Comet’s Off To Her ACL Surgery

Today is the day. Little Comet is off to the animal hospital for her ACL repair surgery. She has no idea what’s in store for her, but I pray that she gets through it well and will feel better in the long run once she’s healed. She had her pain pill last night and this morning, and had to be at the hospital by 7:30. They expect she should be ready for pickup around 4pm. It will feel like a long day while we wait to hear how it went and bring our baby home.
One of the concerns on the back of my mind is that she’ll struggle emotionally in the days after surgery. Like me, she seems to be a highly sensitive little girl and prone to anxiety. When she was a puppy, we took her for the routine spay procedure. The surgery seemed to go fine, but Comet came home changed (and I’m not referring to the shaved belly, incision, and lack of ability to carry puppies). Although the first two months she was home after we adopted her but before she was spayed she had a healthy appetite and loved treats, as soon as she was picked up from the vet that day of her procedure, she entered a period of time where she refused to eat. She would not voluntarily eat anything, be it her previously-loved kibble, cheese, peanut butter, treats, chicken and rice, etc. For months, we had to spoon feed her and force feed her, trying to increase the degree to which her food was enticing to her. It was a really stressful time. She lost a lot of weight, even though she should have been a growing puppy, and feeding took so much time. Plus, the force-feeding was contentious, so it added stress to our relationship with her and each other. Although not meant to be a true comparison of the magnitude or duration of the problem, it gave me a tiny window into the tremendous stress and worry my eight-year childhood/adolescent eating disorder caused my parents. Watching your “child” suffering through a problem and being rather powerless in fixing it is a painful position to be in. Comet’s vet had little to say in regards to advice. We ran all sorts of blood work and abdominal imaging tests to make sure that there was no underlying medical cause to her self-induced food refusal. When all of those results proved normal, her food issue seemed to have solely a behavioral and emotional cause.
It’s been so many years now so I can’t remember exactly how long Comet refused to eat, but I want to say it lasted in the neighborhood of six to eight months. After that lengthy restrictive phase, one day, she spontaneously decided to eat again. The problem vanished as once again, she decided she loved food and treats. One of the less obvious challenges of a puppy who hates any kind of food is that the easiest training reward (a treat) holds no power for evoking desired behaviors. The eating disorder occurred over prime training months, so it was difficult to motivate her to learn and practice new commands. The only external motivator was “play,” but that’s minimally alluring compared to meat treats for most dogs, since they romp and play when they want to anyway! Fortunately, she had mastered “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down” in the two months before the surgery when she liked treats! New commands didn’t really stick after that, though she’s picked up some other helpful vocabulary and directions since.
I imagine Comet will feel groggy and woozy when she comes home tonight, so we probably won’t feed her until the breakfast tomorrow, unless the dog surgeon instructs us otherwise. She’ll be entering the week of strict crate non-ambulatory rehab, so she will start sleeping in the dog crate to ensure she won’t be able to bear weight on her healing leg. I’ll be carrying her outside to go to the bathroom and offload her repaired back leg by pulling upwards on a towel sling that will cradle her under her belly. As I pull up while she stands, I’ll effectively be supporting her body weight so that her leg won’t have to. It won’t be able to tolerate being stood on for a couple weeks. It’s likely that she’ll instinctively lift it off the ground, but since we can’t trust her to automatically do that all the time she’s upright, the towel lift dog sling will serve as insurance against the limb taking on her weight prematurely. I’ve watched a lot of post-op dog ACL videos and read a bunch of articles, so I’m feeling fairly prepared. I think it will all come together well in practice, though I’m not naive enough to think it’ll be easy or seamless.
I ask a favor to anyone reading this: prayers and well wishes for Comet both for today’s surgery and for a successful, healthy rehabilitation. Thank you to everyone who’s supported and helped us out during this time. We really appreciate your love and care.

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