Four years ago, I decided that our dog, Max, needed a buddy to keep him company during the day when we are at work. This was a big decision for me, because I’d never wanted a dog in the first place. I’m a cat person, but I’m also a big softie, so one day on the way to work when I almost ran over a puppy only to see him run in front of the two cars driving behind me, I turned around and picked him up, putting him in the backyard until I could get home and find his owner. Though I searched for weeks, I never found that owner, and six years later, he’s still with us.

Those first two years were pretty lonely for Max. We couldn’t have him inside because he was crazy about the cats and liked to chew on furniture legs, so when a friend at work told us that his golden retriever had just given birth to 12 puppies, we thought it was a great time to get a companion for Max.

That very night, we drove over to his house and picked out a cute puppy, but since they were only a week old, we had to wait five weeks before we could bring him home. About three days later, though, we got a call from our friend’s mother asking me if I’d be willing to take in one of the puppies for a short time, because her litter mates weren’t letting her eat. The runt of the litter, she was going to die unless we took her in until she got stronger.

Begrudgingly, I agreed and went to pick up the little girl, who was brindle colored and as tiny as we’d been told. When we first brought her home, she was as small as the TV remote, but she ate voraciously. I loved holding her and bottle feeding her, and she came to quickly adore me. Within a week, I began feeding her pablum, and I can still remember the way she’d stand at my feet, looking anxiously up at me as I prepared it. She loved that stuff!

Of course, I fell in love with her and kept her instead of the puppy we’d picked out. We named her Bryn, because of her brindle coloring, and she fell in love with Max and he with her. They became instantly inseparable, even sleeping together in the same doghouse.

On her first visit to the vet, we found out why she was so small. She’d been born with an extra artery coming from her heart, which caused her heart to beat about 350 times a minute - over twice as fast as a puppy’s heart should beat. Our vet, the wonderful Dr. Marshall, told us she needed open heart surgery — an operation that would cost about $3,000. He said to wait a while first, though, because sometimes these things correct themselves. He warned us that she’d never be big though, and would probably die before she was eight years old.

As the next few months went by, she continued to get bigger and bigger, and by the next year when she went in to get her yearly checkup, she was 60 pounds. Dr. Marshall giggled at her size, and he’s continued to be amazed at her health. Now, four years later, her heart condition is down to just a small murmur, and her heart beats at a nearly normal speed. It’s really amazing, and we’re so happy that she’s a healthy, lively dog.

She has boundless energy and loves to play, running around the yard at breakneck speeds. Unfortunately, that has been her downfall. A couple of weeks ago, I went out to play with her and Max and noticed she was limping. I took her to the vet that afternoon and learned that she’d torn her ACL.

Who knew dogs could do that?

Come to find out, it’s a very common injury for active dogs. She probably was running and cut to the side, and her leg didn’t. We can tell it hurts her — she’s still active, but she holds that leg up, not a good thing at all, since now she can easily blow out her other knee. So, the surgery bug has finally hit us after all, only instead of $3,000, we’ll only have to pay around $1,500.

I honestly never thought I’d spend $1,500 we can ill afford on a dog, but it’s amazing what we do out of love for our pets. And, I know…she’d do it for us, too, if she could.

We’re in the process of building a kennel for her, since she won’t be able to run and play for about two months. Once that’s complete, she’s going in to have the operation. Hopefully, Max won’t mind sleeping in the pen with her. I don’t think she’d be able to take it if we left her in there alone. We’ll have to walk her to exercise the leg, so at least they’ll get some exercise every day.

If anyone out there can give me more information about the whole process, I’d really appreciate it. I’ve read a bunch of information on the subject from posts on the Web, but I’d really like to hear from people who’ve been through the process with their dogs. I also understand that there is a less expensive version of the surgery that runs around $400, and I’d love to hear from people whose dogs had that particular surgery. Are there any downsides? Is the recovery period longer?

I appreciate any and all comments on the subject. We want to do what’s best for her, so the more information we can get, the better! Thanks in advance for filling us in!