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For the love of Dog, Chapter 1 | Pamdemonium
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For the love of Dog, Chapter 1

August 12, 2010

The written clinical description rarely captures the total picture. The words are objective, detached and a bit cold. “Pelvic radiograph bilateral moderate to severe hip dysplasia – left hip luxated craniodorsally; bilateral sacroiliac luxations.”

The x-ray images didn’t need translation. Pilgrim’s pelvis was no longer attached to his frame; it was askew and hovering at an angle that was all wrong. The lower pieces of the pelvic bone, nearest the tail, showed additional fractures. An improbable space gaped where his left femur should have met the broad bone to create a hip joint.

I nearly threw up.

Pilgrim the Red

Freaked by fireworks, Pilgrim, our chunky chow mix, got out of a gap in the front fence late on July 4. Shaun and a neighbor found him about four blocks away, protected by people who saw him in the middle of the street, one of the main thoroughfares that radiate from downtown Nashville like spokes on a wheel. They had stopped their car. An earlier vehicle may have tried to stop but failed.

We arrived at the emergency animal clinic about midnight. The Fourth of July is a busy shift for these folks because fireworks and household pets are a bad, bad mix. The veterinarian was in surgery with an anxious dog that had thrown itself off of a balcony on the north side of Nashville. The emergency vet in that part of town, in surgery with another dog that bolted from the booms and ran into traffic, had referred the jumper to the emergency vet on our side of town, to the south.

The tech took Pilgrim in the back and we waited for the preliminary assessment from vet on duty. Because Pilgrim was not yelping constantly, she was worried about potential spinal cord and neurological damage. When found, Pilgrim snapped and bit Shaun. He yelped when we moved him. On the drive from our house to the animal hospital, I sat in the back of the Blazer and kept him as stationary as possible between my outstretched legs. He whimpered a bit and yelped on corners. I think I did, too.

The Red Dog, one of Pilgrim’s many, many nicknames, was stunned but not in deep shock – the quick way to check, we now know, is to look at the gums. Pink is good. Yet when the vet bent Pilgrim’s paws inward and tried to put weight on them, he didn’t seem to care. Healthy dogs usually resist because the motion is unnatural to them.

“Is he unusually stoic?” the vet asked.

In reality, Pilgrim suffers from bad hip dysplasia and has been in pain for years, long before he entered whatever counts as canine middle age. Our best guess is that he is about 11 now. We’ve had him for a decade and Shadow, our other dog, for nearly 11 ½ years.

We agreed to x-rays but waited to give the okay for a blood panel. “Nerve” and “damage” in the same sentence are stomach-churning words whether applied to humans or their animal companions. I did not know what we could do but I thought I knew something about what I did not want. I did not want Pilgrim to endure complicated, iffy neurological surgery. I did not want him to live but have little quality of life.

From what the vet could see, the x-rays showed no obvious impact to the spinal cord but Pilgrim had multiple pelvic fractures and his left hip was dislocated. She clipped the images to the lighted screen so we could see the damage and said, “I want to go over these in case this is a deal-breaker.”

“For the love of Dog” will continue each Thursday on Pamdemonium for the next few months.



brian thomas August 12, 2010 at 8:48 pm

s & p,

i praise you both for making a hard found decision on a family member that means so much to you. pilly has always been one of the markers i attached to you both. i can’t imagine your being without him. in fact i can’t imagine entering the front gate without his bark.


admin August 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Thanx Brian. We had some dark, dark days (and nights) but Pilgrim the Red has turned the corner, which means we have, too.

Linda Bryant August 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

.You had me at pelvic radiograph bilateral.

sherry August 23, 2010 at 6:44 pm

My 10 year old 25lb dog, (boy) got run over and is in the hospital right now. one hip joint was dislocated which they fixed but they see a sacroiliac luxation on the other side. I dont know if he already had that there or it is from the injury. He was in so much pain after it happened he bit my husbands hand so hard when he picked him up that he is in the hospital too. this is my worst nightmare. I hope that I dont have to put boy to sleep, but I dont want to see him suffer. He would show signs of back problems before, so I hope that the x-ray is showing cartalige in the gap that looks separated. It is so upsetting to visit him, he is so helpless looking. The vet said that we should have more answers in a few days. Can you give me some advice? I really appreciate it. Sherry

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