Sometimes the story of a woman and her dog is as much about loving her dog as the lifestyle they share. This is one.
Falkor, a 14-week-old white fluffball, joined Geri, her partner, and her partner’s Collie, “Burger,” in February 2013. Geri taught K-2 special ed, and wanted the structure, cheer and fun of having a dog at home. She got it, plus an added bonus: Falkor was allowed to attend the last four weeks of school with her.
“It was great to have him in the classroom,” says Geri. “It was special for everybody.”
Summer brought great adventures, including backpacking, hiking, canoeing . . . “many fun things,” says Geri. In the fall they enjoyed mushroom-hunting hikes.
One day while at Thousand Acres park, Geri, her partner and the two dogs (who had done classes and were ready to try an off-leash park), passed a blackberry bramble and turned into a clearing where they met up with a family with a dog. During a meet and greet that was going just fine, “Falkor’s foot must’ve gotten stepped on or something and he squeaked, and the Pit Bull switched into another mode,” Geri explains. “Burger was leaping, which I guess Collies do to distract, and my partner, a runner, sprinted forward and punched the Pit Bull in the gut.”
“The owners took the dog. I was frozen,” Geri continues. “It was my first pet, period, and my first experience with an altercation.”
Geri says Falkor was terrified as they checked for lacerations or signs of blood, finding none. Asking the other family if they saw blood, the adults seemed speechless, but their 5-year-old girl cheerfully called, “Yeah, there’s blood!”
“So Falkor was fighting back,” says Geri, “and I felt bad, but I was proud of him.”
Leaving the park to get Falkor to the nearest vet, Geri says other dogs they passed had their haunches up. “Clearly Burger was sending the signal to Leave Us Alone.”
The vet found no lacerations or major trauma, but did report that Falkor had a “smushed head,” says Geri. “There was swelling; his head had gotten smushed.”
They were sent home with medicine for pain and relaxation, and a list of symptoms to watch for, like spinning.
The swelling went down over the following weeks, but Falkor’s groomer said his head was still misshapen. Then Falkor began favoring one back leg during play with Burger, eventually squeaking and not using it at all during play.
Their family vet determined that Falkor’s luxation had elevated to “3,” a level for which surgery is indicated. Geri was given referrals, including one doctor who was said to be really good: Dr. Howard at CVRC. “I’ll take that,” Geri decided.
“They were really wonderful, cheerful” Geri says about Dr. Howard’s team at CVRC. “It didn’t feel like a hospital. They even gave me a quick tour, so I got to peek in and see what the surgery room looked like. We went through x-rays and then what our options were.”
“It was scary to hear he might not be able to use his back leg as much, even with surgery,” Geri recalls, “but already we couldn’t do the things we used to love doing, and he wasn’t even a year old. I said ‘let’s do it.’”
Geri says recovery was “a whole different lifestyle,” with no jumping, no stairs, and keeping Falkor calm and inactive.
“It was during the holidays, and while I’m not this type of person, I carried Falkor in a pack so we could kind of continue the lifestyle we had,” Geri remembers, adding that recovery was a lot of work and that her partner was very helpful. She also noted that she was really happy she’d gotten pet insurance when she got Falkor.
“I asked if there were any steps or precautions I could take to support his insurance, and it was recommended to note the condition of his legs — and document it. I made sure the vet did, and it was great to just provide that paperwork when the surgery came up — it’s an expensive surgery, and it was great to have 80% coverage.”
After several weeks and several checkups, Geri says she and Falkor are happily “back to backpacking, hiking, swimming and canoeing.” They’re also back to enjoying time at dog parks.
“I go to different dog parks,” she says. “He’s not prejudiced (which is good and bad), with Pit Bulls. But if they’ll play nice with him, it’s fine!”
“Surgery was a good idea,” Geri affirms. “Two years later we’re doing everything we love to do.”
Her closing words about Falkor?
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