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The Bantry Bay Clan

Tara's Story
2-20-92 to 12-3-08

A CHRISTMAS WISH FOR DYSPLASTIC DOGS
(Originally Published in the Beardie Bulletin November, 1994)

How many times have you heard, "what beautiful movement in that Beardie, she will be a champion someday." That was our dream too when we bought our show puppy, Tara.

She was a beautiful, bouncy brown little girl. She was purchased from a well known line. We did not think that our baby would be anything less than perfect. Little by little we started noticing odd things she was doing. For instance, she would push with her front legs to get up. She would always sit to the side never straight. She would not lie belly down like the other Beardies do. Most of all she would bunny hop when she ran. Even though we later discovered she was in pain, she always had a smile on her face and an adoring look from her eyes.

One day I looked into her big brown eyes and saw a look I will never forget. It was pain. Our local Vet did some range of motion testing and an x-ray—I will never forget his face when he said, "Tara has severe hip dysplasia." My body went numb and all I could think was, "will she have to be put to sleep to end her misery?" We refused to accept this and trust Tara’s story will bring hope to any owner of a dog that is diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia.

We were fortunate enough to be referred to James K. Beebe, DVM at Northview Animal Hospital in Pittsburgh. He put us at ease by saying you did your homework with this puppy—she is a beautiful Beardie." I could tell he felt compassion for Tara. He explained that no breed and few lines are free from hip dysplasia. He explained to us that hip dysplasia is a genetic defect and there is always a chance that any litter could produce a dysplastic puppy. Of course, to decrease the odds of dysplasia, you should have the dogs OFA certified before breeding. Dr. Beebe explained that Tara’s hip joint is deformed because the joint socket is very shallow and the head of the thighbone is malformed. She was bilaterally affected and her right hind leg was more painful than her left. He recommended doing a femoral head and neck surgery on the right leg and there was a slight chance that surgery would not be needed on the left. If surgery was needed on the left hip, he could perform that operation after two months recovery. He then explained that a femoral head and neck removal surgery is an osteotomy of the femoral head and neck; that is to say, the femoral neck is cut off from the femur and the head and neck of the femur are removed from the hip socket. After surgery, the pet is encouraged to use the leg and exercised (walked) immediately. This is done to allow the false hip joint to form and to minimize adhesions causing no bony contact between the shaft of the femur and the acetabulor or hip socket. If there is no bone to bone contact, there will not be any pain in the hip and the pet will not form arthritis at a later date in this joint. The body weight is being supported by a large gluteal (deep, middle, superficial) muscle group which forms part of the false hip joint. Dr. Beebe has about a 95% success rate with this operation. This allows pets that may have been put to sleep to return to reasonably normal function—PAIN FREE.

We were elated. As long as there was a good chance for Tara to recover, be pain free, and lead a normal life, we wanted the procedure done. She needed both operations, and they were performed within three months. One of the happiest days in my life was when the morning after her first operation and we went to pick her up. We did not take a leash because we thought we would have to carry her. I got tears in my eyes as she WALKED out of the room to greet us with that Beardie smile. The incisions were only a few inches long, and the recovery went great both times. The hardest part to the recovery was keeping Tara from playing too hard and going up and down the stairs. At this point, a fall or blow to the hip was the only thing that could adversely affect her healing. She showed no pain at all during recovery. We were totally amazed.

People wonder why we did not get a total hip replacement. Total hip replacements cost twice that of a femoral head and neck removal and do not have the same success rate. Although total hip replacements have a reputation of giving your dog back it’s correct gate, Tara shows no signs of having an operation. She plays, runs, and jumps all day long with our other Beardies. She now does obedience, herds sheep, and is a therapy dog. She is also an inspiration to other dogs. The owners of a severely dysplastic Keeshound, named Stormy, were told to talk to us and meet Tara. They could not believe that Tara was once as bad as their dog. Stormy went to Dr. Beebe and is currently recovering beautifully.

Our Christmas wish is that if you tragically learn that your dog is diagnosed with dysplasia, you recognize that there are other options to simply putting your dog to sleep. Your dog can lead a normal, healthy, and pain free life.

Sadly, just a few months shy of her 17th birthday, Tara passed away peacefully on December 3rd, 2008. She proved that dogs with dysplasia can live a very long productive life. Even with a handicap she was a ambassador to the breed and touched the hearts of everybody she met. Tara was one of the gentlest spirits put on this earth and it was an pleasure to have her a part of our family for so many years. She will continue live in our hearts forever.

If you would like information or have any questions about dysplasia, Tara and I would like to continue our quest to help you. Just email me at debbie@beardie.com