In Which I Discuss My Dog's Broken Jaw

I've been posting updates on my dog to my personal Facebook since last evening (1/7) but realized I was excluding folks in my other networks - my author friends, blog followers, Twitter, G+, etc. - and so wanted to come over here and share my story.

(This post is live on both my personal in-real-life-name blog and my author pen-name blog.)

Yesterday afternoon, I left my house at around 2 PM to go to my tri-weekly shoulder physical therapy appointment. At the same time, my husband, who is off on Mondays, laid down with our 4-year-old and 2-year-old for nap time. When I got home, we all immediately left together to run a few quick errands. We believed our dogs were in the backyard, where they have the run of a large open space and a large covered patio. Afternoons are their time to go outside, play, run, and get some air.

What really happened...
Nov. 2012
Our puppy, 9-ish-month-old Samson the gigantinormous yellow lab, ate off the bottoms of several fence slats and then dug out of the yard. Our older dog, 10-year-old Missy, faithfully followed behind. She's big on friendship, low on independent thought.

Having gotten loose, Sammy went looking for trouble, and Missy came along for the "fun." In actuality, Sammy "broke into" a backyard that was home to two pit bulls. They weren't enthused at their uninvited guests. The homeowner called animal control, who came and rounded up our two escapees...but not before Missy got hurt.

In the meantime, we came home and discovered our dogs were gone. Chris drove the neighborhood and I shouted for the dogs. We ate dinner. Then we all piled back in the car and searched again. It's a spread-out area with the houses having much larger yards than is the norm in suburban DFW, and we also have coyotes and all sorts of other delightful wildlife. In addition, we live less than a mile from the intersection of two very busy highways. I feared the absolute worst.

We didn't find the dogs. I searched for animal control information on my phone to see where I could call to find out if the dogs had been taken to a shelter. I discovered that the city shelter puts up a picture of newly found dogs when they are taken in. In short order, I'd found the mugs of both of my dogs. Unfortunately, the shelter was closed for the evening and I could do nothing except wait for morning.

Daughter Cate and Missy
Feb. 2011
This morning, I got up with the kiddos and after breakfast and baths and the like, we headed out to rescue our friends. Since toddlers move slower than a geriatric snail, or approximately inverse to how fast you're trying to get them to move, it was late morning by the time we reached the shelter, 2.5 hours after they'd opened for the day.

We signed in and got taken back right away. I described the dogs to the kind worker and she took me right to them. Sammy was kenneled with the other large dogs, and Missy was in the clinic, bloody and battered. The vet tech said she thought Missy had a broken jaw and advised that I take her to our vet right away to be evaluated and treated. After filling out a ton of paperwork, paying the impound and boarding fees and waiting....waiting....waiting....we were finally able to leave.

After dropping the big dog at home (it was already difficult to manage two kids and two dogs at the same time, with a still-weak post-op shoulder), we got to the vet near our home. By that time, it was afternoon and the kids had eaten the bags of food I'd brought for them, downed their drinks and were napping in the back seat. I left them there and went it, and they took us back right away (I'd called from the shelter) and checked Missy out six ways from Sunday. Not only did the vet note that the dog's jaw was broken, possibly in multiple places, but she also found that Missy's entire back half of her body and rear end were bitten up and inflamed.

I was running laps between the exam room and my car, so I could keep an eye on my poor puppy and my sleeping kids. Thank God it was warm enough today to leave them in the car. A parrot that wouldn't stop squawking nearly drove me out of my mind, and I had to remind myself constantly not to be irritated at how long her exam and intake were lasting. Finally, I signed a release and they took her back to be sedated, shaved for further examination, and x-rayed. I left with the kids and we shared a very late lunch. By the time we were done, my husband was home from work and I headed back to the vet alone.

(The rest of this post is a copy with minor modifications from my last update to the FB thread about Missy's injury. I just don't have it in me to rewrite it. And in any case, most of you who read it here will not have seen it there.)

So here's the overall scoop on Missy. First, she has been an absolute angel for the vet - is being completely docile and cooperative, despite being in a ton of pain. Next, the x-rays of her jaw showed a bit different story than we first thought. She has a break on either side of her jaw, about an inch back from the end of her mouth/jaw. This means the front part is completely unconnected from the rest of her jaw and is literally hanging on by skin alone. Where they thought there was a break farther back is actually just a little bit of dislocation where her jaw hinges, and it's bilateral. Should heal on it's own, apparently. The theory is that the other dog simply took her lower jaw in its mouth and bit down...and we know that pits have a very powerful bite. Her jaw will be wired on both sides while the bones fuse back together. If they don't fuse, she'll need the front of her lower jaw to be amputated. I know. That horrifies me as well.

Now, on to the rest of her body. They had to shave her completely from mid-body on back, both top and bottom. If this wasn't a horrific situation, she'd look like she was mooning the world, especially since her tail is still so fluffy. The shaving revealed that the entire area is inflamed, bruised, and has bite marks all over it. Below her butt is one especially large spot, and she has a torn perineum. The vet theorized that one dog may have mounted her while the other dog broke her jaw. I suppose if she were human, we'd call that rape. After surgery, she'll need to do hydrotherapy every three hours for a few weeks to keep that spot and several others moist as they heal, to avoid infection.

How about some good news? Her upper jaw is intact. Her legs/feet are fine. Her neck is fine. The doc found no evidence of injury to the front part of her body. She's a good weight, has a strong heartbeat, is otherwise 100% healthy, is just 10 years old, is able to come (and cling!) to me, and has retained her sweet disposition. She's in a large kennel at the vet and they let me climb in and sit with her for awhile after the vet met with me this evening to review her results.

Going forward...Missy's jaw surgery will be at 7 AM tomorrow morning, barring anything weird coming back on her bloodwork. Both our vet and the senior vet at the clinic will be involved. She'll be under full anesthesia, have a nerve block, and have a canine version of lidocaine to numb her mouth. They'll wire her jaw back together on both sides and then repurpose some of her gum tissue to cover the holes that are now allowing her jaw bone to stick through. Afterwards, she'll be sedated and on morphine most of the rest of the day. Depending on how she does, she'll be sent home either Thursday night or Friday night. At that point, she'll be on four medications: a pain med (same as I take, ironically - ultram), an anti-inflammatory and two antibiotics. She'll also be on a liquid diet for three weeks (1 part soft food mixed with 3 parts water) and will do hydrotherapy at home for her wounds. At that point, if healing is progressing nicely, we'll be able to start introducing solid foods again and she'll get back to "normal" life.

Finally, a note on pit bulls. Listen, they get a bad rap. 99% of pit bulls are fabulous pets. But, like any population, it's the 1% that ruin it for them all. And my dogs were in the wrong on this, and I know it. Sammy chewed and dug out and the ever-faithful-but-not-intelligent Missy followed along. Sammy then broke into someone else's backyard, and that someone else happened to own two pit bulls. Those dogs were defending their turf. Perhaps violently, but it was their yard. Sammy wasn't hurt...he was probably a lot larger than the pits. But Missy is smaller and weaker and thus became the one attacked. Her injuries, thank God, won't kill her. Yes, she needs a very expensive surgery to try to fix her jaw, and yes she's in pain with the other issues right now. But she's otherwise healthy, fairly young, and has a strong constitution. After she recovers, she'll regain most, if not all, of her quality of life. She's in great hands.

That's all I got for now. It's been an incredibly taxing day emotionally, physically and on my (now-depleted) bank account as well. I need to rearrange my work week since today was a total loss and snag a few more projects to pay for all of this mess. Thank you for all ya'lls thoughts, prayers, texts, and calls today. I'm thankful for them.