Cathy Manning always knew girls were trouble. That’s why when it came to getting a family dog, she preferred easy-going males to high-maintenance females. And so far her three Golden Retrievers, Teddy, Dexter and Loki have lived up to her expectations.
But then, against her better judgment, the Dumfries, Va. resident ended up with Kenna – a boisterous, 3 month old ball of butter-colored fur with attitude for days. “She wants what she wants and she wants it when she wants it and she doesn’t want to listen,” Cathy said. “The boys were so mellow. And she’s not.”
So what made the critical care nurse decide to add this sassy girl to her pack? Well, call it puppy love.
Back in 2006, when the youngest of her three children graduated from high school, Cathy Manning was experiencing a little empty nest syndrome. She decided to cure it with a four-legged friend, so she adopted a Golden Retriever puppy. And then another. And then another.
All the pups were from the same breeder who Cathy had become good friends with. Early last summer the breeder called Cathy, upset.
One of her puppies had been born without a paw – something that had never happened before. The puppy was otherwise healthy and “absolutely beautiful,” she said, but the breeder was concerned the mother wouldn’t nurture her.
The breeder told Cathy there were only two people in the world she felt she could trust with the puppy: Herself and Cathy.
Was Cathy interested?
Despite never having cared for a pet with a disability before, Cathy said yes to her friend.
“I’ve been on this ride from the beginning.”
Cathy told her son about the puppy and he immediately began searching online for possible treatment. Within an hour, he texted Cathy with a link to a company that made prosthetics for animals based in Denver. Cathy began searching for a similar company that was closer to home and came across Animal Ortho Care. Before they even brought fluffy, little Kenna home, the family had a plan in place for how they’d handle her missing paw.
Kenna joined the family on July 4 at 7 ½ weeks old and was outfitted with a baby sock and a rain boot purchased from PetSmart to protect her stump, but otherwise, Kenna was fine mobility wise.
Cathy noticed right away that her stump had a raw spot, which she showed to her veterinarian during a checkup soon after they picked her up.
One of her doctors took a look at the stump and said that it smelled funky. She recommended amputating the leg at the shoulder. If they did nothing, there was a big risk that Kenna would develop arthritis and her muscles would atrophy. But Cathy disagreed with the suggestion.
As a nurse, she said she knew what funky smelled like, and as far as she was concerned, Kenna’s stump just smelled like foot. She insisted on saving Kenna’s leg. “I’ve seen three-legged dogs and they don’t do fine. They do OK,” she said. “We have three other Goldens and I wanted them all to play together without issues.”
Cathy thought Kenna’s quality of life would be better if she kept her leg, so she talked to her vets about getting Kenna a Partial Limb Prosthetic. They were dubious at first. They’d never heard of Animal Ortho Care and they were skeptical about a prosthetic being the right solution for Kenna.
But Cathy persisted. The next week the family took Kenna to Chantilly to meet with the team at Animal Ortho Care to be fitted for her first prosthetic. Within a week and a half, they had her first prosthetic, which Cathy said resembled a little Chinese soup spoon.
When they first put the prosthetic on, Kenna tried to shake it off, but it wasn’t long before she was trying to dig a hole with it like it was one of her own paws.
The Mannings started off slowly, increasing the length of time Kenna wore the prosthetic by a half hour at a time until she got comfortable with it. The first prosthetic didn’t fit as snuggly on the puppy, because she was so little, but Cathy says the second one, which they needed to get just two and a half weeks after the first, fits well and Kenna has adapted to it well. She now leads the pack when the dogs go out for walks and loves playing with her brothers.
Cathy said that her experience with Animal Ortho Care has been really great. She and her husband came to AOC with plenty of questions and they’ve answered all of them quickly, thoughtfully and thoroughly. “It really instilled confidence in us,” she said. “The entire AOC Team was so gentle and so loving.”
When they had concerns about how the prosthetic’s straps were rubbing Kenna’s skin, AOC responded right away with a solution.
When they first put the prosthetic on in the morning, Kenna gives it a little shake and then she’s off and running like it's part of her – wearing it up to 14 hours a day. Between her growth and wear and tear, AOC expects that Kenna will need three more prosthetics in the years to come. The super-active puppy already worn through the tread on her new leg.
But Cathy isn’t worried about the prospect of replacing the boots as Kenna grows. “My next door neighbor has a German Shepherd with massive joint problems. They’ve spent $35,000 in surgeries. This is nothing in comparison.”
Animal Ortho Care is amazingly affordable compared with what she thought giving Kenna a normal life would cost. And she would recommend their services to anybody who has a dog with a limb issue. The AOC Team is professional and courteous and took time to show the Mannings how to use everything.
“They just makes sure that you are comfortable with what’s going on with your pet.”
Today, the biggest challenge with Kenna has nothing to do with the leg and everything to do with her being stubborn and doing what she wants to do, Cathy said.
She loves lying in the stream that feed the pond on their property, which soaks the sock she wears under her prosthetic and isn’t good for her skin. Cathy has tried to steer her from the stream but to no avail.
She checks her leg and skin daily to make sure it’s healthy and that the prosthetic is still fitting well. The morning routine is a bit more involved now that she has to both feed all four dogs and put Kenna’s boot on, but Cathy said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’d do it all again because I love dogs.”
And anyway, she adds, Kenna’s a little sweet. Especially when she sleeps.