Little did we know as we waved goodbye that Tripod's story was just beginning.
The leg was broken beyond repair.
It is amazing the trauma that can occur when a dog is struck by a car.What made it even worse was the fact that this heeler dog apparently had no owner. He just wandered up into a young couple's yard in Lamesa (Texas) with multiple fractures in one hind leg and a look of despair in his eyes.
Despite what you might think, the world is full of caring people.This couple showed up at my veterinary clinic with a broken heart and a request for a three-legged dog. It was obvious to them that there was no fixing the leg and,without surgery, the dog would suffer and eventually die.
Dr.Smith went to work.He is a remarkable surgeon. After a couple of hours, the dog woke up with three good legs and a second chance at life. He stayed around the clinic several days while recovering and we all became attached to his gentle and happy nature.
It always takes a dog a while to get used to having three legs.What a confusing moment it must be when they wake up from surgery and look down to see a missing limb. I often wonder what they are thinking the first time an ear itches and the normal thought-process that leads to a thorough scratching results in nothing but an ear that still itches.
On their first trip outside after such surgery, male dogs usually spend some time looking at the now-missing leg and a tree that needs marking. Their face takes on a puzzled look and the dance is on.They move from one side to the other trying to figure out how this new situation is going to affect one of their proudest moments.
This dog took to three legs like a duck to water. In no time, he was bouncing around the clinic looking as agile as he was with all four wheels.As with most major surgeries, there is always a chance of infection. The animal doesn't know to leave the incision alone, and often will lick and chew on the area.This dog managed to chew the stitches out twice, and each time we would go back and repair the damage. Finally, after a couple of weeks, the stitches came out and the animal was ready to go back to his new home as "Tripod," the luckiest dog in Lamesa.
It was sad to see him go,but we knew his new owners would take good care of him and we would see him from time to time for vaccinations. Little did we know as we waved goodbye that his story was just beginning.
I talked to the owners a week or so later and they said he was doing fine. There was a little exudate coming from the scar as it healed,but otherwise everything was going well. They just loved him.
Time went by and new patients came in as old ones faded into memory. We had filed Tripod in our memory bank, and were busy making new memories when a voice at the other end of the telephone one day held a surprise.
"You're never going to believe what happened," the caller said.
"About a month or so ago my dog ran away and I just assumed he was dead. I looked high and low for him.He was the best dog I ever had. I just about had given up hope when last night he showed up at home,and in good shape.
"Well, not exactly in perfect shape...I think I need to bring him in ... He is eating and drinking OK, but ... You're not gonna believe it ... Anyway,when he left he had four legs and now... well, now, he has just three.Not only that, it has already haired over and he barely has a scar.What do you figure happened?"
What kind of emotions must have been in this man's head as he soaked up the reunion? How does a dog disappear for a month and then show up with a perfectly amputated leg?
We told him the story, and called the young couple.
Now Tripod is back to his original home and probably living the most amazing life of any dog in Dawson County.
Bo Brock DVM
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.