More than two months ago, my rescue dog, Benny, and I were playing in the yard, when I realized that something wasn't quite right.
His back leg seemed to be bothering him, which caused him to shift his weight onto his other 3 legs, as we played.
He'd been running a lot that day, so initially, I thought maybe he'd just pulled a muscle, during all the crazy chasing and excitement.
But... upon further inspection, I realized that his knee seemed to be the problem. Shortly thereafter, we headed to the vet, for an exam and some x-rays.
When it comes to my rescue babies, I tend to be super-over-protective. So... on our way to the vet that day, I tried not to worry too much, assuming that Benny's injury was likely nothing "major."
But... it turns out... it was.
During Benny's physical exam, Doc confirmed my initial theory: a dislocated patella (kneecap). However, the x-rays would soon uncover... a much bigger issue...
Prior to that day, we never would've known it.... but Benny was born with a bone deformity. To put this in simple terms, his back-right femur is "twisted," which inevitably led to the issues with the misalignment --and dislocation-- of his patella.
Basically, to repair the issue, Benny needed major, orthopedic surgery on his leg... immediately.
Doc and I discussed the options for surgery, and the potential complications of each.
For Benny's sake, Doc wanted to try the least-aggressive surgical approach first: with primary focus on repairing and resolving the issues with the dislocated patella, while basically "working around" --and with--his bone deformity.
Based on Doc's professional opinion, I agreed on this approach, in hopes that it may resolve the issues with Benny's knee, without forcing him to go through the immense pain and extensive recovery associated with the more invasive operation.
If the first surgery worked... well, perfect! Problem solved, and Benny would heal much more quickly, with much less pain.
Well... a week after the first surgery, Benny and I returned to the vet, for his follow-up appointment. As Doc analyzed the x-rays, he shook his head, and looked back at me.
I said: "It didn't work, did it?"
He replied: "Basically, no. I'm sorry... I was really optimistic, hoping this approach would be enough for him. But I hate to say.... he's definitely going to need the more-aggressive operation."
I said: "Well, if it's best for Benny, then let's do it."
Next, Doc provided me with a comprehensive overview of the surgery, discussing the pain, the risks, and the recovery time for Benny. Essentially, Doc would have to cut, re-set, and align Benny's femur, and then... his patella. This was a MAJOR surgery.
Then, he said: "Okay, Ashley... here's the deal. I know you're not gonna be happy about this, but please... just hear me out..."
Hearing those words... I braced myself.
Doc proceeded to tell me how he'd need to keep Benny there, at the vet clinic, during the early phases of his recovery. There were several reasons for this: Initially, Benny would need around-the-clock monitoring. In addition, in order for proper healing to occur, Benny's physical activity would need to be extremely-limited, and medically-monitored, in the clinical environment. Then, there'd be the immense, physical rehabilitation process...
Tears filled my eyes, as I said: "So, wait... Benny can't come home with me after surgery?! For how long???"
Doc replied: "I know you want a definitive answer, but I just can't give you one right now. It all depends on how he heals. He may need to stay here for a month... it may be two months."
In that moment, I felt sick. One month?! TWO months?! THAT long!? You're talking MONTHS... without my Benny... and he without me?? It felt like a cruel joke.
Benny is my baby. I just couldn't stand the thought... of us being without each other, for so damn long. In addition, Benny has always been one of the healthiest, happiest, most-energetic dogs I had. He loves life here at Lucky Dog.
Now, suddenly, an unforeseen birth defect... had taken all of that from him. In the short-term, at least...
But beyond that... here's what truly broke my heart:
During his recovery at the vet clinic, Benny would be forced to live in a tiny cage, which would restrict his ability to stand and move around (Honestly, this was only for his safety). Following this massive, orthopedic surgery, these drastic measures were the only way for Benny to heal. And as heartbroken as I was... I knew the truth: this was all for Benny's benefit... for the sake of his recovery... and ultimately, for his future...
But... even though I realized that these things were critical to Benny's long-term well being, I also knew: Benny won't understand this. He'll want to run. He'll want to play. He'll want to be with me, his mom...
Yet... he won't be able to do any of that...
He'll think he's being punished. He'll think I just left him there. He'll think I simply abandoned him, just like all the others had done to him, before me...
Even still... all of this was necessary... for Benny. So, with my consent, Benny underwent a second, major, much-more-invasive, orthopedic surgery.
A couple days later, I went to the clinic, to visit my Benny. During my visit, he was in so much pain, that it took everything I had.. not to cry in front of him.
And it took everything he had... just to lift his head...
That's how much he was hurting...
Despite his pain, as I went to leave, Benny tried to leave with me. It was one of the saddest moments of my life, as I had to say: "No, baby. You're sick. You have to stay here right now..."
After that day, I limited my number of visits to Benny, just so I wouldn't get his hopes-up --and break his heart-- each time he realized... that he wasn't going home with me that day.
Meanwhile... a week passed... then, two weeks... then, a month had gone by. During that time, I constantly harassed Doc... asking for updates on Benny.
At some point, Doc chuckled and said: "Ash, do you think I'm torturing your boy or something?!"
I replied: "I'm sorry. I promise I don't think that. It's just... I miss him. That's all."
Then, Doc said: "I'm sorry. I know you miss him. I know you're ready to take him home. I promise it'll happen soon."
During that time, on each of my visits to the clinic, for appointments with other rescue dogs, I'd hear Benny in the background, barking for me... as he heard my voice.
In desperation, I'd look at Doc, and ask: "Can I please, please, please take him home today?!"
Doc would say: "Not yet... but soon. I promise."
Well... before I knew it, two months had passed, without my Benny.
And then... I finally got to take him home...
When I arrived that day... I said: "Today's the day, buddy boy! You get to come with me this time! Let's go home!"
Benny's excitement brought tears to my eyes. He showered me with kisses, releasing massive squeals of excitement.
Then, as I loaded him into the car, Benny had a huge smile on his face... and I had one on mine. The whole way home, Benny watched out the window, in anticipation of our arrival... home.
Yet... today... even now... Benny is still recovering. He's still hurting, he's still adjusting, he's still experiencing the daily physical struggles of his reality.
It'll be 6 more weeks... before we'll know if this surgery was a success for Benny. That's when Doc will review and reevaluate... to see if he needs --yet another-- surgery.
But for now... and until then... Benny is home.
When we arrived at Lucky Dog that day... the day that Benny finally came home, he looked back at me... with the biggest smile he's ever had.
A smile that said: "Thank you. Before now... no one ever came back for me. No one ever came... to take me with them. Finally, I know how it feels... to go home..."
If you'd like to donate toward Benny's past & future medical care, please click below: