Pain-Free After Years of Pain

Bella was a young American Bulldog who had spent the first two years of her life in a puppy mill in Pennsylvania, reproducing for profit with no love or attention for her efforts. One day Bella had a horrible accident that tore the muscle almost completely off of her kneecap. Rather than pay for the expensive surgery to repair her injury, Bella's owners dropped her off at the local shelter in Pennsylvania in excruciating pain.

The shelter made an attempt to fix Bella's knee and then placed her in a foster home for recovery. No one was more surprised than her foster mom when three weeks later, Bella dragged herself to a small closet and gave birth to 9 puppies. Bella was a wonderful mother who nurtured those pups despite her persistent pain. As soon as the puppies were weaned, Bella's mom had her spayed and then adopted her.

Together they moved to Asheville to be closer to family. Several years passed, but Bella never seemed to truly heal from the surgery. She rarely touched her bad leg to the ground and instead hobbled around on the other three. Pet Harmony's groomer, Michelle McHugh, moved in next door and soon noticed that Bella's mom was having an increasingly difficult time caring for her. Michelle started making almost daily visits to help out and donating her time to give Bella regular baths and care. By this time, Bella was 8 years old and having a lot of trouble walking. Bella's mom wasn't doing much better and they soon found out why. Bella's mom was diagnosed with rapidly advancing cancer. She resisted Hospice Care for as long as she could because she was worried about what would happen to Bella. Michelle assured her that she needn't worry; ACN would help and care for Bella.

Bella’s owner succumbed to her cancer just before Christmas.

Bella first came to Animal Hospital of North Asheville in early December, when we met her for evaluation of her knee problem.  She could not use her right rear leg and barely touched it to the ground. It was very painful. Despite the pain, she stole our hearts with her sweet and loving personality and her bravery through the pain she was experiencing.

We took x-rays of her knees and hips, and were shocked at the severe bone damage that was present in the damaged knee joint. Fortunately, Dr. Keith Allen, a surgical specialist from Upstate Veterinary Specialists, was visiting our office that day and was willing to take a look at the x-rays. His opinion was that the damage was too severe for therapeutic surgery and that the best course of action was to amputate the leg. Knowing the pain that she was in and seeing how special she was, Dr. Plankenhorn told the ACN folks that she would be willing to do the amputation surgery and donate her time, only charging for the hospital’s expenses.  While Bella awaited her surgery, we made sure she had plenty of pain medication to keep her as comfortable as possible.

January 26th was Bella’s big surgery day. By this point, she was not even trying to touch her foot to the ground. She started her journey with a pre-anesthetic injection containing a mild tranquilizer and a narcotic.  Next, an IV catheter was placed and she received a short-acting injectable anesthetic, followed by intubation and gas anesthesia. Once she was asleep, our wonderful surgery technician, Sharon, performed an epidural so that she would wake up feeling no pain at all from the surgery to remove her leg.

The surgery went very smoothly and Bella woke up in recovery being warmed with a Bair hugger circulating warm air system, enjoying her post-op narcotic injection, and being monitored and loved on by Cindy. She also received a K-Laser treatment in recovery and again the next day to help with swelling, pain, and to stimulate healing. By that evening, she was already up and walking outside to eliminate. We kept her on IV pain medicine in her IV fluids all night while our overnight nurses stayed by her side to adjust the pain medicine as needed. She was also started on oral pain medicines that she would take at home.

The next day, her foster daddy Tom came to take her home. She acted like she’d never had the bad leg, making adjustments in her gait and happily walking without the pain of the damaged and useless leg. Tom reports that she’s doing very well at home, and has had no problems adjusting to her new “tripod” status.  A few days after surgery, we received more great news – the biopsy we submitted to be sure that there was no cancer in the festering joint showed that all of the changes in the knee were due to the previous trauma and poor healing of the injured area.

Thank you Dr. Plankenhorn!

Everyone at Animal Hospital of North Asheville, and especially Dr. Amy Plankenhorn, are all so thrilled that Bella is finally happy and free of pain for the first time in years!


I just read about Bella on ACN's newsletter, and when I saw that Dr. Plankenhorn had donated her time to help Bella, well - wow. It made me love AHNA and Dr. Plankenhorn even more than I already do, which is a lot! :) Was glad to see the link here to the whole story. This is quite a story! Go Bella!

Way to go Dr. Plankenhorn. Lucy and Jett love you too!! Thank you for being you and your love for the animals.

Dr. Plankenhorn, along with all of the doctors and staff at AHNA, have been a godsend to Animal Compassion Network and the animals we help. Not only do we swear by your medical expertise, we are also so grateful for your generosity. Your time, donations and sponsorships have enabled Animal Compassion Network to save so many more rescued animals and care for them in the way every animal deserves. Bella is just one of the dozens of stories we can share about our cats and dogs who are alive and healthy today thanks to Animal Hospital of North Asheville.

We also cannot thank you enough for the pet food we received from your most recent pet food drive. ACN supplies 8 food pantries with enough pet food to meet the needs of pet guardians who cannot afford to feed their animals. Oftentimes, a little bit of pet food to get someone over a rough spot is all it takes to keep an animal in their home.

Thank you, Animal Hospital of North Asheville, for your dedication to animal welfare and our rescue work. It's a rare and special thing when extraordinary vet care comes wrapped up in a blanket of compassion. We appreciate you!