My dog, Giovanni, recently underwent his second surgery. Except this one is much more complex and sudden than when he was neutered. The procedure involved restoring my miniature Italian Greyhound’s rear kneecap—one of the knee’s that propels him forward, literally, at the speed of light. After today, I may never again see my dog jump from chair to chair, or stand comfortably on his hind legs.
The incident that caused the need for surgery happened when Gio slipped as he was running across my kitchen floor. He lost control, doing the splits, and his right kneecap smashed into the hard surface.
From that day forward, Gio’s knee would never be the same. His kneecap would pop out when he ran, sprinted, stood on his hind legs, or jumped. When this happened, Gio would straighten his leg to pop it back in.
The next decision was inevitable.
We decided that it was surgery or suffering for the remainder of Gio’s life. However, due to his age, some members of my family produced a noteworthy debate about whether or not surgery was “worth it” at this point in time of Gio’s life. Miniature Italian Greyhound typically live 12-15 years, and at nine years old, his life is hanging in the balance.
A pressing decision that can invade the mind of a pet parent is whether or not their companion needs surgery. Is the animal’s illness or physical handicap “worth” as much as a human requiring surgery? Human medical decisions are often looked at from the standpoint of necessity. If a human needs the knife, there is no question of the validity of the surgery (assuming the individual has enough money to cover medical costs). However, when a pet is in pain, it is difficult, if not impossible, to detect. Furthermore, the cost of the surgery is $1,800.00. The question is a difficult one to answer: is it worth the cost?
The answer for us was simple (despite the amount of money): of course, he is part of our family, and if he needs the surgery he should get it. For others, the answer is not quite as simple. Is it worth the pain and suffering to live for a few more years, or even months? Is it simply easier and more cost effective to euthanize? The answers are obviously relative to the given situation. However, some people believe putting their dog to sleep is a favor, rather than putting him through the pain of surgery and recovery.
Giovanni returned home last Wednesday afternoon with about 30 staples lining his right rear leg. For me, the hardest part is the inability to detect his emotions and feelings aside from crying or moaning. My family has taken every measure to prevent pain and suffering, by supplying enough pain and antibiotic medicine.
Most importantly, however, is the comfort and affection Gio receives from his family. Even though Gio—or any pet—may not understand the reason he feels pain, I believe he can feel the love he receives from his caretakers.
—Kevin Greenhill is an intern with Tails this summer. He studies journalism at the University of Denver and is enjoying his break back home in Chicago with his family’s Italian Greyhound, Giovanni, also known as Gio.