MOUNT DESERT — Despite everything he has been through, Murphy is a very lucky dog. And Tony Smith will tell you they are lucky to have found each other.
It is something of a miracle that Murphy, an Anatolian shepherd mix, is even alive.
In November 2019, when he was about a month old, Murphy was found during a snowstorm in northern Turkey by volunteers who rescue stray and abandoned dogs.
“A short video clip that the rescuers took by flashlight and cell phone shows him trying to keep his legs from freezing by lifting one paw after another off the snow,” Smith said.
“All of his legs were affected by the cold, but through the efforts of the rescuers, three of them survived without having any problems. Sadly, his rear left hip was not functioning properly, and it was discovered that it was dislocated.”
The rescuers contacted Sevil Gulsen, who is originally from Turkey and now runs a dog rescue and adoption agency in Annapolis, Md. Together, they decided that hip replacement surgery was the best option for Murphy. But it couldn’t be done until he was a year old, to give his bones time to fully develop.
Murphy was flown to Annapolis, where he was put on restricted exercise and pain management therapy. When he was a year old, he was flown back to Turkey for the hip replacement operation. It turned out to be more difficult than expected because the hip joint’s ball and socket had moved away from each other. Although the operation appeared to be successful, the surgeon cautioned there was a risk of a recurrence of the displacement or other problems.
During the period of recovery and rehabilitation, Murphy stayed with relatives of Gulsen in Turkey.
Meanwhile, Smith, who is Mount Desert’s public works director, had been looking for a dog to adopt. In February 2020, he found Murphy on the website rescueme.org. He called Gulsen and arranged to adopt Murphy when he returned to the U.S. in March.
“COVID-19 was loosed on the world at the same time and all international flights were canceled,” Smith said. “In August, flights resumed and I was able to get him.”
Gulsen and her mother picked up Murphy at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., on a Thursday, and the next day they met Smith in a shopping center parking lot in Hartford, Conn.
“It was love at first sight,” Smith said of meeting Murphy.
The two bonded quickly, and Murphy was enjoying his new life when, about two months after Smith brought him home, he began limping. X-rays showed that the socket in the replaced hip joint had shifted, causing pain if Murphy put weight on the leg. A veterinary surgeon in southern Maine recommended a second hip replacement, and a surgeon in Annapolis concurred.
Smith and Murphy arrived at the animal hospital in Annapolis on March 3.
“They did further X-rays and discovered that the connection of the ‘ball’ to the femur of the artificial ball-and-socket joint had loosened and moved around and made a second replacement impossible,” Smith said.
The surgeon recommended an alternate procedure in which the ball of the joint is removed.
“The muscles of the leg will initially hold the femur in place and, over time, scar tissue will form between the socket and the femur to provide cushioning,” Smith said. “The procedure aims to restore pain-free mobility to a diseased or damaged hip.”
The surgery went well, and Smith and Murphy returned home a few days later.
“Murphy is doing great,” Smith said Sunday. The staples that were put in during surgery are to be removed this Friday. Then physical therapy will promote healing and muscle development.
Smith is still seeking help paying Murphy’s medical bills. But because the latest surgery was less expensive than a full hip replacement would have been, Smith has reduced the estimated need for financial assistance from $12,000 to $8,000 on Murphy’s GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/f/murphys-hip?
“This is still expensive, and we sincerely appreciate those folks who have very generously made a contribution,” Smith said.
After bringing Murphy home the first time, last August, Smith said he quickly learned about the dog’s (mostly) endearing traits: “He is a bed hog, a fussy eater…loves to run…is very patient, is also quite stubborn and is very loving.
“He is a very sweet boy.”