Tennessee's football program has taken the first step toward recovery. Smokey is doing fine after surgery.
Smokey, UT's 8-year-old blue-tick coonhound mascot, struggled through the 5-7 2011 season with an impaired right rear leg. Despite extensive physical therapy, he couldn't avoid post-season surgery to repair a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"The surgery went well with no surprises," said Dr. Darryl Millis, orthopedic surgeon and surgery section chief at UT Veterinary Medical Center. "Smokey is a very fit dog with good muscle tone."
Millis performed the 2½-hour operation Tuesday. A day later, Smokey was on the move, just not as quickly as usual.
"He's a competitor," Millis said. "He wants to be up and moving."
Smokey was scheduled to return home late Wednesday afternoon and will begin rehabilitation therapy shortly. Once that's complete, another operation is in the works.
Millis said it's common when a dog has a cruciate tear in one knee for the condition to occur in the other knee as well. If everything goes as scheduled, Smokey could have surgery on his left rear knee in March and be fine for the 2012 football season.
"He should be able to go full throttle (in the fall)," Millis said.
Smokey first had problems in UT's second game last October. After his injury was diagnosed, he underwent regular therapy for the rest of the season, and his activities on game day were limited.
John Adams is a senior columnist. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.