How Charlie Came Back to Rule His Roost

Charlie, a 12-year-old Scottish terrier, has long been "the king-boss of everything" around the Leonard household in West Rutland, Vt., running everything and everyone – from his owners Dorothea and Harold, to their adult son and his family, to the two Labrador retrievers who share his home.

But earlier in 2000, Charlie's energy started to flag and he began having seizures. The Leonards took him to Rowley Memorial Animal Hospital in Springfield, Mass., where a magnetic resonance imaging test revealed a tumor on the surface of his brain.

The Need for Surgery

After his tests, Charlie was referred to Allen Sisson, a veterinary neurologist at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital, Rowley's sister hospital in Boston. Although a brain operation was risky, the Leonards knew it was their only hope. "Charlie's chances with surgery seemed much more reasonable than with the seizures he was having," recalls Dorothea. "With one of the last seizures he had, we really thought we had lost him."

So, last May, Sisson opened Charlie's skull and in an hour-and-a-half-long operation, removed the small meningioma tumor, which in dogs tend to be malignant. "This was one of the worst places for the tumor to be and still be operable," says Sisson. "It was over the most vital part of the brain – the frontal lobe. If things had not gone well, this dog could have woken up totally paralyzed on one side of his body and he probably wouldn't have been able to recognize his owners again. He would have been a vegetable."

But Charlie emerged from the operating room hardly the worse for wear. Because the surgical opening had been small, Sisson was able to avoid using a plate and instead pulled back the natural muscles over the brain to protect it. With Charlie's incision healing and his fur coming back in, the scar is hardly noticeable at all.

Although he has trouble with some of his steps and his right side seems to lag a bit, Charlie's been seizure-free since his surgery. He goes for regular jaunts and he shows no signs of other serious problems. Best of all, he seems to be reverting to his old ways. "He has once again taken to using his sonorous, demanding bark when he wants something," Dorothea says happily.