Post-op’s the worst. Even if you’d been feeling really sick and/or painful before the procedure (consider the lowly fractured tooth, for example), the first 24 hours after surgery can be a terrible time to be you. Veterinarians get this. Which is why my foster dog, Pinky, is getting babied on this, the day after her spay. 

Now, normally, this is a spring-loaded dog. But after last night’s after-hours surgery (the OR was busy all day), she’s on the subdued side today. Not that she’s unwilling to jump or wrestle, just that she's doing it with less gusto than usual. Such is the life of a Pinky-dog, that even a full-on abdominal surgery will not keep her down.

Still, it’s obvious that she's hurting some. (The slight hunch in her back gives it away, too.) This, despite my liberal hand with nerve blocks (pre-incision), pre-op anti-inflammatories and opiates, and a full twelve hours of post-op knockout drugs. Like most dogs, Pinky’s trying hard not to show her belly is feeling any worse for wear.

Pinky with her Slumdog:

You and me? We’d probably be wrestling with the morphine pump right about now — or yelling at any scrub-clad soul we think we might intimidate into giving us "MORE DRUGS!" Pinky? Right now she’s trying to decide whether she likes the stalk of homegrown rosemary I just offered her (no, not medicinally pain-relieving, but, small-stick chew-monster that she is, it’s something to take her mind off any discomfort, I figure), and intermittently picking and choosing her battles with the porch lizards (normally she goes for them all … all the time).

I tend to recommend my clients do little to nothing after surgery, and I am taking my own advice today. Other than to check the incision and keep the dreaded e-collar on when not directly able to supervise, I am offering small comforts in the way of my presence (I am spending a writing day at home), along with other tiny expressions of my sympathy,

"Baby her," I’ll say to clients. Hand over ice cubes steadily, reassure her with a one-by-one Cheerios feast, take slow walks on the leash, and put in lots of cuddle time over a movie and a shared bag or two of microwave popcorn. And — of course — take the day [after] off. For me, that’s the most important thing. Because nothing says, "You’re going to be OK" like making sure she gets as much of her favorite thing as possible. And in most cases, that favorite thing happens to be YOU. 

Now, if only I could find a way to transfer the object of Pinky’s devotion somewhere else. Love her though I might — and care for her as my own, I do — I nonetheless know her forever home is not with me. Still, as long as she remains in my care, at least I can promise her the kind of special attention anyone deserves after suffering the painful loss of a once beloved body part.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "We are [almost] family" by me