Wednesday, January 25, 2023
His cone-wearing days were extended another ten days. My fault.
No really, I caused almost his whole issue.
Let me backtrack to explain and probably retreat a bit from such judgment. But not too far. The good news is he is recovering and I have learned.
The ‘he’ is my almost eleven year old Gordon Setter Wally. Depending upon the circumstance, he answers to Walter, Wall, Walmart, Wall-dog and his true name Wallace. I adore him and I believe the feeling is mutual even though he is more my ex-husbands than he is mine. I am his mom – true – but his Alpha is my ex. That’s ok. I am the one who gives him pills, grooms him and all that.
But I have always had difficulty with nail trims. I started when he was a puppy just like I have with any dog but Wally was particularly sensitive to trims. I responded horribly to his sensitivity with not keeping up with the habit.
I nervously approached grooming days, skipping nails, even though I had nail trimmers and a rotary sanding tool.
I would tap on his nails to accustom him to touch. Once in while the vet or a groomer would trim back his nails.
But I didn’t keep up.
Fast forward to three months ago when he began licking his left front paw. His normal sensitivity escalated into a low rumbled snarl. After a month or so, the vet confirmed a paw injury. His nail had ripped then infection had set in.
But he kept licking at the paw. It didn’t heal. The vet recommended a removal of the entire toe.
It so happens that a paw wound or jaw wound which does not heal is a sign of cancerous growth.
“Amputation is the best route,” she recommended. I immediately disliked her. I was, of course, being ridiculously over dramatic. Defensiveness encapsulated my ego.
She did state her opinion in a firm but kind manner. Still, I could not imagine the necessity to remove the entire toe.
“Some owners have objections to removing any part of their pet,” she probed.
“No, I understand.” I had lied. I didn’t really understand how my wild-hare setter who runs through the wooded trails like the fastest deer and chases delivery trucks down the driveway, barking and carrying on, would now need a surgery.
“Of course,” I responded. The conversation slow motioned my mind’s sense of time. If we had been talking five minutes, that would be a stretch. Each word marked time. The whole conversation felt like hours.
“He will limp until he grows accustomed to the change. We will send the tie for biopsy.”
“Yes. Yes, of course.”
Three days after Christmas Wally’s toe was removed. With wrapping akin to a cast, three prescriptions and the dreaded cone, he was released to return home later that same day.
He limped. He slept. After forty-eight hours, I enlisted the help of my ex to rebandage his paw. Keeping the area dry enough to heal yet loose enough to not cut off circulation proved to be challenging.
Two weeks after surgery I had wrapped his paw too tightly. His paw swelled. The area under the tape had become infected.
The vet was not pleased. Staples on the new wound were necessary. The dreaded and dreadful cone remained for another ten days.
And we added another round of antibiotics. Meanwhile, the test results did indeed show cancer.
“The likelihood cancer has spread is low,” she concluded. “When you groom, feel by his shoulders and under his front legs. You are feeling for lumps.”
“Okay,” I choked a response. Heavy with shame, I started to cry. While the nails did not cause cancer, I had not taken care of him. He had been in pain. And it was my fault.
During his recovery, I had begun again to tap on his nails to reacquaint him with the process. A month of eating and living with the cone around his neck has caused a bit of ‘extreme doggy’ type smells.
This week we begin our new routine. Every Thursday we groom.
Being in the woods he had really never mastered walking on the leash. I had given up. With the surgery though and the weeks of medication, he was quite content to stroll down the road with me. He and I have bonded in our walks even though they are back and forth down the road and around the garage.
Next week I will detail the grooming but I wanted to write about realities of his surgery and my failure at his care. Maybe my failure can serve as a reminder for pet owners to keep up with the difficulties of care.
If nails are difficult to do, take your pet to a groomer. I love grooming him. The time allows me to monitor his health through looking at his coat, his eyes and now feeling for lumps. There really is no reason for me not to struggle through clipping his nails.
It’s a matter of training for both of us!
And above all, keep trying. Pets are wonderfully resilient and patient. Sure there are exceptions, but most pets really want to spend time with their pet-parent!
Next week: the details!
Lots of love, Stephanie