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Ladybug, a 2-year-old black “pit bull” mix at Planned Pethood, never really did walk or sit normally.
She held her hind legs very straight and limp. When sitting, she always rolled onto one hip or the other.
“Everyone thought she had one leg a little shorter than the others, so that's why she had a little gimp and would fall down sometimes while running and playing,” said Michelle Wasylecki of Toledo, Ladybug's foster mom.
But when cold weather hit in October and November, Ladybug began to walk using her front legs as much as possible, hopping with her back legs to maintain balance. She was in pain.
After X-rays, a veterinarian discovered Ladybug's kneecaps were abnormally high, leading to hyperextended ankles. She also had torn both of her anterior cruciate ligaments, or ACLs, and needed surgery.
“They think it happened when she was a puppy and she just learned to deal with it,” Ms. Wasylecki said. “She just couldn't hide it anymore in the cold.”
Ladybug had been picked up by Lucas County Canine Care & Control as a 5-month-old stray in the spring of 2012. After six months in the county shelter, she was transferred to Planned Pethood and Ms. Wasylecki began fostering her. She was adopted by a Sylvania family, but returned about a year later when the family moved.
“They may have known about her injury,” said Greg Lyons, Ms. Wasylecki's boyfriend. “Their vet may have said something about it.”
Ms. Wasylecki and Mr. Lyons kept Ladybug out of the cold to avoid aggravating her condition.
“And we tried to keep her from sleeping too long because we noticed she would kind of cramp up,” Mr. Lyons said.
On Dec. 5, Ms. Wasylecki began raising funds for a needed corrective surgery, using a Facebook page she created called “Ladybug and her Broken Wings,” as well the crowd-funding Web site GoFundMe.com. By Dec. 15, the $2,100 needed for the surgery and therapy had been collected.
Ladybug underwent a three-hour surgery on Jan. 3 at West Suburban Animal Hospital on King Road in Sylvania Township.
The operation essentially reorganized her knee joints and repaired her ACLs.
The surgery “changes the geometry of her knee to create a stable joint,” veterinarian Gary Thompson said. “She should have a return to normal function.”
Right now, Ladybug's hind end is bare, having been shaved for the surgery. The incisions on the inside of each thigh are stapled closed and her legs are splotched with reddish purple bruises, but she's doing well.
“She wants to jump up on the furniture and she doesn't realize she can't do any of that stuff,” Ms. Wasylecki said.
The couple is helping Ladybug go up and down the stairs to the yard by supporting her back end with an exercise resistance band. Her knees needed to be iced four times a day until Thursday, when the couple planned to switch to heat packs and begin range-of-motion exercises.
Ladybug is an active girl, but must lie low for eight weeks to recover. She has to be kept in her crate or on a leash 24 hours a day to prevent her from doing things she shouldn't.
“She's definitely frustrated,” Mr. Lyons said.
While the recent snow storms and record-breaking cold weather have not made things easy, the resulting Level 3 snow emergencies in Lucas County on Monday and Tuesday meant the couple could stay at home with Ladybug in the first few days of her recovery.
But she has other company in the form of the couple's two dogs and three cats, along with another foster dog and her litter of puppies.
Their orange and white tabby cat, Jezzebelle, has been especially close to Ladybug recently.
“This cat has been taking care of her since she's been home,” Ms. Wasylecki said. “She's hardly left her side.”
In about five weeks, Ladybug will begin hydrotherapy treatments to help her begin to use her back legs normally and to build up the muscles in her hindquarters.
Ladybug won't be available for adoption for at least two months, but Planned Pethood is accepting applications for her at plannedpethood.org. Donations toward her care can also be made through the Web site, and updates on her condition continue to be posted to the Facebook page.
“She'll be very difficult to let go,” Ms. Wasylecki said. “She's a sweet dog.”