On a recent spring day Margaret Marcus decided she wanted to take a spin in a classic Cadillac she’d just bought on auction.
To keep her company, the Ashburn resident invited Eros, her Landseer Newfoundland, who hopped in the car and lay down in the back, his head resting on the armrest between the two front seats . She went to the bank and the Circle K, where she took advantage of the buy one, get one free hot dogs. One for her, one for Eros.
It was the perfect afternoon.
And while the outing might seem pretty run of the mill, for Margaret and Eros, it was a big deal. Margaret says it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the leg braces Eros wears to help him walk.
At 10 years old, Eros is considered a living legend by the members of the Colonial Newfoundland Club. Most dogs his size don’t live that long. They’re prone to hip dysplasia and other problems. And once their mobility becomes impaired, their size makes it more difficult for owners to help them do basic things like go outside to go to the bathroom.
But like other large-breed dogs, Eros hasn’t escaped the aches and pains of old age. A few years back he was at the vet for a regular checkup and the doctor noticed one of his back legs looked weak.
They thought it might be bone cancer. When Margaret asked what the treatment would be, the vet told her that if it was cancer, they’d likely have to amputate the dog’s foot.
Over the years, Margaret has owned several Newfoundlands and has had to go the surgery route before.
“It’s a mixed bag on these surgeries. Sometimes the dog’s lucky and they fully recover. Sometimes the dog protects that leg and hurts another leg,” she says.
She was skeptical about the suggested treatment for Eros. She’s seen how hard it is for dogs to recover from surgery with four legs, she didn’t think it was smart to take off his foot. Plus, based on past experience, she didn’t think he had bone cancer.
So Margaret took Eros to Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Ashburn for a second opinion. Based on X-rays, that vet didn’t think Eros had cancer, and neither did other specialists in the office. Margaret told her surgery was off the table and asked if there were other treatment options. She asked about the possibility of getting a brace for Eros.
As it turned out, the vet had heard good things about Derrick Campana, CO and owner of Animal Orthocare. She shared contact information with Margaret who contacted Derrick right away.
“His office is great, very zen-like,” Margaret says. Eros received plenty of one-on-one time and attention and enjoyed being at the office. When selecting the colors for Eros’s first brace, Derrick recommended he get a fun color – so that people wouldn’t think he was sick.
So Eros got rainbow swirl with blue, orange and yellow.
The new brace worked out well, giving Eros the stability he needed. It confused him a little at first, but now it’s just a part of him.
Then, a year or so later, the other leg started looking dicey. Margaret wanted to double check that the brace was a good idea for Eros, so she took him to see Dr. Tommy Walker at Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates in Purcellville.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything,” she says.
Dr. Walker, who specializes in neurological and orthopedic surgery, looked Eros and his brace and told her that while he could operate on the dog, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The braces were the best option for Eros. This just confirmed what Margaret already thought.
So they returned to Animal Orthocare and Eros was fitted with a second brace.
Today, he’s mobile and has a normal life. During the day, he wears his braces and he can get up and go outside. Go up and down stairs. Lie down when his feet get tired. At night she takes them off to give his feet a rest.
She could’ve used a pet wheelchair for him, but then he’d have to wait until Margaret put it on him before he could move around. The braces allow him to do it all on his own.
The two still visit Animal Orthocare on occasion to pick up new socks or Velcro when the straps get worn out. Derrick and his team will clean everything up, replace the straps and add new tread and show off whatever new projects they have underway – whether it’s their new 3D printer or a wall made of discarded wood pallets.
The braces were affordable, Margaret says, especially compared with surgery and the office is accessible and easy to work with.
“Derrick never pushes anything. He’s never upselling anything, which I think is really cool,” Margaret says. “He’s always there when I call him, but he’s not guilting me into getting other braces.”
She’s keeping an eye on his front feet now – Eros might need a third brace before too long. Not that he’s all that worried about it.
Eros is a busy guy. When he’s not relaxing under his mom’s desk while she works, he’s attending picnics through the Colonial Newfoundland Club, checking out events like the Reston Pet Fiesta, watching parades. or going to the beach.
“This has kept him in the game a lot longer,” Margaret says. “He has some other issues, but he’s not a sickly dog. He’s happy and active and we get to enjoy him longer.”