ATLANTA – When their Doberman, Abel, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his leg at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital, the Batchelors were adamant: He would need a prosthetic replacement after his leg was removed.
“We know Abel’s demeanor,” said Mike Batchelor, the 8-year-old pup’s owner. “We could not see putting him on three legs for the rest of his life.”
Dr. Lori MacDougall, the board-certified BluePearl surgeon treating Abel, was skeptical at first. Most dogs do quite well with three legs, and prosthetics can create any number of complications. But after listening to the Batchelors, and getting a sense for how committed they were to helping their dog recover, MacDougall agreed to the plan.
Now, nearly five months after the initial surgery, MacDougall said she’s amazed by her former patient’s progress.
“He looks like a happy dog,” said MacDougall, who, like many BluePearl specialists, has years of advanced training in her field. “He’s adapted to his new leg very well.”
It took a lot of hard work by a number of different people to get Abel to where he is today. It was his primary care physician, Dr. Jim FitzSimons with Cumming Veterinary Clinic, who made the initial discovery of the cancerous tumor and referred him to BluePearl. After recovering from the surgery to remove part of his leg, Abel was treated at Georgia Veterinary Rehabilitation (GVR), where he was fitted for his prosthesis.
The leg was custom-made by Derrick Campana, the president of Animal Ortho Care, which makes about 200 prosthetics each month for pets. Campana said Abel’s leg had to be specially designed because he is so large and active. Called a “spring foot,” the prosthetic helps reduce the strain on a dog’s joints.
It took a couple of tries, but they finally got a good fit. It didn’t hurt that Barbara Batchelor, Mike’s wife and Abel’s co-owner, works for a company that makes human prosthetics.
Dr. Jill Bailey of GVR worked with the Batchelors to help Abel build the muscles he needs to use his new leg. She said she was impressed by their dedication to their beloved dog.
“I think Abel’s owners deserve a lot of credit for continuing to work with their dog,” she said.
The Batchelors adopted Abel when he was just 18 months old. The energetic pup has a strong personality and can be quite vocal when he doesn’t get what he wants. Mike Batchelor said he was always confident his dog would make a full recovery.
“I had no doubts whatsoever that he would rebound,” he said. “He has a strong will to live.”
Even when he wears the prosthetic, Abel still has a little trouble negotiating stairs. But he’s able to bounce and play, just like he did when he was younger. Mike Batchelor said he acts just like he did before the cancer diagnosis whenever he’s wearing the prosthetic.
“He’s like a different dog,” Batchelor said. “When he doesn’t have it on, he’s a little more docile. I think the new leg makes him feel proud.”