Anyone who knows me well also knows that I am generally obsessed and often tortured by the need to do the "right thing." For whatever reason, my life has always been driven by a strong moral code (maybe all that guilt from my catholic upbringing) and the imperative that I strive to make honest, moral choices and do what is right especially when it comes to the animals under my guardianship.
As I get older I have found that this creed does not always show you a clear path and what is the "right" thing is not always easy to determine. My current case in point relates to my recent decision to have surgery done on one of my dog's to repair his ACL. I agonized over whether the benefits of the surgery outweighed the the risks and the trauma it would put him through.
Murphy is not your typical dog. He was a very high maintenance rescue that I adopted at 9 months old. He is now 7. When I took Murphy I was pretty much his last chance seeing that I was the 5th home he had had in his 9 months of life. Murphy was very neurotic, insecure, had severe separation anxiety and very little manners. He is either a dobie or rottweiler mix with super high energy and needed a home with land to run and play. It is his exuberance and energy that eventually led to his ACL injury last year. Murphy does everything at full throttle, including playing and running across my property at break neck speed.
It is also this "living large" personality that is making me question whether I have done the right thing and making his recovery a slow and torturous process for both of us. ACL surgery for a dog is very invasive, even more than for its human counterpart, and involves placing screws and plates to stabilize the bones where the ligament no longer functions. In Murphy's case, he had completely ruptured (not that he ever do anything half way) 95% of the ligament which essential left the rest barely attached by a thread and non-functional. The recovery period requires strict confinement for the initial 3 to 4 weeks and then carefully monitored and restricted activity for 2 months after that.
I knew that this would not be easy and that tranquilizers would be the order of the day for a majority of this time, but I had not prepared myself for the reality of how miserable and unhappy Murphy was going to be. Generally they suggest crating the dog, which is not an option for my claustrophobic and nervous boy, so I set up a small 4'x4'x4' - "xpen" type cage in my bedroom with tons of soft bedding. Pretty nice right? Well, not. Murphy is miserable and even as I right this he is whining and crying in the cage which is making me even more unhappy than he is. I wish I could reason with him that it won't be forever and that if he could just chill for a few months that life will get back to normal. Anyone out there that speaks neurotic rescue dog? I am even worried that he is going to compromise the success of the procedure because he won't just lay quietly.
So have I done the right thing? I did not make the decision for surgery lightly not only because of what it would put Murphy through but also because this level of vet specialty does not come cheap. (Nearly $4,500) At the time it seemed that Murphy did not have many other options. I had tried multiple non-invasive therapies like swim rehab, acupuncture, cold laser, and ultraviolet light therapy to name a few. When he became essentially three-legged lame I felt that the only viable option was surgery since I did not want to condemn him to the rest of his life being lame and was not prepared to euthanize him.
But now I am not as sure. Maybe I should have left well enough alone. When he was lame before the surgery he stilled seemed happy as a clam. Horses, at least mine, seem to be easier to deal with inactivity and confinement or at least they hide it better. What do you think? How do you measure "doing the right thing"?