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Frank's New Story

the beautiful and scary new beginning

Frank's New Story

An End and a Beginning

April 25th, 2017 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

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Me + FrankFrank Duke is an (almost!) 8 month old yellow Labrador retriever who absolutely loves life. Frank is all things quintessential lab: energetic, crazy smart, playful, fun-loving, bold. He came to me in October of 2016 as a 7 week old puppy through an organization that trains service dogs at my university. He was doing so well in training, and had even earned his jacket and started attending classes with me during the spring semester, at only 4 months old! However, because of the nature of this site, you know his story was about to have a massive plot twist.

One February morning we were out playing fetch with sticks (his literal favorite thing ever), and he was perfectly fine, loving life. I had an exam so I left him in his kennel while I went to campus. When I came back and let him out he was limping. I didn’t see anything of concern when I examined his leg myself (although I am no veterinarian, I should’ve been able to see if something was visibly off). I found no wound, no swelling, no discoloration, it wasn’t even especially hot to the touch. Because he’s a service dog in training, he had been constantly monitored since he was a wee pupper. If he wasn’t under my, or an approved sitter’s, direct supervision, he was in his kennel. I couldn’t fathom when or how he could’ve injured himself without me knowing it.

I panicked and called my training supervisors to get their advice, and they said to wait and see if it got better or worse. By the end of the day he wasn’t putting any weight on that leg at all. The next morning there was no improvement, so we took him to an emergency vet clinic. The diagnosis they gave was panosteitis, which is analogous to growing pains. It usually is a sudden onset in rapidly growing larger breed puppies with no history of trauma. It is painful, but the dogs grow out of it and are usually just fine. We got him some pain meds and put him on bed rest.

A few days later, however, his leg started swelling up really quickly, which is definitely not supposed to happen with panosteitis. Again I panicked. We took him to his normal vet, who put him on antibiotics for what was very clearly a nasty infection. He was on the antibiotics for a couple days, but the swelling was just getting worse and was even spreading onto his abdomen. During this time he stopped eating and didn’t want to drink either, and we thought he wasn’t going to make it. We went back to the emergency clinic, and what they said wasn’t very encouraging. They had no idea what was going on. It wasn’t good, they needed more imaging.

After taking an ultrasound, they discovered that he had a puncture wound. It had healed on the surface so it couldn’t be found in a surface examination. He had a wicked infection and a nasty abscess the length of his entire femur. He had surgery to get the abscess removed, and was in a bandage (so his leg could drain) and on a whole slew of medications for several weeks. But I was told the outlook was good. As long as he didn’t have nerve damage (and his vet said she was fairly certain he didn’t), he would likely make a full recovery with some physical therapy. We had a bump in the road, but he was still on the path to becoming a service dog.

The day he got his bandage off I celebrated because knowing Frank I was sure it wouldn’t be long before he started using it again. But he didn’t. Weeks went by and he still wasn’t using it at all. I was doing exercises with him, stretches, massage therapy, everything we could think of to get him using it and still nothing. We started considering hydrotherapy but decided to have the vet look at him again to make sure there was nothing else going on.

A couple x-rays later, we found that he has osteomyelitis and a fracture. Osteomyelitis is inflammation of the bone because of an infection, causing unusual bone growth and significant pain. Because of the fracture, this infection could spread to other parts of his body. The options were a long, intensive, expensive medication regimen with no guarantee of success or amputation of the leg. I was told that, in his case, the best option would be amputation.

That was it. The end of his journey to be a working dog. The beginning of his journey as a tripawd pet.

So that is the long convoluted story that leads us here. Frank hasn’t used his leg in months. He is, in many respects, already a tripawd pup. He’s learned how to do a lot of things on three legs. Pretty soon here he’ll have the surgery to make it official.

If everything goes as planned, I will be keeping him as my pet. I’ve never owned an amputee dog before, so I will gladly take any advice or encouragement you’re able/willing to give. 🙂

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • otisandtess

    Poor guy. Glad you were able to get this figured out. Although he may not be able to continue with his original ‘work,’ we do have a number of tripawds who serve as comfort dogs or have won awards for completing advanced training programs

    • frankduke

      Not knowing what was happening for so long was definitely the worst part, so yes I’m very glad we have it figured out and can now give him the treatment he needs. And that’s very encouraging to hear! I’ll definitely be keeping up his training some because I feel like he’ll be bored if I don’t.

  • jerry

    Oh welcome! I’m so glad you joined (but of course sorry you had to in the first place, it’s the club nopawdy wants to join).

    Have you been to the Tripawds Start Page yet? That’s a good place to begin when you’re new here. And our Forums too. You’ll get lots of fast input from others there too OK?

    Frank is a lucky dawg to have you for a human. You will both be a great team! My best advice to you is remember that you set the pace for his recovery. The stronger and more optimistic you are, the happier he will be. And take things one day at a time. We call this “Be More Dog”!

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