dog running

Caroline Golon, the human behind popular humor blog Romeo the Cat will share the stories of pet owners who have gone the extra mile for their pets in this series, The Things We Do for Love.

Nearly 12 years ago, Julie Gurner of Philadelphia thought she found the perfect dog — a Lhasa Apso puppy she purchased from a breeder on the Internet. But the perfect dog had an imperfection: a birth defect, due to poor breeding, that would cost Gurner thousands of dollars and countless hours to give her a normal life.  

Fresh out of grad school, Gurner, then living in Boston, was ready for her own dog. But in 2000, the ill repute of many breeders selling their puppies online was not common knowledge. “They appeared to be a loving and caring breeder. We had phone conversations and everything seemed fine,” Gurner says.

But soon after the puppy arrived in Gurner’s home, she noticed something wrong with the sweet dog she’d named Thatcher. Her legs were bowed and she didn’t seem to be developing properly.

Vets diagnosed Thatcher with a congenital birth defect that would require expensive surgery. When Gurner called the breeder to complain, the breeder offered her another puppy instead.  She refused. “If you are going to adopt a pet, you take on the responsibility to care for the pet you’ve chosen,” she says.

Gurner reported the breeder to authorities. Then she took Thatcher to the Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts University Veterinary School, where orthopedic specialist Dr. Randy Boudrieau agreed to perform surgery on Thatcher. The surgeon would break Thatcher’s small bones and place two pins and a plate in each front leg.

Whatever It Takes

woman and dog

Gurner couldn’t afford the surgery but was determined to do what Thatcher needed. “I put it on my credit card, lived frugally and made a lot of sacrifices,” she says.  

With casts on both legs, Thatcher had to lie down during her recovery period. For weeks Gurner slept on the floor next to Thatcher, holding her collar to keep her from standing up during the night.   

Thanks to Gurner’s care and a rehab program, the little dog made a full recovery.

Today, determined to raise awareness about unethical breeders, Gurner spends hours volunteering at her local shelter, advocating for adoption and educating people about puppy mills.

Gurner doesn’t regret the effort and expense it took to get Thatcher well. “Without the surgery, Thatcher would not have been able to walk by her first or second birthday,” she says. Thatcher is now 12 and, according to Gurner, “she just enjoys life so much!”

What do you do for love? We’re looking for the funny, sweet and special stories that will make other pet parents smile. Email us at [email protected] to share your story. Please put "The Things We Do for Love" in the subject line.