September 10, 2006

Polar and I traveled to Lakewood, Pennsylvania on September 2, 2006 to partake in the fun and festivities of Goldstock! This was Polar's fifth year at the camp and he is looking forward to many more. Goldstock is always on Labor Day weekend, and it is an entire weekend of Goldens, shopping, food, and fun.

Everyone who has been in attendance during the last few years know about Polar. He runs all over camp greeting all of his old friends, in addition to making new ones. As he runs by people, I hear them saying, "Is that Polar? Boy, he looks great. I remember when he couldn't walk and had to use a wheelchair to get around." He just smiles and runs by.

At the Goldstock in 2002, Polar was just a 16-week-old baby, and we had a raffle for him to raise funds for an MRI of his spine. He was in the rescue as a foster dog, and in the true spirit of Goldstock everyone chipped in for Polar's care. As it turns out, he was able to get the MRI, wheelchair, and other care. Since then, though, Polar has taught himself how to walk and no longer needs a wheelchair.

For the 2003 Goldstock, Polar was in his wheelchair. In 2004, though, Polar was racing around like all of the other dogs. Everyone at Goldstock was so surprised. But, then in December 2004, Polar had to have his leg amputated and it was decided he would need a prosthetic leg. A fundraising raffle was organized by Rochelle Lesser, Land of PureGold Foundation Founder.

For the 2005 Goldstock, Polar arrived with his new leg, and raced around like crazy. In 2006 when Polar arrived, he couldn't wait to race all over camp greeting everyone. He even went swimming this year, actually swimming rather than just wading. He had his life jacket on and swam like a big boy! I am so proud of Polar. He has achieved so much in his short life.

Hopefully, Polar will continue to attend Goldstock for many more years to come . . . . for surely, he is a true Goldstock dog.


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September 4, 2005
We just returned from Goldstock. Hope you enjoy our photos. Polar loves it in the lake. And, doesn't sister Xyla look cool in her necklace? Boy, did we have fun!





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July 6, 2005

Polar is quite famous in his hometown, actually getting his face on the cover of his local newspaper. The caption read: Dogged determination — A heartbreaking dilemma for a Paradise pet owner leads to an unusual and inspiring solution. Check it out!

Pup with prosthesis Receives, and provides, Genuine comfort
By Fran Pennock Shaw Intelligencer Journal Lifestyle Correspondent, June 30, 2005
Photos by Deb Grove

Pamela Patton successfully got an artificial leg
made for her dog Polar; by a designer of
human prostheses in Port Jefferson, NY

When Pamela Patton of Paradise, decided that her 2-year old Golden Retriever needed his rear leg amputated due to an intractable infection, she also began a search for someone who could fit Polar with an artificial leg afterward.

It wasn’t easy. Veterinary prostheses are almost unknown-since most pets adapt well to having only three legs-and few companies make canine models.

But Polar was a unique case. He had taught himself to walk despite being born with a disability Patton describes as “like muscular dystrophy.” He always had weak hind legs, weakened even more by 15 months of antibiotics, surgery and other treatments for osteomyelitis, an infection.

The amputation was done December 13, 2004. Patton found a prosthetics designer who actually sat in on Polar’s operation, in consultation with University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital orthopedic surgeon David Diefenderfer.

“A normal dog would adjust, but Polar’s remaining rear leg is almost backward and I never thought it would hold up a 55-pound dog,” recalled Patton. “Amputation was my only option….and he wasn’t going to manage without a leg.”

Although no veterinarian was able to diagnose or treat Polar’s birth defect, the dog was active and happy. He even became a registered Therapy Dog International pet in 2003, working with the elderly and with physically and learning-challenged children in Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13.

“All his life, he managed. As a pup, he basically dragged his rear end around,” said Patton, “until he strengthened his back legs some. He’s an amazing dog. But we thought the infection was going to spread, and he was already in a lot of pain. Luckily, Dr. Diefenderfer was very open and enthusiastic about trying the prosthesis, which he’d never done before.”

Marty Mandelbaum, president of M.H. Mandelbaum Orthotic & Prosthetic Services in Port Jefferson, NY first designed a temporary plastic, and then a permanent copolymer prosthesis for Polar.

“I was able to take away a bad leg and give him a new one,” Patton said. “Polar was so different, with all his mobility problems, I didn’t think he could continue to have a good quality of life if he just lost his leg. For that one dog who has more severe problems, a prosthesis ought to be available.”

Teacher Chrissy Willwerth, Rebecca Gordner,
Harper Dodd, Lucas Styes, Rhiannon Flemming
and Pamela Patton shower attention on Polar
during a recent visit to Lancaster Generations.
Polar's other hind leg is covered with a support wrap.

Mandelbaum designs human prostheses but also had made leg braces for dogs, and now has created prosthetic legs for two, a Rottweiler and Polar, “which have been very successful.” He averages 10 information requests a month about pet prostheses, but adds, “most dogs can get by well with three legs.”

Creating a prosthetic leg for a dog is “a challenge. You can’t talk to a dog, so it’s like working with very young children. You must monitor for blisters and irritation, and be careful the dog doesn’t chew at it.”

Such prostheses range from $700 to $3,000, he estimated.

“The thinking (has been) that the technology (for prosthetics) is not around for animals, so surgeons usually amputate all the way to the shoulder or hip joint, to be sure to cut out all the infection or cancer. But we do much better (with a canine prosthesis) when they leave more of a remnant,” he noted.

Diefenderfer, an orthopedic surgeon and senior research associate at Penn’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, most often does amputations on dogs for bone tumors—a standard treatment for that aggressive cancer.

“An owner often has to deal with the shock that the dog has a malignant tumor and has to lose a leg,” he said. “Some resist. But I’ve never seen a dog, personally, who did not adjust to an amputation.”

Complex limb-sparing procedures are also infrequently done, to graft on new bone, augment with metal plates or even grow new bone tissue—although these are expensive and risky procedures, usually for special cases. What Diefenderfer had never done until Polar came along was an amputation with a prosthesis.

“Usually we take the limb completely,” he said, for cosmetic and practical reasons, such as keeping the dog from chewing on the stump or lessening the chance of cancer spreading.

“But if a dog has a tumor in the front leg and sever hip dysplasia, for example or; like Polar; has compromised neuromuscular ability in his two back legs, we need to ask if he can cope with an amputation. With Polar; it didn’t take much to convince us to try a prosthesis.”

Diefenderfer still believes canine prostheses are “rarely” needed. “Obviously, we’re open to that kind of thing now, but were remarkable lucky with Polar.”

He said a prosthesis can work “if a combination of things” are right, including the dog’s physical condition and personality. It’s important that Marty was willing to take on the challenge and Pam’s commitment to the dog was so great.”

Today, Polar mostly wears his fake leg only in public. Although he chewed off the harness that held his first post-op prosthesis, the final prosthesis is held tight with a suction attachment and takes a few minutes to attach or remove.

“We use it when going for a walk, if he’s going to be with other dogs, or in any physical activity outside the house,” said Patton. At home, he gets along on three legs, but she added, “he can’t run around like a maniac without his prosthetic on. It would just do too much damage to his remaining leg.”

Polar still undergoes aquatherapy at Paradise Pet Therapy and Rehabilitation in Catonsville, MD and gets massages at home.

Meanwhile in his own therapy work with children, Polar is a natural—both before and after his amputation and prosthesis.

“He shows children that you can be different have a limp or funny leg or be in a wheelchair or whatever—and not let it stop you from doing what you want to do,” Patton concluded.

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