The mystery started six weeks ago when my soon-to-be 11 (but claiming still to be 6-1/2) dachshund Watson started to limp. I checked his paw for burrs, glass, sunflower seeds, candy bars (I always check everything for candy bars…) and found nothing.
Two days later, he was still limping, so off to the vet we went.
“I think he’s torn his ACL,” she told us.
I looked skeptically at my 23-lb. wiener dog. The chances that he’d been playing pick-up basketball at midnight were slim and as far as I know, he wasn’t playing softball or tennis either.
She took an x-ray and showed it to me. “See this here? That’s a damaged ACL.”
I nodded despite not being able to make heads nor tails nor anterior cruciate ligaments of the picture. I wondered whether he’d be on tiny crutches.
The vet recommended going to a physical therapist, so we made an appointment with See Spot Run and off we went. Watson limped around cones and walked on an underwater treadmill. That’s right, an underwater treadmill. I can’t afford a land-based treadmill for my home gym, but my little guy was being treated like the athlete he clearly was.
Meanwhile, back at home, Penny and Watson were none too happy that their brother was getting to go on secret outings and came home smelling of liver. Every time I shifted weight on the sofa they charged the front door. They got extra treats to mollify my guilt. As did I. And as our walks were only to the end of our yard and back, we all started packing on the pounds.
At our second visit, I asked the physical therapist if, while we were there, she could trim Watson’s unusually long middle toenail on the lame leg. She reached for it and he screamed. His first expression of pain in three weeks.
“You know, this whole issue is probably about his toe, not his ACL,” she said. “You should get his toe x-rayed.”
Now, I had touched his toe on numerous occasions while giving him a massage to help his ACL and he’d never reacted as if he was in pain. But it was back to the vet we went. She found no broken toe, no torn nail bed.
“It’s probably an infection,” she said and prescribed anti-biotics. We stopped going to physical therapy. Watson was not happy that no one was bribing him to do stupid dachshund tricks any more. He was supposed to take it easy and see if the infection healed.
It did not. Our regular vet (the one I intend to go to the next time I need medical attention because the drugs are cheaper than the human kind) wasn’t in, so I spoke with the vet who was and described the ongoing situation.
“Oh, that definitely sounds like toe cancer,” she said. “We should get an x-ray of his toe.”
I told her he had just been x-rayed the week before, so she consulted the film and said she saw deterioration of the toe. “It may be toe cancer and we should amputate.”
Toe cancer? Who’s even heard of such a thing? I, of course, Googled it and found that it’s a real thing, not usually a big deal, and more common in black dogs. It didn’t say why. I’m assuming it’s because they tend to lie in the sun too much At least my black dogs always have.
This Monday, Watson’s toe was amputated.
“You need to keep his bandage dry,” our regular vet said as I picked him up. Just then the heavens opened up and it began the first of a three-day deluge. Every time Watson had to go outside, I had to chase him with a piece of Saran Wrap and some scotch tape. Even on three legs, he’s faster than I am. I had a flashback to some woman from the 80s who recommended greeting your husband at home wearing nothing but Saran Wrap. Watson didn’t think it was funny.
The bandage is now off and the sun is out.
“You’ll need to keep him from licking his stitches,” the vet said.
So now it’s 7 days of making sure he leaves his foot alone. Forget using the cone of shame — he’s already put the kibosh on that by eating off the edges so he could play with his stuffed animals more readily.
We should hear whether it’s cancer next week. But Watson doesn’t care. Through it all, he’s been his same goofy, cheerful self as long as I kept the cookies coming.
But once he’s completely healed (or heeled, depending), we’re all going for some long walks. Between the stress and the stress eating, we could use the exercise.