Friday, June 22, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "Fourth Year, Part 2"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

The next two weeks played out the same way: I’d return home from work, burst through the door, and ask my wife, “How’s Blitz?”  We’d have some days where it appeared the dog was getting better, and some where it looked like no change.  I tried to convince myself that the limp didn't matter so much. Blitz was a lab, she goes 100%, and there are times when she hits the training dummy so hard on a retrieve that she knocks herself around a bit. She was OK.  She'd just have to be OK. 

Unfortunately, the limp got worse. If given the option, Blitz started to only put a small amount of weight on the leg. Still, if she heard a rooster pheasant while walking her in the back yard or sees a rabbit, it’s off to the races without the slightest hint that something is troubling her.  Her heart, it seemed, never talked to her leg. 

In the mean time, I had been doing research on her likely injury; a torn ACL.  The news there was not good.  If that was indeed what happened with Blitz, she'd be out for at least 12 weeks.  Done for the season.  Site after site, page after page held the same outlook.  My spirits were quickly sinking.   I couldn't stop feeling sorry for myself and I couldn't stop feeling like the upcoming goose, duck, and pheasant season to which I was looking forward would be meaningless.

At the end of her convalescence, it was obvious Blitz was clearly getting worse.  As much as I tried to will her into health, it was apparent she was not going to get better on her own.  I feared the diagnosis that I knew was coming.  Dr. Jeff knew it was coming as well, and had done his homework. “We have options.  We can do a slight reconstruction of the joint, clean things up, but the joint would not tolerate an athlete's activity.  Blitz would need to be a house dog.  The second option is a reconstruction of the ACL.  She’ll miss the hunting season, but her prospects for long term health are excellent. Option one is $1,200.  Option two is $2,400.  Either way, that's a lot of money.  Go home and talk with your wife tonight and let me know what you guys want to do." 

Personally, I didn't care about the money, I just wanted my hunting partner back.  But Doc was right, it was a lot, and I owed it to Vera to discuss it.  After I got home, I got Blitz comfortable and sat down with my wife and explained the options.  She listened.  She asked questions.  And then she got silent.  At that point I asked, "Honey, what do we do?"  Without skipping a beat she replied, "That dog was born to hunt. That's who she is. If we don't fix her all the way, we'd cause more pain than what she's suffering with the knee. We fix her all the way."

Doing anything but was never an option with me, I would have found some way to pull it off, but to have my wife say it made me pretty proud to have two incredible gals in my life. Both are much better than I deserve. 

Since we were doing such expensive and important surgery, we opted to have it performed at the University of Minnesota vet hospital in St. Paul.  Their reputation is one akin to "The Mayo Clinic for Animals," and since it was within driving distance, it seemed foolish to do it anywhere else. 

Our experience clearly met with the reputation.  I met with the surgeon who reviewed Blitz's x-ray and physically examined her.  She stated that the "U "had a different procedure that could be done which was a lot less stressful on the patient, yet yielded fantastic results.  She was confident Blitz was a great candidate.  "So what exactly does that mean?" I asked.  The surgeon replied, "Well, we can't know for sure until we get in there and get a look, but I think it may mean that you’ll get Blitz back for hunting by early November.  Maybe even sooner. The bad news is that it is expensive.”

I was ecstatic!  I was certain that my buddy would be out the whole season, but now!  I didn’t care what it would cost, I was going to get my hunting buddy back!  Even if it was just for the last weekend of legal hunting, it didn’t matter to me.  Blitz was a healthy dog, incredibly strong, in shape, and tough as nails.  If any dog had great prospects, she surely did.  I felt certain we’d been given a new lease on the season. 

We made arrangement for Blitz to have the surgery the following day.  We also agreed to put her under that afternoon to do one more x-ray to get a last look at her joint before going under the knife, just to have as much data as possible.  Before leaving, I had Blitz sit and threw my arms around her.  "I'll see you in a couple of days, girl.  They'll take good care of you here."  With that, Blitz got led away for preparation for her x-ray, and I headed to my car to call Vera. 

I was on cloud nine!  As I drove home I called my wife, Fuzzy, my mom, and just about anyone else familiar with the story to let them know that Blitz would be hunting with me that upcoming fall.  My worrying was over.  My SUV felt like it was floating three feet above interstate 494.  I'd have my hunting buddy back! 

That's when my phone rang - an unrecognized 651 exchange, which meant it originated in St. Paul.  I answered the phone.  "Mr. Sidders?" the voice on the other end asked.  I recognized it as the surgeon I had just met at the University hospital.  "Yes?" I answered "Mr. Sidders," the voice on the phone was clearly troubled, "there is something wrong.  I'm as so sorry to tell you there is something very wrong."    

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