The 10th year of Rocket’s life has not been an easy one. First, the lipoma surgery in November. Then on February 15, Rocket tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his left rear leg. Successful surgery by our vet, Dr. Bryan Stancliffe, was completed Tuesday at the Animal Clinic of North Topeka. It is easy to see even now how anxious Rocket is to get out and get going again.
On the fateful day, the snows had finally melted off our favorite trails. When Rocket saw us putting on running gear, he began running up and down the stairs wondering why it was taking us so long to get ready. Rocket has never understood that we simply can’t go immediately like he wants.
The trails were very soft and muddy as Rocket raced ahead of us. Since the lipoma surgery, Rocket had been running like a pup again with unbridled joy. Sadly, far too soon, we noticed Rocket limping and making his way on three legs. We stopped to check his paw for a lodged thorn or rock but found nothing. A week of anti-inflammatories helped little, and finally, an examination revealed the bad news.
Like any athlete, the ACL is a very weak link in both humans and dogs. One off-balance cut, a paw stuck in the mud or a rut torquing the joint is all it takes, much like a basketball player. Unlike humans, the ACL in not repaired in dogs. It is removed. Small holes are drilled in the femur and tibia and a synthetic ligament-like material is weaved through the joint. The kevlar-like material provides all the stability Rocket will need.
A dog’s recovery from such surgery is much faster than humans as well. While human athletes can be lost for many months, Rocket should be running again by mid-April. Within days of the surgery, Rocket was already putting some weight on the injured leg. We have to be very careful to keep him from any explosive moves, so his usual napping chairs have been tipped over in the living room to prevent him leaping into them.
Of course none of this is cheap, but it will be worth it to have Rocket back running with us. I snuck out of the house the other day with non-running clothes over my gear so Rocket wouldn’t get all worked up. As I peeled my disguise off in the car and headed off on a trail, I couldn’t help but feel I was cheating on my great running friend. Hopefully, our Rocket will be launched again very soon.
The bad news is that there is a high percentage chance Rocket might tear the other ACL in the coming months and years. With that in mind, I reminded Dr. Stancliffe that Laura never repaired her ACL when she tore it at Oklahoma. I wondered whether we could arrange a two-for-one deal and let him weave some kevlar Fiber Tape around Laura’s left knee.
Now, if we could just convince the KU training staff to hook Rocket up with some muscle-stimulation treatments and the use of the underwater treadmill. The man would be set.