My girl is an 8 and a half year old Rottweiler, named Annabelle.
I acquired Annabelle as a 12 week old puppy.
She came into my home, which I shared then with her 140 pound Uncle, Horus.
At 4, Annabelle blessed me with a litter of three pups, one of which I kept,
her son, Rocket.
Annabelle, from the start, was the princess of the house.
At 25 pounds, she bullied her Uncle mercilessly to play with her,
batting his nose while he was sleeping and trying vainly to ignore her.
Annabelle is not to be ignored.
Annabelle introduced me to my neighbor, Adriane, who has a mixed breed girl
named Zoie. At the time we met, Annabelle was just 3 months old and Zoie
was only 5 months old. "The girls" started having play dates every day
and quickly became inseparable, and remain so to this day.
Adriane takes care of Annabelle for me while I'm at work,
so she notices every little thing about her.
Adriane was quickly dubbed "Nouna" (Greek for "godmother")
to Annabelle as they became bonded.
On Wednesday, the second of October, 2006, Adriane called me while I was on
my way to work and told me that Annabelle was limping again.
We had been treating a small infection in one of her paws and that had been
I asked her to take Annabelle to the vet for me and make sure they got an
x-ray of her bones. I just had a feeling. At 4:15 p.m., I got the call
from my vet telling me that Annabelle had osteosarcoma.
Of course, I dropped everything and ran to the vet to be with my girl
and get the whole picture.
Like so many others, I was suddenly faced with the decision:
do I put her down or put her through the operation to have her leg amputated?
And if I chose the latter, would I be doing it for her, or for me?
Yes, I wanted her to live longer, but at what price?
Would her life still be worth living?
How much time would she gain in exchange for how much pain?
I tend to be a conservative on putting a dog through procedures.
Let's try the least invasive thing first and see how that works.
But with this, there were no half measures to try.
Delay could mean an unacceptable continuing of pain for her,
or could hasten her death if I decided to go forward.
There seemed to be not enough time to make such an important decision
and certainly not enough information.
To make matters worse, the shock of the situation made it nearly impossible
to think clearly.
An incredibly patient Dr. Johnson answered my questions
two and three times over while I tried to absorb the diagnosis,
and the prognoses for each of Annabelle's options.
The doctors could tell me that she would probably live another year with
aggressive treatment, but they couldn't tell me for sure how happy she would
be for that year.
Everything in my heart screamed to keep her alive and my head said, "put her down."
I agonized for an hour. Then, for some reason, I became very calm and sure
that that I wanted to go forward with surgery.
I was lucky to have my friend and neighbor who loves Annabelle as much as I do
there to talk things over. I agreed to get the surgery for Annabelle
and Adriane promised to stay up for days at a time with her if necessary
for home care. Annabelle had the surgery the next morning.
I admit to having an hour of panic that morning,
second-guessing myself as to what I was doing.
I talked to three of my dog friends, two of whom had been through the
experience before, and got a mixed bag of answers to my main question -
should I go forward with it?
Again, I had to rely on my "gut feeling" about Annabelle and her spirit and will to live.
I had looked into her eyes and seen the fire of life burning brightly there.
She wasn't ready to leave this life and she deserved her shot at recovery.
I think we, as owners and caretakers of our pets, ultimately know their spirit
better and more completely than any doctor ever can.
To at least some extent, every person who faces this situation must
look inside themselves and to their pet for this answer.
Annabelle had the surgery and when she was waking up, I went to the hospital
to sit with her and keep her calm.
It is a shock to see your "fur child" for the first time without the amputated limb.
My heart ached and I asked myself for the hundredth time had I done the right thing?
The next week was difficult. Annabelle stayed in the hospital for two days after her surgery.
My vet has a 24 hour staff, which made a big difference for me.
I would never have left her without round the clock care.
Pain management was of paramount importance.
Ten hours after surgery, Annabelle was up taking her first steps.
Shaky steps, for sure, but up she was and out to pee.
Friday she was already keeping the staff at the hospital on their toes.
There was at least one staff member assigned to "Annabelle duty" at all times.
I told you earlier - Annabelle is not to be ignored.
Nor would she be, even in her weakened condition.
If she was not being petted at all times, Annabelle howled - constantly -
until someone came to pet her again.
On Friday night, the staff was happy to see me so I could take over for a few hours
and they could get some work done!
By Saturday, they were calling me to come and get her earlier than planned
because the weekend staff couldn't keep up with Annabelle duty and get everything done.
She came home with oral pain meds and lots of instructions.
The next day, I brought her back for a new fentanyl patch to control her pain.
For whatever reason, that worked better than the oral pain meds (tramadol) for her.
She couldn't keep her balance as well with the tramadol.
As with people, different meds work differently and this worked for her.
After another week, she needed no more pain meds.
Initially, we helped her to walk with a sling, only letting her take a few steps alone
Two years earlier, Annabelle had to have a knee reconstruction.
In recovery from that surgery, she refused all help, making her displeasure
at our efforts known with a grumble.
She is the sweetest dog in the world (except for yours, probably)
and would never bite anyone, but she likes to make you think she might
if you keep up with behavior of which she does not approve.
Annabelle learned what "help" meant and when anyone would say to her,
"Annabelle wait, momma help you" or fill in the appropriate person,
she began growling at the word "help".
This time, she accepted help.
It was a blow to her pride, but she was adjusting.
She even learned that if she relied on me for balance with the sling,
she could resume "running" of a sort, at the park on her nightly jaunt.
It was only 3 or 4 days after surgery when she began that modified form of running.
Getting out seemed to make Annabelle feel better in general.
Over the next few days, Annabelle began walking more and more on her own.
By the end of the second week, Annabelle began resisting help again in earnest.
By the end of the third week after surgery, Annabelle returned to training for her Rally
At the park where we train with a group of friends, I let her run loose,
which are the pictures attached to this story.
I hadn't planned on taking her through the course, but she made it clear that she was
there and she intended to work. So, we took a very slow run through of the rally
training course and she was able to do everything except the jump.
As we finished, everyone at training was applauding her performance as well as her spirit.
I am so encouraged by her quick progress, I am now making plans to pursue her Rally Novice
title in the next two months.
With the excellent care Annabelle received at
Encina Veterinary Hospital,
she made a quick recovery from the surgery. Everything was easier than what
I had dreaded.
D. Elisabeth Aymett, Milagro Rottweilers
Wednesday November 1, 2006
Multi BOB, Multi V1 Rated, Multi Group Placing
CH. Milagro's Don Juan Imaygo, CD, CGC, TT, HITs