dog-lover, Liz, she asks:
How did you get Puppyface?
A simple question, with a long-winded answer. Buckle-up, buckos, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
Back in the summer of 2007, Babyface and I were in our early months of marriage and deep in canine negotiations. We both desperately wanted a dog. We were both 100% dog people, growing up with them our entire lives. It was never a question of if we’d get a dog, the question was when.
Truthfully, I was the holdout. I felt it wasn’t fair to any future Puppyfaces to be locked in an apartment 8 hours a day while we worked. I grew up on 10 acres of land known as “doggy vacation land,” where dogs were free to roam and chase squirrels all day long. Living in an apartment wasn’t a life I wanted to force onto any dog.
In hindsight, I was being totally unreasonable. There are plenty of dogs (Puppyface included) that live a blissful apartment life.
Regardless of my feelings, the decision was made for us with one phone call from my Dad a few days before my birthday in June 2007. The conversation went something like this:
Dad: I think I found your dog.
Me: What do you mean?
Dad: I literally found you a dog when I went for a walk today.
While he was walking around the Broken Plow one day, he stumbled upon a skinny, sad and badly injured lump of gray fur on the shore of the lake. She was using the cool water to soothe her road rash. We think she was dumped and hit by a car (something that happens an unfortunate amount in the country). Being the dog lovers they are, my parents immediately scooped her up and took her to their vet.
(this is the actual photo my Dad took when he found her in the lake)
The vet diagnosed her with a broken pelvis and a nasty case of road rash, but generally a healthy, well-behaved 11 month terrier mix puppy. After the vet, my Dad called and, sight-unseen, we signed on to be puppy parents. He went around to the neighbors to make sure she wasn’t a lost dog, and after no takers, we decided it was time we make the trip down to meet her.
It was love at first lick. We desperately wanted to take her home, but she still had a lot of healing to do and my parents were better equipped to take care of her. So she stayed for a few weeks under the watchful eye of my parents.
Once she was nearly healed, she came home and was immediately spoiled. Toys galore, a shiny new collar and a comfy bed. For the first few days, she was restless and confused, but quickly adjusted.
The first few weeks were great.
And then the problems started happening. When visiting one weekend later that summer, she got her leg stuck in mud at my parents’ house. She came out of the mud limping, and never stopped. A few days later she could barely move her leg. We took her to two different vets in town who were totally clueless. One referred us to an orthopedic vet in Indianapolis. In the time we were shuttling her between vet appointments, she’d stopped eating or drinking.
At the orthopedic vet, we got some pretty terrible news, her pelvis never healed correctly and her hip-joint was “applecoring,” actually eroding from all the stress and pressure. They suggested three different possible courses of action (1) amputate her leg from the hip-joint down (2) wait and see if it gets worse (3) euthanize her.
They quoted us $3,000 to amputate her leg. Money we didn’t have. Euthanasia was not an option. And the “wait-it-out” philosophy was not working. She had dropped from 50 pounds to 31 pounds (she now weighs around 55), wasn’t eating and obviously was in pain.
I did what any mature woman does in a stressful situation. I called my parents and cried.
That was the best choice I ever made, because they suggested that I get a second (well, fourth, actually) opinion from the vet that originally treated her when my Dad found her—Dr. Trent Fisher. My Dad called Dr. Fisher and told him the quote from the surgeon. Dr. Fisher said, “For $3,000 I can amputate that leg and make her a new one. And who knows, I may not even need to. Bring her in.”
So we did, and the first thing Dr. Fisher did was something no other vet tried—he drew blood. And he immediately knew what was wrong. Her blood smelled wrong, it looked wrong (you could see air bubbles in the syringe). Her leg wasn’t hurting because of her bones or applecoring in her hip. She hadn’t stopped eating because she need amputation. She was so sick because she had a severe, life-threatening anaerobic bacterial infection of her entire leg. And it was missed by three other vets.
He immediately scheduled surgery and we went home with a small dose of relief just because we finally knew what was wrong.
Dr. Fisher removed almost all of her tissue and muscles from her right rear leg. He said to us later that he thought for sure he was going to have to euthanize her when she came in that day. And even now wasn’t ever sure she’d walk on that leg again.
But she did, just a few days later. She spent a few weeks in the “recovery room” (AKA: my parents’ basement) and got stronger and fatter and healthier and happier. And then she got to come home.
Everyone at Dr. Fisher’s office was in awe of her speedy recovery. She was meant to be a happy puppy.
That leg will never be 100%. She still has a weak, applecored hip, and only a few months after this ordeal, she had to have another surgery to repair her ACL in the same leg, so her knee doesn’t bend well. But she is so happy. She plays with other dogs. She runs. She jumps. I swear you can see her smiling sometimes.
You can barely tell she started off life so painfully. She’s regained almost all of her muscle tone in that leg. She doesn’t limp. The only time it is noticeable is if she’s been sleeping for a long time—you can tell it is stiff. I’m sure she’ll have arthritis in the leg as she gets older, but we’ll manage that when we get there. We still have no idea how she contracted the infection.
She’s our miracle puppy.
Sometimes I think about what her life was like before she found my parents’ lake. Was she loved? Was she neglected? Was she happy? Sometimes I get so angry thinking that it is such a strong possibility that some idiot dropped this sweet, special dog on the side of the road. But then I look over and see her curled up on the couch under a blanket and remember that this is one puppy story that turned out okay.
P.S. Puppyface’s “real” name is Rory. Other nicknames include: P.F., Monkey Nose, Puppy, Sillyface, Cutes, Pf (pronounced “peuf”), and Rory Jo.