Los Angeles surgeon paved the way in the operating room to save an abandoned, injured dog
By Kelsey Duckett
Animals—especially dogs—are dumped every day. They sometimes are left to fend for themselves on the streets, in the woods, or even the desert.
Monty, a Pit Bull, was dumped just outside of Los Angeles in the High Desert, after being shot in the back legs. His guardian left him alone and injured, only able to move by dragging himself around on his front legs.
One crazy, hot afternoon, Animal Rescue Volunteers (ARV), Inc. received a phone call about a “badly hurt” Pit Bull. Volunteers immediately went to retrieve Monty, brought him to Dr. Raviv Balfour at Animal Surgical & Emergency Center in West Los Angeles, where his life would be forever changed.
“When Monty came in he was really in bad shape,” Balfour remembered. “He wasn’t able to use his hind legs and had open wounds, infections, and due to one of the bullets, his right Achilles tendon had been completely destroyed.”
Monty’s left leg was badly infected, his tibia was fractured, and there was very little bone that was still alive or receiving blood flow. An x-ray also revealed dozens of gunshot pellets in his belly. Balfour was amazed that even though he was in pain, Monty was a sweet-natured, happy dog who seemed very pleased to be in the presence of caring people.
This was a challenging case for Balfour, who said generally a dog in this situation would be euthanized. But with the financial support from ARV, Monty was offered the chance for a new beginning. Dr. Balfour performed a pioneering surgery—one never previously done on an animal—and hoped Monty would respond well.
“The only way to save his right leg was to recreate an Achilles,” he said.
His left leg wasn’t so lucky. Despite several surgeries, the blood supply to the area and the leg was unable to heal. A few months later, the team ended up having to amputate.
Nevertheless, Balfour, a specialist in animal orthopedic and neurological issues, was determined to return mobility to the energetic, young dog.
“He had a tremendous spirit even when he could barely walk on his hind legs,” he said.
Balfour studied Monty’s right hind leg, the one with the destroyed Achilles tendon. There were some serious obstacles standing in the way of repair. But Balfour knew that even though polypropylene mesh had never been used in canine surgery to replace a tendon, it might just be the solution he needed.
“This type of mesh had been used sporadically for the tendon replacements in humans,” he said. “So I thought, why not try it—and I constructed a fake Achilles and sutured it in place of the missing tendon.”
Today, as a result of Balfour’s pioneering technique, not only can Monty walk again, but his favorite hobby is pulling his foster mom around on her skateboard.
“I worked with Monty for about ten months, and he is one of our favorite dogs to come in the hospital,” said Balfour. “Even though I couldn’t save both of his legs, I am ecstatic that ARV gave me the chance to save one of his hind legs and give him a tremendous quality of life.”