Bones, bones, dem bones

by Lorin Michel Friday, June 8, 2012 1:34 AM

Our good friend Tommy had surgery this week. He has a torn ACL. Actually, he has two torn ACLs but he only had surgery to repair one. It’s been quite the ordeal, especially for his parents. Tommy’s only a little over 16 months old, still just a pup, and so not fully formed nor completely mature. He’d been having trouble for a while. His walking was compromised; his running was difficult though at times he ignored his pain to tear around the yard at near break-neck speed.

He began to favor his back legs several months ago. He moved like an old man, dragging them behind him one day then fairly bounding off the back porch the next.

Tommy, since I haven’t yet mentioned it, is an American Staffordshire Terrier, often referred to by its street name. Pit Bull. He’s the loveliest, sweetest, nicest, most gentle boy you’ve ever met (the late Maguire notwithstanding). He lives with Diane and Gene, and his brothers Henri and Roswell, and his sister Fiona. He loves to sit on the couch in the living room, his big head resting on the backrest pillows, staring wistfully out the window. Maybe he did this because he wasn’t feeling well; maybe he’s just docile by nature. I suspect it was a combination of the two.

After we lost Maguire, I gathered up all of his food and treats and went to Diane’s one rainy Saturday in mid-March. She was fostering four puppies and their mother, terrier mixes all, and I sat on the floor as puppies crawled all over me. It was very cathartic. The food I brought with me was for whomever. Her own dogs (Henri and Tommy) or any of the foster dogs. After we were done with the puppies, we went into the house and I noticed right away that Tommy was moving kind of funny, walking stiffly, and standing awkwardly, his rear legs straight out behind him rather than under him for support. I asked, and Diane said they didn’t know what was going on. They’d had him checked out. It wasn’t hip dysplasia; he didn’t seem to have a spine problem.

Tommy on Tuesday, after surgery

About two weeks ago, they found out that he had two torn ACLs and that both back legs needed surgery.

We hear a lot about ACLs, often when it comes to athletes. It makes sense then that such an athletically built dog might have the same issue. Odd though that it would affect him at such a young age. Apparently, it’s a genetic condition. It's also common in breeds like Labrador and golden retrievers, poodles, german shepherds and rottweilers. 

An ACL is an anterior cruciate ligament, one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It is critical to knee stability and to keeping the knee from giving out from under you. In a dog it connects the back of the femur (the bone above the knee) with the front of the tibia (the bone below the knee). According to, a dog with an ACL injury might show just a hint of lameness. He might also be unable to bear any weight on the injured leg. In Tommy’s case, with two of them, he could bearly support his weight on either of his rear legs. In some cases, the problem can go away. But in many – and in the case of Tommy – if the problem is left untreated the dog could develop bone spurs, arthritis and be in a great deal of pain in a relatively short period of time.

Diane and Gene found an orthopedic specialist in the Valley. They got approval from their pet insurance company, and Tommy had his first surgery on Monday. He’ll recover for six weeks and then have the other leg done. According to what Diane said, the surgeon has to essentially break the legs and reset them in order to correct the problem.


On Monday, she and Gene were a wreck, waiting, waiting. He came through the surgery fine. He was groggy, on a Secinal patch, but doing OK. On Tuesday they brought him home.

Tommy today, with toys and brother Henri, convalescing

I know how hard it is to make the decision to harm your animal, even when you’re doing it In order to make them better. You second guess yourself, you worry, you feel like a complete loser, like the worst pet parent in the world. And when you see your baby after you’ve made this decision, you feel even worse. They’re hurt; they’re bandaged. And you did this.

When my cat got cancer in her rear leg my vet told me there was a chance that if we took the leg, we might also get all of the cancer. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified, but ultimately I made the decision to allow my baby’s leg to be amputated on the chance that it would cure her. When I went to get her, and they brought her out to me, with only three legs, I almost couldn’t stand. I felt guilt, sadness, terror. In her case, it didn’t fix the problem. I lost her to cancer anyway.

Tommy is doing better today. He’ll be doing better still tomorrow. And once he’s completely healed, he’ll go through this again. But then he’ll be perfect. He’ll be healthy. And he’ll be running around, going up and down stairs, jumping in and out of the Forrester. He’ll be happy and live a long life, jumping up to hang on the couch in front of the window, snoozing on the rug, being with the people that love him.

Dog bless that. And dog bless pet parents who do what they can and must to make their furry children better. That's always worth celebrating.


live out loud

Comments (3) -

6/8/2012 9:17:08 AM #

Dog blessings to Tommy! Luv, Mom

mom United States

6/8/2012 12:23:41 PM #

Awwww, what a lovely surprise to log in and see a story about our boy. And somehow ( I don't even know how or why) it helps us feel a little less alone in this long road to make Tommy all better. Reading his story told through your words makes the end goal of a successful recovery seem even more real. If others believe he will heal and be happy, well then, so do we. Coming from such a good doggie mom as yourself, it's much appreciated. Woof!

Diane United States

6/8/2012 7:40:42 PM #

Awww! The Tomster. The Tommeister!

We send healing thoughts and love and light to his "little" body. And send peaceful thoughts to mom and dad so that they can rest and endure this!

Dog bless our (not so) little furry ones!

Bobbi United States

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