A lifesaving amputation gives a dog a fighting chance

Wrigley and Greg in the veterinary teaching hospital lobby.

Wrigley was an active, loyal, outgoing dog. One fall day after running on the beach at Point No Point near Hansville, Washington, Greg B. noticed Wrigley was limping. Worried that he had sprained his leg or had a torn ligament, Greg contacted his friend, Dr. Jerry Demuth, at Summit Veterinary Referral Center who suggested he bring him in for an x-ray.

“All the signs pointed to osteosarcoma,” said Greg. Two days later his veterinarian did a bone biopsy and the next day it was confirmed that Wrigley had bone cancer.

A cruel twist of fate

The cancer was growing in the upper right elbow of his front leg. Because it was causing Wrigley a lot of pain, Greg was deciding how to best help him. But in one of those improbable life moments, just as Greg was receiving the cancer news from the lab, his office was calling him to tell him he was being laid off from his job in medical sales.

“At that moment, Wrigley became my number one priority,” said Greg. “And what was the best thing I could do for him.”

Realizing the cost of leg amputation and chemotherapy, Greg was unsure how he would be able to pay for the treatments. He knew that he needed to consider leg amputation right away to help with the pain.  As he was reading about osteosarcoma on the web, he learned about a couple who had also gone to great lengths to save their dog. They had taken their dog to a veterinary teaching hospital.

“When I read that a light bulb went off,” said Greg. He called the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital to ask about treatments. And because he now found himself unemployed, he inquired about financial assistance.

“That’s when I found out about the Good Samaritan Fund,” he said. “Learning I qualified for the donation meant I would not have to choose between doing nothing and amputating with treatment. I was able to know Wrigley would not be in pain later and it allowed me to keep pursuing treatments.”

The Monday before Thanksgiving Wrigley and Greg came to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for the surgery. On Wednesday, Wrigley was ready to make the 5-hour drive home. Knowing that they had to make a long trip, the WSU nurses helped get Wrigley into the car and gave him a relaxing shot to make the trip easier.

“Post-surgically, everyone was very accommodating,” he said. “They stayed just to make sure he could get home.”

That care meant a lot to Greg and Wrigley.

The Road to Recovery

For the first six days after Wrigley’s surgery, Greg was unsure what to expect. He had never had a three-legged dog before.  And to see Wrigley in so much pain made him initially second guess his decision.

“I would look at him and think, I did this so he didn’t have to have so much pain,” he said.

Julia Parker (’14 DVM), a fourth-year veterinary student, called him every day for the first several days to see how they were doing. Dr. Julie Noyes, a first-year surgical resident at WSU, emailed him every day for the first week.

“Owners are sometimes unsure if their animal may be groggy from the surgery or if they are actually ill,” said Dr. Noyes. “Clients can feel alone in the process when they leave the hospital and we are out of the picture. By communicating they feel part of the team.”

Two weeks after his surgery, Wrigley and Greg returned to WSU to have his stitches out and get a post-op review. It was recommended by oncology resident, Dr. Rebekah Lewis, that Wrigley receive five rounds of chemotherapy treatment. While Greg and Wrigley could have received the treatments in Seattle, Greg believes that even with the drive the treatment costs are less at WSU. And he says he is confident that at WSU they have also been getting the best care possible.

“The service and treatment at WSU has been phenomenal,” said Greg. “He’s been doing awesome. He is the fastest three-legged dog around.”

Greg received $1000 from the Good Samaritan Fund to help cover a portion of the costs of the amputation procedure.