Ruth, the Brindle Boxer

Filed Under: Dogs

The day had been rather routine and uneventful, at least until the off-duty police officer walked in. I was suddenly presented with a brindle boxer puppy all of 18 weeks old named Ruth. She was carrying her left rear leg and we could see the intense pain in her face, yet her whole back end shook as she tried to shake her nub of a tail to greet you.

Since it was painfully obvious where the problem was on this case. I carefully and as lightly as possible began to evaluate the leg which was not touching the ground. Crunch! The lower leg was just flopping and the crepitation in the thigh caused us to cringe. Even though she was in extreme pain, all this pup asked for was a little attention and a kind word.

Turning my attention to the owner, he quickly made his position clear. This was a puppy he had purchased for breeding and we could not expect him to take responsibility for fixing the fracture. In his mind, he could easily replace this puppy and more for cost of a fracture repair. Euthanasia was the only treatment he would consent and pay for. For him, Ruth’s medical treatment was more of a business matter than an emotional attachment. Thankfully we see very few situations where owners view their pets as property rather than a member of the family. Unfortunately, this was not one of those situations.

Looking into those dark brown eyes, I realized I had to find a way to help her. I must admit that I have a soft spot for puppies - especially ones with personality - and a registered boxer to boot! I quickly decided to negotiate. I wanted the registration papers and he could sign the puppy over as property of the clinic. Although not necessary, those registration papers could help us place her in a better home. In turn, the current charges would only be for the office call and equivalent price of what euthanasia would be. Mr. Personality, as I dubbed him, claimed a bullet for the puppy would be cheaper and, of course, he had close access to one. After some hemming and hawing the owner finally consented to the deal. I was pleasantly surprised when he returned a few hours later with her registration papers in hand. Maybe he had a heart after all.

The clinic was now the proud owner of a boxer puppy with a fractured femur and a heart of gold. With the negotiations complete and the papers signed, I headed to radiology to find out exactly what I had gotten myself into.

The fracture was mid-femoral (the middle of the thigh bone) and rather routine looking on the surface. With an intermedullary pin and some stainless-steel wire she should be back to normal within several weeks. On the up side, puppies heal rapidly. On the down side, their bones are very soft and quite pliable. The more complex problem was how to keep her quiet enough to allow the fracture to heal.

I couldn’t help but speculate that the fracture was the result of a quick, fierce kick to the rear. Unfortunately I could speculate all day, never being able to prove anything. Perhaps it was the owners failure to deal with Ruth’s fracture that caused speculation among the staff on how the fracture had originally occurred. Regardless, I was determined to provide this particular puppy with a brighter future and a new owner.

Surgeries were already completed for the day and my associate kindly volunteered to take over receiving that afternoon, so I soon found myself in surgery. The surgery was a bit more complicated than expected with a large crack down the distal piece of bone. It would require a couple of extra wires but basically the surgery proceeded as planned.

Recovery from surgery was uneventful. Although pain relief was given following surgery, the puppy never once gave any indication of discomfort. Ruth was always glad to see us and, through all the pain, never once offered to bite. You could sense that she appreciated all that was being done for her. In return she would always shake that nub of a tail furiously when approached, to the point of a shimmy in the entire rear end. We would try to calm her, without success, since we did not want her placing weight on the newly repaired left rear leg. Ruth was hard to ignore, but we would try and let her calm down by ignoring her when first coming in contact with her, believing the process could prevent her from over using that left rear leg.

Ruth or “Ruthie” as she fondly became known settled down to life in the clinic. We wanted her to keep quiet and not overwork the leg for a six-week period of time or at least until we had solid radiographic evidence of a complete bone repair. Since she was so excitable, I did not want the leg taking an extended repair time by healing with a lot of motion. Ruthie and I compromised. The leg healed but with a lot of extra motion, although repair was completed on schedule.

A few weeks later, after a very extensive and thorough screening process, Ruthie was placed with a family in a more rural area. Her family was familiar with boxers, having owned one previously. This family also had a special needs son and she soon became the center of his universe. Ruthie and the son became inseparable as she helped him cope with his handicap.

On her yearly visits to the clinic, Ruthie never once failed to thank us for her second chance at life. She would greet all her clinic friends in turn with big sloppy kisses and the characteristic shimmy or “cuchi-cuchi” of her back end and nub of a tail. We probably should have renamed her "Charo", after a famous, flamboyant, Spanish actress featured on such programs as Laugh-In, from the 1960’s and early 70’s. The "cuchi-cuchi", boxer style, will always be known as her trademark.

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