One day, in September 2018, Callie was on her morning walk and must have twisted awkwardly or something similar, and squealed. We knew instantly that something was very wrong. She limped badly and we could see the pain in her face. We went straight home and hoped that she would be ok. Callie had shown signs of mild pain a couple of times in the past but nothing of real concern, and she had quickly recovered each time without treatment, other than being prescribed pain killers and rest (lead walking for 10 days).
This was different, and after a trip to our own vets, x-rays revealed severe hip dysplasia. We were referred to Hamilton Specialist Referrals (HSR) for an emergency appointment with Michael. Michael was excellent and explained our options clearly and with kind consideration to our feelings. We really struggled with the fact that Callie, our beautiful 4 year old dog, was in so much pain and in desperate need of help.
We were told that her best option was a total hip replacement. There was a less major operation available but due to the severity of her condition, the results would probably not give Callie the quality of life that she needed or deserved. The other option was unthinkable and not an option at all. It was agreed that Callie would have the total hip replacement two days later.
On 19th September, we took Callie to HSR. We were greeted by very caring and friendly staff and Michael talked us through the planned operation and aftercare. We were very upset and were reassured that they would give Callie the best possible care, and we left knowing that we were doing the right thing. We had been told what we needed to do at home to prepare for Callie’s return, including preparing a crate for her to stay in to stop her moving around too much, and covering our floor tiles so that she could not slip over.
Later that day we received the call from Michael letting us know that everything had gone well and that Callie was in recovery and was being closely monitored. We had taken various items of Callie’s to HSR – soft toys, blanket and her own food, to ensure she had something from home with her. The next morning, we received another phone call to let us know that Callie had a good night, but she would need to stay at least another night. She was not eating, but that was not of great concern under the circumstances. We were told we could call anytime to ask how she was, and we did. It was nice to speak to the nurses who were looking after her and we could tell that they really cared and were giving Callie lots of love and attention.
If I remember correctly, Callie stayed for 4 nights. We received telephone calls each morning and at other times during the day, reassuring us that Callie was well. When we picked her up, we had an appointment with Michael and he told us that everything was looking good and he showed us the post-operation x-rays of the new hip. He told us what we needed to do over the next few days and weeks, and what to look out for. It was so good to see Callie, and she was very pleased to see us, but it was really hard to see her all shaved and looking very sorry for herself. The nursing and reception staff were all lovely and Michael put her in the car for us and off we went.
When we got home we laid Callie on a quilt in front of the fire and just cuddled and fussed her until it was time to put her in the crate for bedtime. I set up a bed for me on the floor next to the crate, and we settled down for the night. Callie was still very sleepy and the night went quite well.
The next night however, was not so good. We had rehomed Callie when she was five months old, as she was spending a lot of time in a crate where she was, and she needed a new home. We always said we would never put her in a crate again, so we were not looking forward to keeping her in a crate for the next six weeks, as we had been instructed. During the day, we sat with Callie on the floor, watching her every move, but when it came to bedtime she did not want to go in the crate. We got her in but it was obvious she was so distressed there was a risk she would hurt herself. She then, and for the next six weeks, slept on the living room floor on a quilt next to me (also on the floor). She was very content, and when she became more active and started paying attention to her wound, she had a ‘cone’ round her neck so that she could not reach it. As Callie was not in the crate the living room door was kept closed so that she could not leave the room, and the sofa was turned against the wall so that she would not be tempted to jump on it. Armchairs were piled up with cushions when we were not using them so that Callie could not jump on them. As time went on, and Callie became more active, but whilst she was still not allowed to jump up, we took the legs off the sofa so that Callie could step onto it to lay down.
It was not easy, but we did our absolute best to do the physio exercises we had been given to do at home each day. Some of it was as simple as massaging the area around the wound to promote circulation and encourage healing, and gentle movement of the leg to assist with mobility. I can honestly say that it was such a nice thing to do, and not a chore at all, especially knowing it would make a huge difference to the recovery time and overall results. We took Callie back to HSR once a week for a few weeks to see Walter, the very kind physiotherapist, to check Callie’s progress and learn our new physio regime for the following week. We were given exercises to do over poles and weaving in and out of obstacles, all to help with building up the muscles on the operated hip.
On 20th December, three months after the operation, we met with Michael again, and after examining Callie, watching a short video of her moving, and checking the latest x-ray, Michael happily signed Callie off as fit and healthy. He was very pleased with her progress and told us to go home and let Callie be a dog! In other words, we were back to normal. Callie was allowed to gradually increase the duration of her walks, and best of all she could have her tennis ball back!
We can honestly say we have never looked back. One year on, and Callie is better than ever (and has been for many months). The highlight of her day is going for a walk with a tennis ball to play with. She is the happiest, cutest, most lovely girl and we are very lucky to have her. We cannot thank Michael and his whole team enough for giving Callie her life back.
We enjoyed seeing Michael, Walter, Lexy, Lisa and Kiah each time we visited. We were always welcomed and cared for by everyone and they were always kind and considerate, knowing that we were upset at times because of what Callie was going through.
Three months might sound like a long time, but it soon goes by. Of course, we cannot suggest to anyone unfortunate enough to be in the same situation, that they should make the same decision as we did. Every case is different and individual circumstances of the pet and the owners will be different. Some would say we went to extreme lengths during Callie’s recovery, but we did what we felt we needed to do. It would not be necessary in all similar cases to remove the legs from the furniture for example! What we would say however, is that the best we can do is listen to the advice of the experts. We put our complete faith in Michael Hamilton and his brilliant team, and it is the best decision we could ever make for Callie.