Curly Needed a Rescue Angel

A much needed haircut reveals the extent of the damage to Curly's leg

Curly's left femur is not even attached to his hip

One of Curly's many expressions

Curly's recovery paraphanalia

Curly dressed for a trip outdoors

by Leslie Eiler,  February 2008

Curly’s first days with ATRA

Curly's surrendering owners told us that Curly had fallen out of the back of a pickup and that he was still limping. We requested the vet records and it turned out the leg injury happened last JUNE when he would have been 9 months old and no X-ray was ever taken!  On these photos, you can kind of see what this injury looks like.  That's not a piece of hair sticking out on his left hind... it’s actually the top of his hock sticking out all sideways. It's not pleasant to look at.  I've never seen an injury like this.

Curly is also very skinny.  His backbone is sticking out everywhere. Not only is he matted completely, but there is hay and debris stuck in his coat.  As far as this injury goes... his hind leg looks all screwed up, especially when he sits down.

I can't believe how long it took to get that hair off... if my blades were dull before, they are totally shot now!  He's going to be a very sweet and handsome boy though... I hope his leg thing can be fixed up. Roofus seems to know that this guy isn't in good shape and Sonny always follows Roo's lead... so all the dogs are getting along fine.  I think I'm just getting lucky with males that have good dispositions.

For as skinny as he is, and despite his leg problem, Curly is in amazingly good spirits. These dogs never cease to amaze me like that! He's totally affectionate. He listens well and has plenty of hormones! But, as skinny as he is, I'm afraid that he might not get to be neutered tomorrow after all. His waist is about the same diameter as a 32 oz. pop bottle.... no kidding. I was stunned.  I hope at least they can get the X-rays done tomorrow.

Paula Lackner sent me some dog coats with that last batch of leashes. Great Idea! Curly is definitely getting one of those now. I've got the heat cranked up in here... he's eaten and is resting quietly. He doesn't seem dehydrated at all per the skin test... he's drinking his water okay. I'll start feeding him small portions, multiple times a day.  His stools are loose though... and I already dropped off a sample to the vet so should have those results by tomorrow.

I haven't introduced him to the cats yet either... but I'm not worried about that at all. I'm thinking he's going to be here for a while. I don't like moving them around too much when they are in this bad shape.

Curly’s initial vet visit

The leg problem seems to be upper, not lower...and the muscles have atrophied quiet a bit. Won't know anything until they can get X-rays... but my vet suspects it could be an upper femoral fracture that's somehow affecting the condyle region. There could be all sorts of things messed up in there... we just have to wait and see (which never seems to come natural to me.) Whatever is wrong, it's the kind of injury that should have been treated immediately, without question.

During the exam, Dr. Volz had me hold slight pressure on the hip socket while he checked for range of movement in the leg... and you could hear and feel bones popping in and out. It's not good. It’s important to mention, Curly handled all this VERY well... he didn't appear to be in any severe pain during the exam, showed only slight discomfort. He's got a great disposition.

My vet didn't mention the word "amputation", even after I asked if his leg could be saved. That doesn't totally surprise me... he knows me well enough to understand that saying the word “amputation” would require an hour-long follow up discussion. Dr. Volz is all about the animals, he's as passionate about helping them as I am sometimes... and I'm sure we will figure out how to best fix Curly's leg. Dr. Volz can do some orthopedic stuff, but limited. On the slim chance that the injury is simpler than first appearances, Dr. Volz might be able to fix it himself, but we will get an orthopedic consult anyways.  Tammi’s vet, if he'll help us, can do the surgery close to home and that would be perfect. I made it clear that we want to do whatever was BEST for Curly. Curly is a young dog, he's a sweet dog, he certainly has a chance at a good happy life with someone. I'm feeling very optimistic that the leg can be fixed at this point.

Curly blossoms

As far as strength and body condition, Curly is in amazingly good shape, and good health. Yes, WAY too skinny, but not sick, not dehydrated, and surprisingly strong as an ox! (He's also a FULL of hormones, which might have something to do with his super-canine strength...Curly tries to hump anything that moves.) Curly can't walk or even stand up on really smooth surfaces...not at all. He will try to trek across the hardwood floors if there is something over there to hump, but he ends up on his belly every time. It's just lucky that he's not a 90-pounder because he must be carried over smooth surfaces at this point. I think, part of the problem is his nails are like bear claws, most likely never been trimmed... so his nails seem to prevent his pads from touching the surface. The vet is going to have to trim those... I'm afraid to touch them when they get that long and curly. (Maybe they named him curly because of his toe nails?... I know, that's not very funny.)

I thought you all might enjoy seeing this latest picture of Curly. I want you to see how adorable and expressive he is. I swear, he will look at me 1,000 different ways within a five minute period. He does this all the time and was more than happy to do it in front of the camera today. I did eventually finish grooming his face. He doesn't look anything like the dog we picked up!  He doesn't act like the same dog either... he is constantly happy, happy, happy even though his leg is in really bad shape.

