The 1990 epic Dance with Wolves opens with two army surgeons preparing to amputate John Dunbar’s (Kevin Costner) leg rather than risk gangrene. It’s a nauseating look at the barbaric conditions of a Civil War field hospital, and even after dozens of busted paws, we’ve not reached the level of desensitized decision-making seen in the film. If we can fix it, we will, and we’ve greenlit so many surgical repairs our go to vets at Palm Bluff Veterinary Hospital admit we’ve boosted them further along the learning curve in the last few years than their prior 40 years of experience.
Unfortunately, there are some cases that no amount of determination and Care Credit can fix—an old break healed wrong, nerve damage, severed bone—and we’re forced to concede that we’re not the superheroes the comment threads say we are and make the gut-wrenching decision to amputate. On the plus side, every tripod we’ve created moves better on three legs than we do on two, and of all the unexpected outcomes we’ve seen in rescue, we’ve yet to lose a furry little one to gangrene. So there’s that.
While amputations are more infrequent for us than for Gettysburg surgeons, we’ve had a rash of them the last few weeks. There’s always a sense of regret when you comfort a little one coming to from anesthesia with an iodine stain and zipper scar where a healthy leg once stood. But they’re alive, and experience says within weeks they’ll act like that paw never existed, so we think positive thoughts and offer the following highlights.
Fiona, a feral mom, brought to us with two kittens and rear leg turned 180 degrees—even the X-rays were tough to stomach. We’ve spent the last few weeks debating Fiona’s options and finally conceded that we needed to amputate. She’ll need nurturing from here, but she’s warmed to a co-worker, and feral turned friendly makes for awesome content…
Phoebe, an older calico pulled from a colony dragging a rear leg from an old break and nerve damage. Phoebe is blessed with beautiful markings, a lovely temperament and a fine purr and will make a perfect comfort companion or office mate for the right person who can look past her disfigurement.
Alejandro, a black and white teenager, pulled from a sketchy neighborhood by Brandi Can with a grossly swollen front leg. Turns out, Alejandro suffered from bone cancer, and we’re hopeful the surgery halted the cancer’s advance. “It was bad,” conceded the vet. “Without surgery, this cat was done…” Allie is now recovering with her foster mom.
Quincy and Caviar, both mentioned in previous posts, Quincy with a compound fracture and nerve damage and Caviar who chewed his own paw off to free himself from adventure gone horribly wrong. Her countenance notwithstanding, Quincy is a lovebug, and Caviar recently found his forever home via Stephanie Yeats Cymanski and our friends at PetSmart.
And finally Lola, little gray and white tabby, pulled from a Lowe’s parking lot by Sarah Hueck and Cassie Garcia with a leg shattered from a pellet wound. At first, the vets thought they could repair the break, but closer inspection revealed irreparable damage and we made the decision to amputate. Lola is now with a foster to help her recover from surgery and prepare for a safe, loving home.
Had the surgeons taken Lt. Dunbar’s leg, the title of the movie wouldn’t work, but they didn’t and it did, and while the amputation scene might not have stuck with you like it did for us, I know you remember celebrating when the Sioux scalped the Union soldiers who shot Two Socks. “That’s what you get for shooting the dog!” Yup, we get it.
Fiona, Phoebe, Alejandro, Quincy, Caviar and Lola.