TPLO stands for Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (now you know why everyone refers to it by its initials). TPLO is a procedure used to help a dog deal with what is roughly analogous to a torn ACL in humans. When I look at Mr. Guinness as he struggles to get up and down the stairs, I can feel his pain. You see I completely ruined the ACL in my right knee some 15 years ago and had surgery to have it repaired. The difference is that he has ruined both legs, he needs the surgery more than I did, and he seems to be in more pain than I was. He has no idea what’s coming. It’s killing me though.
Guinness is a sweet boy who is a big baby at heart. I wouldn’t want to be an intruder (or Annie) with him around, but with the family, he’s an angel. Guinness is also just a little bit neurotic. He has good reason to be though. Why? Guinness is a rescue.
His first family gave him up because of a child’s illness. He then went to a foster home for a time, after which he came to live with us. We have provided Guinness with his forever home, a term often used to reinforce the fact that dogs like Guinness need stability and a family with which to spend the rest of their lives. Guinness seems happy with us, which is good, because he’ll be a part of our family forever. The ordeal of being given up and moved from home to home, though, has left him emotionally scarred. Poor Guinness is constantly afraid that he will be abandoned, and only seems to relax when he is at home. Whenever we go out, I promise him that I’ll bring him back home, and I always do. I think that Far Side cartoon got it right and all the big oaf hears is blah blah blah Guinness when I talk, because he is still afraid of being being left behind.
When I took him to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital to be evaluated by the surgeon, Guinness seemed fine until the vet tech took his leash. This, Guinness knew, meant that she would take him from me, and that’s when the big guy started to get anxious. He is a good boy though, so he padded away with her with his head down and his tail drooping. He seemed to have resigned himself to his fate. I’m sure he thought that he had been given away once more.
When he came back after a few short moments, he limped right at me and buried his head in my lap. From that point on, he just wanted to go home. I rubbed his ears and told him that I would take him home soon. Blah blah blah home. The big baby trusts me to never leave him. Next time though, I have to let them take him away, and then go home without him. They will no doubt treat him very well, but his impression will be that I’ve left him for good. He’ll be scared,surrounded by people he doesn’t know, and no doubt convinced that he’s been given away again.
When I leave him I’ll get down on the floor with him, rub his ears the way he likes, and tell him that he’s a good boy and that I’ll be back to pick him up as soon as he’s ready. Blah blah blah. All the while he’ll be thinking, I thought I was a good boy. I’ll be good. Please take me home. Please don’t leave me. He will plead with me using his big, sad, brown eyes and I will ignore those pleads and leave him. I have to.
After surgery he will wake up confused, alone, and possibly in pain. Since he’s a dog, the rules are different then they are with people, so I can’t be there for him when he wakes up. He will stay overnight, and they will call us to let us know how he is doing. He’ll wonder why we’ve left him in this place, and why we’re not with him at night. For the first time since he came to us almost two years before, he will spend the night without us.
I’ve been through three surgeries with dogs, all spays. Cozy pulled the techs across the floor in an attempt to escape with me before her surgery. I had to leave, listening to her cry and howl for me to come save her. I don’t think Guinness will be quite so dramatic. I know he’ll be well cared for, but he’ll be scared and alone. I’ll be all alone on the long drive home, dealing with the fact that I just left my trusting dog in the hands of strangers. I’m starting to think that Guinness will handle it better than I will.
I just hope he forgives me when I pick him up.