Hi! Meet Bowie, our sweet, fluffy, and loving year-and-a-half-old Alaskan Klee Kai mix. Bowie is our little rockstar—full of spunk with the biggest, goofiest smile, a love for hiking, and giver of the best snugs and kisses to everyone he meets. Once a perfect, happy, and extremely active little fur ball, the past five months have been emotionally and physically 'ruff' for Bowie and his humans. We have tried our best to do everything possible to make sure our little guy is pain-free and healthy without letting finances dictate his care, but even with pet insurance, we weren't expecting his treatment to cost and arm and—quite literally—a leg.
On March 31st, our perfectly healthy Bowie went outside to go potty and somehow got his little paw wedged between some rocks in the landscaping, causing him to take a tumble into the gravel. When he got up, he was limping and we noticed his hind left leg was starting to bruise and swell, so we took him to animal emergency the next morning. We were floored when the doctor informed us that Bowie had suffered an extremely severe femur fracture and needed to get surgery right away.
Bowie went in for surgery on April 2nd to have a pin inserted into his femur. The surgery was challenging because the break was so clean that it made the bone difficult to stabilize, so the doctor put him in a cast to try and prevent any further trauma. After surgery, we were more than ready to dedicate the next four months to his recovery, and within a few days, he was making great progress and we thought he was on the right path.
Two weeks later, we went to his post-op check up to have his cast removed. His little paw was rubbed raw from the cast, putting him at high-risk for infection, which was scary enough, until X-rays revealed that the additional weight from the cast caused the pin to snap. In an attempt to save Bowie's leg, we were advised to consult an orthopedic surgeon who suggested the best next step was to install a metal plate and screws to stabilize the bone fragments.
Bowie went in for his second surgery on April 28th to have his plate inserted. Because the injury was a few weeks old, the surgeon was concerned about blood flow and decided to take a bone marrow graft from his left shoulder to help rejuvenate the bone. The surgery went extremely well and the doctor was very happy with the results and expected a full recovery. Not only did Bowie have to get his butt shaved again, but he really looked like a little rockstar with his trendy new hair cut.
We took even extra precaution this time around. We limited his activity as much as possible, kept him on a strict medication schedule, cleaned his paw out three times a day, and gave him massages to keep his muscles relaxed. We did everything right, and it wasn't long before Bowie was back on all fours walking around being his happy little self again. As Bowie's confidence grew, it was getting harder to restrain him from wanting to play. We took him out for a little walk, as recommended by our surgeon, and after weeks of puppy jail, he got super excited when he saw another dog walking on the sidewalk. Before I could bend down to pick him up, he lunged and tried to jump towards the dog. When he started limping again shortly after, we knew something wasn't right, so we brought him back to the doctors for more x-rays.
Despite our best efforts, the plate had bent and was jamming into Bowie's knee-cap, fraying the tendons and ligaments holding it in place. We were devastated, but the doctor reassured us that the bone was starting to heal and that by removing the plate, they could reinsert a new pin that would not disrupt the callous that was already starting to form. On May 24th, Bowie went in for his third surgery to remove the plate, insert a new pin, and reattach the ligaments with wire sutures. With his bone starting to finally heal, we were confident that the third time would be a charm.
Just days after surgery, Bowie was doing FANTASTIC! We continued to limit his activity and keep him away from any stimulants, but he was finally up walking around like a normal little pup. Thinking we were in the clear, we started planning our next hiking trip and reaching out to trainers to get him certified as a therapy dog to work with kids at the local children's hospital. Then one day, he stopped putting weight on his leg and we couldn't understand why. After another trip to the vet's and another round of x-rays, Bowie's leg appeared to be fine, but the pin had slightly shifted and the doctor suspected that it may be pinching his sciatic nerve, making it painful for him to use—a common issue with this type of implant—and that after a few more weeks of healing, he could have the pin removed and start physical therapy.
On June 22nd, Bowie went in for his fourth surgery to have his pin removed and his butt shaved—again. The surgeon said his bone was 90% healed and that he would make a full recovery after a few weeks of physical therapy. He started rehab the next week and was showing great progress. When we brought him in for his fifth session, the therapist expressed concerned with Bowie's range of motion, so we went back to the surgeon's for post-op x-rays.
With tears in his eyes, our doctor confirmed our worst fear: Bowie's leg was broken—again. A lack of blood flow had caused the bone to die and become extremely brittle. Exhausting all other options, our only choice was amputation We were devastated, but knew it was for the best. On August 3rd, Bowie went in for his fifth surgery and was set free from the leg that was holding him back from being the fun, playful little puppy he once was. We were ready for the new and improved Bowi3.
Within four days, our Bowie was back. He was hopping around like Tigger, chasing balls in the backyard, and giving the best snuggles. We thought having a Tripawd would be a challenge, but he made it seem so easy. We thought we were in the clear. What else could possibly go wrong?
Exactly a week after Bowie's amputation, we let him out in the backyard to go potty one last time before bed, and he took off in a mad sprint, stoping suddenly to lay down in the grass. We went to go pick him up and realized he was walking on his two front legs, and that his back right leg was dangling. Our hearts sank.
We rushed him to Animal emergency where we discovered that he had somehow dislocated his right hip. The doctor tried to pop it back into place, but it wouldn't stay put, and without another leg to put his weight on, taping it into place to heal wasn't an option. Bowie has already been through so much and the last thing we wanted to do was to put him through yet another surgery, but with his spirit still intact, we weren't ready to give up on him.
On August 14th, we brought Bowie in for a consultation with his surgeon who said he would be a good candidate for a femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
, a surgical procedure that removes the head and neck from the femur. The surgeon assured us that with physical therapy, Bowie would be pain-free and back on all threes in a few days. That same day, he went in for his sixth surgery.
As I write this, Bowie is coming out of surgery and the surgeon said it went as well as can be expected, and while we are relieved, we are as devastated now as we were back in March. Even though we promised ourselves that we would do everything possible to take care of him, his surgeries, medication, x-rays, check-ups and therapy sessions have amounted to over $15,000—with more expenses on the way. Thanks to our wonderful insurance provider, Healthy Paws
, we've had 90% of emergency and surgical bills covered, but with so many unforeseen expenses back-to-back, we are starting to feel the financial impact of his care. Our goal is to raise enough funding to help us cover his medical expenses, with excess funding going towards his therapy certification to work with pediatric cancer patients and amputees. We are so incredibly thankful for the outpouring of love and support Bowie has received and cannot express how lucky we are to have him in our lives, and we know his fighting spirit will make a positive impact on the lives of others.
Bowie is our world and we couldn't imagine doing life without him, so we cannot thank you enough for helping us get him back on his feet (even if he only has three left).
For more on Bowie's story, check out his feature on Healthy Paws' blog
. For updates on Bowie's progress, you can follow his journey on Instagram at @bowiethekleekai.