Help Darwin Get Back on His Feet!

Darwin needs your help!  He has no cartilage in his left wrist joint (likely from an old injury that did not heal properly) and even with CareCredit, there is no way I can cover the cost of helping him get back on his feet without help. When I rescued him I promised him I would give him the best life possible and it breaks my heart to see him in pain and confined to crate when he wants to be running along side me on the trails or flying off the back deck to scare the squirrels away from the birdfeeder! I was hoping I could do this on my own, but the cost is just too much, so I'm reaching out to my friends, family, and fellow dog-lovers in hopes to help Darwin get back on his feet. 

{Darwin enjoying some of his favorite activities: romping on the beach in Chatham, MA, sharing hot dogs with Candy on her birthday, floating in the pool in Cape Cod, and eating a healthy breakfast!}

Let me tell you Darwin's story:

About six and a half years ago, on the streets of Sacramento, CA a tiny woodland-like creature with giant ears and long legs was found and placed into a kill shelter among hundreds of other stray dogs and cats. Luckily, this particular little critter was picked out of the batch by Lil'Monsters, a family-owned animal rescue from Brooklyn, NY.  He made the long journey across America, going by the name Tarro, and showed up one evening, shortly before Christmas 2011, at an adoption event in a Petsmart in New York City. I happened to be stopping by that very store to pick up a Christmas present for my sister's dog, Candy, when what appeared to be a baby fox with giant ears and long legs caught my eye. Two hours later I was walking home with my new best friend tucked warmly in my jacket, safe from the cold winter winds blowing down Broadway. I named him Darwin. 

{Baby Darwin (left), when he was about 6 months old, he was the star of his obedience class! Even younger Darwin (right), about 5 months old, this picture was taken the day I rescued him!}

It might be cliche to say that Darwin rescued me that night, but I wouldn't be who I am today without him. 
He’s been through every event in my life, major and minor, for the past five and a half years and we’ve become bonded together. There is no hyperbole when I say that I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t find Darwin that snowy day in New York; he’s helped me to become a better, stronger, and happier person, and in exchange, I promised to take the absolute best care of him I could.

{Darwin and I at the vet in May 2016.}

Last summer, Darwin started limping on his left front leg. Being a dog who loves to run, jump, take flying-squirrel-like leaps off the back deck, and perform his famous "piggyback" trick with his best friend Candy, I figured he must have sprained his wrist. The x-rays didn't show a break and with pain medication and rest he was running around like normal within a few weeks.  

{Darwin and Candy performing their Piggyback trick at the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill, PA - October 2016, for a horse at Barking Fox Farm in South Carolina-March 2015, in Pittsburgh, PA - June 2015, and in Candy's backyard in Philly - July 2015.}

But  a few months later  Darwin started limping again and this time the medication and rest didn't help. New x-rays showed the damage: no cartilage between the wrist joints and damaged ligaments. The first vet recommended a second opinion with the likelihood of surgery. The second vet recommended amputation, surgery, or a carpal brace with life-long pain medication. The third vet recommended surgery or a brace, and the fourth vet strongly recommended surgery.

Unfortunately, a normal brace does not seem to be supportive enough for him and surgery or a custom brace are the next options to ensure he can comfortably resume his active lifestyle for the many more years we have left together. The surery procedure is called Carpal Arthrodesis, a surgery that will fuse the joint together and make it immobile. It will cost between $4100 and $4400.

{Darwin with his leg bandaged for support.}

Throughout the process of getting many second, third, and fourth opinions on his wrist, Darwin was hopping around on three legs like nothing ever happened, until he began holding up his back left leg, too. Determined not to let anything stop him from being an active beast, he attempted to run around on two legs - on the same side! But knowing he was running out of legs, I took him back to the vet and after a second opinion, he was diagnosed with a torn ACL. The recommendation was also surgery.

The procedure is called Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). In this procedure, a portion of the tibia is cut, moved, and reattached to a different portion of the tibia using plates and screws. By changing the conformation of the tibia, the joint is stabilized. The surgery would cost between $4100 and $4800. 
UPDATE-  March 2018- After many months of restricted activity, Darwin's ACL has healed on its own!!! If he gets too active he will occasionally favor his hind leg, but for the most part he is comfortable to move aroung with both back legs normally! This means we will NOT need the TPLO surgery! However, his front wrist is still a problem. 
{Darwin imitating a flying squirrel at Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill, PA - Fall of 2015}

I am in communication with the Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group (VOSM)  which is located outside of Baltimore, MD and came highly recommended to me by some excellent veterinarians here in Philadelphia who unfortunately don't do these procedures themselves. The surgeons at VOSM will need to actually see Darwin for a consultation before making their final decisions about the procedures, which will require a $250 consultation fee and more x-rays which will range between $200 and $800. 

I have spent over $1400 in the past few months getting x-rays and multiple opinions which have gotten me to where I am today; knowing that he will need more x-rays, and either a surgery or custom brace. I wish I could say, "no problem, let's schedule the procedures right away", but the cost is much more than I can afford.

{Darwin at Candy's birthday party, May 2017. He has been depressed lately from being on strict rules of rest and no activity. He wore his carpal brace and stayed on my lap or in my arms during the festivities.}

It tears my heart in half when I see how sad he is, unable to do much other than sleep or be carried outside to use the bathroom. He wants to be running, jumping, and piggybacking again, I just need some help to get him there.  He needs you now, and I do too. Just a little bit from enough people can make sure Darwin gets back on his feet. 

Thank you so much for your time and consideration in helping Darwin and me through this difficult time. It means so much to me to have the help of my friends, family, and fellow animal-lovers to get my best friend running by my side again every day.

{Darwin and Candy after finishing the Badass Dash - October 2015.}

{The Chestnut Hill Growlers, aka The Neighborhood Pack. Piper, Cooper, Darwin, Leiden and Candy after a romp in the old tennis courts. Summer 2016.}

{Catching snowballs - winter 2013.}

{Darwin showing off his prize after winning 1st place in the small dog mix-breed race at L'Oreal's "Your Dog Is Worth It Too" event to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation - August 2014.}

If you want to see more pictures of Darwin doing all the things he loves, or for updates on his current medical status, check out his photos on Instagram @kattieyk  or #darwinthemutt.


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Katarina Kirby 
Philadelphia, PA
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