The 19 year old cat, Three Legs, lay resting on our examination table. The diagnosis was certain; The kidney disease we’d found 3 years before had reached an end point. Something had to be done.
Memories and tears flowed in equal proportions.
“Y’know, Dr. Randolph,” the cat’s owner said, “I’m thinking back to when she first lost her leg. Up until then we always called her FiFi. That was 14 years ago, and she followed me out to the mailbox. While visiting with the mail carrier we didn’t realize she was resting under the vehicle.”
“The doctor said she would have to lose that left rear leg; it was crushed, and we should put her to sleep.”
“Well, we thought it over, and decided to get a second opinion. Dr. Scarbrough was still alive then, and he took the leg off and patched her up. She’s given us a lot of love in those 17 years we wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
When we asked for stories amputees who went on to long and successful lives, we were rewarded with heartwarming stories of lives that would have been wasted.
“Claws” is just such a cat. Afflicted with a nerve paralysis caused by an auto injury, Nancy was faced with the decision to euthanize or surgerize. Reluctant initially, she relented. Neither she nor Claws has regretted the wonderful 7 years since.
“Bear” is a Golden Retriever who has made a unique accomplishment on three legs. He lost a rear leg to cancer.
Already an accomplished field trial dog, he was unhappy watching the other dogs train. So, after his surgical incision healed, Sherry, his owner, put him in the pool to swim. Even before his first swim ended he had adapted. He went on to become the first Obedience Trial Champion registered in the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America (Archaic AKC rules do not allow amputees or spayed or neutered animals to compete).
Linda, from Gulfport, MS, tells of rescuing an injured stray cat when she worked for a veterinarian. “Kevin” has given her family 12 years of non-stop love since then. Is he active?
“Once he caught a rat in our back yard. He was very proud of his catch and didn’t want to give it up. He purrs so loud it causes him to drool.”
Even before graduating from Auburn University I had my first amputation success story. The Large Animal Clinic had a mascot that was a gift from the Small Animal Clinic: Tripod. Grey and petite, she had lost a rear leg in an auto accident, and had been dumped on the clinic steps. Warm-hearted students took her in, surgically finished the job the car had started, and nursed her to like-new condition.
Even with only one rear leg to propel her, she kept the large animal area free of grain-stealing birds. On duty 24 hours, she led a full life.
So, God forbid, should the situation ever arise for your pet, please don’t say, “I could never do that to him.” Instead, think and say, “Yes, doctor, I will do that for him”.
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February 1992 in north central Maryland, my favorite DSH cat Ivy (age 12 yrs 6 months) was limping and having trouble jumping. Then I found the lump and gasped at the size. I ordered a biopsy which confirmed the obvious that she had an aggressive osteosarcoma on her femur near the knee. In retrospect it was likely the injection site for rabies vaccine given in the late 1980′s ordered by the state. (The rare occurrence of feline osteosarcoma induced months or years after a particular rabies vaccine given in the late 1980’s is now widely understood, and is NOT a valid reason to not protect against rabies today with improved vaccines). After her leg amputation, she thrived, had no relapse of the cancer and died five years later of unrelated illness. She did have about a month of depression after the surgery, but bounced back to her normal cheerful spirit. I don’t regret the amputation as a selfish act. Her quality of life was excellent and her personality was unchanged. Her litter mate brother Hank also took about a month to adjust–to overcome his instinctual aversion to the radical change in her appearance. In his instinctual reaction, Ivy was to be avoided, so he would hiss at her if she tried to get close. But his intellect prevailed over instinct, and they were best friends again within a month. The veterinarian did advise against chemo after the amputation, but again, this was 1992, and maybe different options are available now. As a tripod kitty, she charmed everyone she met and at age 15 was agile enough to lightly discipline our playful puppy cocker spaniel on the nose and still catch herself from falling.
Philip, a wonderful success story, sure to encourage millions of readers facing similar challenges. Thank you for sharing the good news, Dr. Randolph.
Great Article. Thank you.