Curly is really gimpy, and a challenge because all he wants to do is play rough with the other dogs. This Airedale has a great disposition, a well developed sense of humor, and tons of character. He loves affection. He acts like he's never had any before and is making up for lost time. He's still mouthy like a puppy, but he we are working on that. He seems to learn VERY fast. He's a bit more houndy than a terrier though in many ways; he's tall, got big long ears, and can howl exactly like a bloodhound. The first time I heard him do that, it scared the living daylights out of me. He sounded like a ghost or something and was amazingly LOUD too. He's only done that a couple times, but I've never heard a noise quite like that come out of an Airedale before. WOW.

Curly sees the orthopedic surgeon

Curly saw the ortho vet this morning. Dr. Bauer doesn't think there is any danger of nerve damage. Curly is trying to use his leg, even though he's not putting much weight on it. He thinks a hip replacement is a much better option than the FHO in this case. Even though it's a messy injury, an older injury, he still believes it can be done and would be much preferable to the FHO.

Normally, the success rate at this clinic for hip replacements from injuries like Curly's is 96%. If Curly's leg had been treated immediately, his chance of success with a total hip replacement could be have been about 6% higher than the 90% that Dr. Bauer estimated, with a 9% chance of complications that could be dealt with in one way or another, and 1% chance of total failure.

The biggest concern is that Curly's broken femur has raised itself up about an inch, the muscles there have shortened, and his body has attempted to heal itself in that position. During this procedure, they will need to stretch those muscles quite a bit in order to bring that bone back down into it's normal position. The other concern is scar tissue. His femur bone has become very dense as a result of the body's attempt to repair itself. They will need to scrape out much of that scar tissue, and drill a bit farther than usual through the top of the femur bone in order to insert Curly's new hip. But, since that bone has become so much more condensed, it should also provide a very strong foundation to hold that titanium rod once it is in place; it's just getting the rod in there that will initially be a bit of a challenge.

If during the surgery, they find that they are unable to make this hip replacement work, they will end up doing the FHO. Dr. Bauer feels optimistic that this won't happen. My impression was that he wouldn't even attempt this if he didn't feel it would work, but he still had to warn us about the risks in case something does go wrong. The total hip replacement procedure is this clinic’s primary specialty between the two vets that perform them there. This clinic has done more than 500 total hip replacements, and during that time, they have only had just a handful of cases totally fail. (Total failure would mean removing the artificial hip completely after it's been implanted.) Provided that everything goes well with the hip replacement, Curly's new titanium joint will fully restore his leg and hip functionality, it should last for his entire life, and Curly will get to be a normal dog again after just a few months.

While we were there, I called Lynn so Dr. Bauer could explain this to her as well. Because we are a rescue group, he is willing to do Curly's surgery for basically the cost of the equipment and expenses, but he won't charge us for his time. Basically, this works out to be a 30% discount! There will be a follow up visit two weeks after the surgery, and at that point, Curly may benefit from some physical therapy appointments. We need to restrict Curly's movement for the four weeks following his surgery. No running, no jumping, no rough play with other dogs. They said he'll be able to do steps during that time, but only if he goes very SLOWLY. To be on the safe side, I plan to keep him away from the steps anyway.

The surgery was a success!

It has been two days since Curly’s surgery. I set up Curly’s crate and have the room set up like a little recovery room.  He's such a sweet boy and is feeling pretty chipper today. I can't believe how happy he seems after what he's been through. He was totally and continuously incontinent until this morning. He got up twice during the night; once at 2 am, and once at 6 am. At 10 am  he was perfectly dry, and pottied outside like a good boy. I think the epidural is wearing off now.  Take a look at Curly all dressed up to go outside to potty!

Curly - a month later

'Curly had his follow up appointment with the ortho vet this afternoon. The X-rays showed that his fracture is still in the early phases of healing, but not a surprise, given how complex this surgery was. Everything looked good on the X-rays, the vet is happy, so Curly no longer needs to be strictly confined to a crate and has a new set of restrictions. His next follow up is in one month. Until then, he needs limited access to stairs. No rough play with the other dogs (or cats) and no running or jumping. Curly can start going on walks now... I'm sure he'll be happy about that. Aside from the recovery, Curly now eats 6 cups of dog food per day, and I suspect he is turning into a horse. He is still very lean...but long, tall, and enormous paws! Picking him up or carrying him around is no longer an option. He has been an amazingly good boy, despite being cooped up for so long. He shredded a few blankets, but that’s about it. He likes rope toys and Kongs, but needs the black ones. He is friendly, social, bouncy, expressive, alert, sweet, and wiggles all over when you give him attention. He is a little bit talkative, but not overly; he lets me know when he needs to go outside and has not had an accident in his kennel for a very long time. That’s the update on Curly. He's going to be a fantastic Airedale once he heals up.


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