By Imogen Tarita
An awful lot has happened in Joseph’s world since you read the first part of his story.
We decided to chronicle each step of this part of his journey, because this is an important story. One that we hope helps to draw attention to the plight of many animals in our country.
To get the prosthetic, we had to go to Johannesburg. So, on 11th October 2020, Dr Katherine Barker loaded Joseph into her car, and they set off for the big city.
The day of Joseph’s appointment dawned. Everyone was super excited, but, to be honest, there was anxiety too, as we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. As soon as Dr Katherine met the orthopaedic specialists, Antois Ferreira and Casper Steenkamp from the Animal Care Division at Northcliff Orthopaedic Centre, she knew Joseph was in good hands. Only once he was comfortable and relaxed did the actual process start. He was wrapped in plastic, and then plaster of Paris was applied to make a cast of his body.
This cast would be what was used to make the actual prosthetic and the harness/support that he needed. This entire process took about 5 minutes. Joseph is actually a very chilled dog, but the team made sure they were quick, and that he wasn’t stressed at all.
Antois really took a shine to Joseph and asked if he would be up for adoption…in actual fact many people have asked us about adopting him. (Due to the severity of his injuries we decided that adoption was off the table and he was adopted by Dr Katherine, her family and the Cluny team, so he has a very happy home with a vet on hand.)
After a quick lunch, it was over to the other side of town to a physio appointment at the Animal Health and Hydro (AHAH) to meet with Dr Tanya Grantham for a hydrotherapy session. The aim of the appointment was to show Dr Katherine how it is done, because Joseph was going to need ongoing hydrotherapy to first help to build and then to keep his muscles as strong as possible.
It was a wonderful session. Joseph was a tad freaked out in the water at first, but, to be fair, that was to be expected as he had never been swimming before…we are very grateful to Tanya for her patience, and by the end of the session Joseph seemed much more comfortable and was a doggy paddling champ…granted with Tanya’s steady and loving support. We would also like to thank Dr Tanya for her very kind donation of a doggie lifejacket for Joseph.
Because we are based in Fouriesburg, Free State, hydrotherapy pools are very hard to come by. We have had to improvise, and we are using the reservoir in Dr Katherine’s garden. About 3 times a week (weather permitting) Joseph has his hydrotherapy session, “Free-State style” with Dr Katherine’s husband, Malcolm.
Building the Prosthetic
Once they had the cast, the team from the Animal Care Division started the process by building up the cast everywhere to determine where there may be too much pressure. Antois says that this process typically looks like an arts and craft class.
Using that information, they were able to use a soft, closed cell material to pad the chest piece. This is to make the prosthetic comfortable for Joseph. What you can see in the picture is Casper working out the striking angles of the leg. This is done with a laser to determine where the best placement of the components will be.
All of this is very interesting and educational. Even as a veterinary welfare we had no idea about the engineering that goes into a prosthetic. It is fascinating to see the entire process unfold and to be able to witness this first-hand.
Perfection takes time, and you can’t do this quickly. But we promised you that this story had a happy ending. On the 2nd November 2020, Dr Katherine drove back up to Johannesburg with Joseph for the fitting, and to see if any adjustments would need to be made.
As we arrived for the appointment, you could feel that everyone was a little on edge…there was a lot riding on this. Joseph’s new prosthetic is the very first of its kind in SA! We are very privileged that he was selected as the recipient of this amazing technology.
It was actually like a Cinderella moment, but instead of a glass slipper it was a beautiful, shiny prosthetic leg. We collectively held our breaths as Antois gently moved Joseph into position and, just like the fairy tale, it fitted perfectly.
Of course, his prosthetic was something new for Joseph, something strange, and he did need time to get used to it. He was walking backwards to try and get out of the brace, but the team assured us that this was very normal. We need to take this slowly, just a couple of minutes every day and Joseph would get used to the feeling and the movement of the leg. In Dr Katherine Barker’s words: “It is a beautiful leg, it is sturdy and strong, but as light as a feather and as soon as he learns to trust it, it will all be fine’.
We are happy to report and to close this story by telling you that Joseph is adapting well, he is wearing his prosthesis every day and each day he is gaining more confidence.
Joseph has taught us all so much. He is very affectionate and gentle, and although not your typical tripod (dog with 3 legs) he is just like any other dog. He can be boisterous and playful, and he can drive us nuts with his fishwife warbling, he is very vocal sometimes. He has taught us, as a team, to forgive, and to believe in hope because we have been stunned at the outpouring of love and help we have received. Most of all he has taught us to be courageous, to never give up, because the world of animal veterinary welfare can sometimes be a very tough place and we all need reminding from time-to-time of why we do what we do. Thank you, Joseph, we love you and we are here for you, always!
To find out more about the Cluny Animal Trust and how you can help, please visit their website www.clunyanimlatrust.co.za
Image by: Glen Green – African Image