The Dog’s ACL Surgery Is Necessary

I took the plunge and created a gofundme campaign for Comet’s ACL repair. I feel somewhat humiliated by exposing the fact that we don’t have that money to cover her procedure and it’s more than uncomfortable to ask for money. I guess desperation and the need to do everything you can for those you love (Comet certainly falls in this group) is enough of a motivating shove that I am willing to extend myself far beyond my comfort zone and ask for financial help. Thankfully, most everyone who has met Comet over the eight years we’ve had her not only understands how much we truly love her, but also has fallen in love with her too. She’s one sweet girl; that’s for sure.

She saw the surgeon yesterday who operates out of one of the main animal hospitals in our part of the state. The surgeon looked over her imaging results and blood work and examined Comet’s injured leg. He decisively asserted that surgical repair is the right option for her and will afford her the best quality of life. Without it, she will not heal and will remain unable to walk and in daily pain. He explained the specifics of the operation and the rehabilitation process. It’s likely she has a torn meniscus as well, so he would also repair.

The rehabilitation process isn’t particularly stressful. Coming from my background of personal training and sports injury rehabilitation, I feel confident that I’ll be a good at-home therapist and nurse for Comet. Most routine ACL repairs are rehabilitated at home after the owners are trained by the surgeon, so if the average pet parent can handle it, I’m sure it’ll be well within my abilities too. Hopefully Comet will be a compliant patient! I’ve worked with all sorts of people, but she’ll be my first official animal patient.

The most difficult part of the recovery process is the first week after the surgery. Dogs must remain essentially bed-bound and are not permitted to ambulate or even really bear weight by standing. The surgeon said she will need to be confined to a crate (so that she won’t be able to get up and walk) and carried outside to use the bathroom. With her normal energetic disposition, it’s hard for us to imagine her being sedentary enough to take this severe level of inactivity in stride. However, after seeing how much this injury has crippled her and saddled her with pain such that she rarely gets out of her bed by her own volition, it’s easier to imagine those seven days passing fairly seamlessly, especially because she’ll probably be in more acute discomfort from the incision and operation and drowsy from the pain medications. Regardless, we will strictly enforce the non-weightbearing requirement. The surgeon reported that he does some 200 or so canine ACL repairs each year and the only one out of all of those in recent years that “failed” was due to the owners preventing the dog from bounding out of the car at the end of a drive. Seriously? This is a major operation for the dog to endure and a major financial drain (nearly $3000!). How could you be so careless and lax with the explicit instructions? That won’t be happening in our home. I’ll plan to take all post-operative instructions and follow them to the letter. If questions arise, we will ask, and if still in doubt, we will err on the conservative side.

The appointment yesterday ended with the surgeon furnishing an itemized estimate for Comet’s planned procedure down to the cost of the medications she’ll need based on her weight. The figure glared back at us with the alarming cost of $2800 or so (the estimate has a “low” and “high” figure based on exactly what is found inside when the knee is opened up (for example, if the meniscus also needs to be repaired). Saying we were flooded with sticker shock is an understatement. We knew it would be quite expensive, but I think we were hoping it would be closer to $400 less (as the range online is about $2500-5000). However, this surgeon is highly recommended because of his expertise with this specific surgery and the sheer number of dogs he treats with this injury each year with an incredibly high success rate. If we are going to sink the money into the operation and try to help Comet get better, we might as well do it right the first time and not treat her body nor our money callously, hoping to pinch a few pennies, which won’t pay off in the long run. Plus, although it’s super expensive to us, the cost is still on the very low end of the typical range nationwide.


Comet seemed to take to the surgeon well, even though she’s embarrassingly shy around new people, especially if they have a lab coat, needles, smell like other dogs, and put her on a metal table. It probably helped that the surgeon loved her and told her many times how cute she is. Of course, in my completely biased opinion, I fully concur.

After handing us the printed estimate, the staff wanted to get Comet on the surgical schedule as soon as possible. We said we needed to get back to them after discussing the finances. And so, the gofundme campaign has become a reality. I drafted it this morning and hit “publish” before my need for modesty, privacy, and dignity talked me out of it. Comet has been the most loyal friend and the third leg of our little family unit for the past eight years. When we adopted her, we vowed to give her the life she deserves and take care of her. At this time, that includes this surgery to alleviate her pain and give her her life back. Comet not only is a loving pet like hopefully all family dogs, but an emotional support animal to help me manage my PTSD, anxiety, and depression. I think back to the moments after I was violently attacked where I lay bleeding profusely on the floor of our apartment. I felt so incredibly broken, scared, and ruined that a major part of me didn’t even want to get up and get help. I seriously considered allowing myself to give in to my body’s strong pull to make me pass out, knowing if I did, I could bleed out and die and not have to live the rest of my life tortured by this horrific memory. I lay there stalling and thinking, wondering what I wanted to do. It was Comet, who slowly slinked out of her cower in the corner by the door and crawled to my side who jolted me out of those defeatist plans. I saw her little frightened face and it reminded me of her love and all of my family members who would want me to fight through and rise up. And so I did.

Comet saved me that day and she is the company I need on a daily basis in my isolation and emotional loneliness. I not only desperately want her to have the surgery so she can join me out in the world on our walks again because it truly brings me joy and calms my worries when she’s with me, but I want to do it for her too. She deserves to feel good and not be in pain and be able to participate in life by getting out of her bed and out on walks or to romp and play. We will make this surgery work for her and for us. We will honor her importance to us by prioritizing her care. Comet, we love you.

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