Written by Lindy Coetzee and photography by Framed Pawtraits and Strike a Pose Photography
In October 2014, a tiny bundle of fur arrived at Border Collie Rescue Gauteng as a stray seen venturing the streets late at night on two separate occasions. On closer inspection it was concluded that he was a mere four weeks old. He was too young to be kennelled – and besides, we didn’t have the heart to do it. So, the little boy lived in the office…
With his larger-than-life attitude and “love me, I’m adorable” face, people swooned over him… yet no one adopted him. It soon became apparent that there was way more than just Border Collie in that feisty little body. As time marched on, his body shape began to change and his personality grew as fast as he did. Yet still nobody took a real interest in offering him a home. As does happen when you work in rescue, there is always “the one” (or the fifth one) that burrows just a little deeper into your heart than others. And so, Bear took up full-time residence in our home.
I believe these special creatures find the people they need in life. In short, Bear’s body did not keep up with his growth. He started to limp, so off to the vet he went. After extensive examinations and x-rays, Bear’s prognosis was not good: he has severe hip dysplasia (abnormal joint formation), with one hip already dislocated. He also has elbow dysplasia showing signs of calcification, and, to top it off, the radius (main weight-bearing bone in the forelimb) in both his front legs have fused too soon, whilst the ulna (smaller, stabilising bone) have continued growing. All of the above are also impacting on his shoulders.
Where to with Bear?
After hearing the heart-wrenching news of Bear’s many ailments, our family had a huge decision to make.
Having grown up in a vet practice, I was taught from an early age that you do what is best for the animal; never, ever make a decision based on your own emotions to the detriment of the animal concerned. I’d also made a pledge many years ago that I would never make a “live or die” decision due to finance on any of my animals.
So, a family “lekgotla” (strategy meeting) was called. We talked about another pup we’d had for a brief period. Kezi had also had bad hips and, over time, would have required surgery. He took to eating rocks for comfort; he always ate six and then would vomit six. On four occasions he ate his standard six and only vomited four, requiring their removal with surgery. From time to time he also suffered from depression and would go through quiet, broody introspection. No matter what we did as a family he stayed depressed. This did not make him a good candidate for extensive surgery and rehabilitation. On his last visit to the vet due to swallowing stones, x-rays showed up spinal degeneration. This took the decision out of our hands and Kezi was gently helped to a pain-free life over the “Rainbow Bridge”. This brings me to how our decision was made to pursue the best life for Bear.
We agreed that Bear came to us – and stayed – for a reason. He has brought to our family a number of characteristics of many of his predecessors, among them being the most loving and cuddly nature of Kezi himself. Bear is a fighter, he is a go-getter, he is stubborn, he is demanding, he believes he should be loved, he is loving, he cuddles on his terms and loves to cuddle.
At only eight months old he had his whole life ahead of him, but he required several surgeries, along with physiotherapy, and his weight needed to be kept down, all of which would be hard work – and cost a small fortune. But we couldn’t give up on him.
Fast forward to 2018 and Bear Bean, as he has become affectionately known, still believes it’s his duty to rid the garden of Hadedas first thing in the morning and, unless held back, takes off like a bat out of hell, keeping up with his two tripaw Border Collie siblings.
Over the past two-and-a-bit years, Bear has had monthly physio sessions to assist in keeping him loose and supple; during summer he swims daily to build and maintain the muscles he needs to stabilise his hips. He has also had six surgeries – the latest being a femur head removal early in 2018.
The op itself went well but Bear is not shifting his weight onto that leg as hoped (as of March 2018). He’s also taken to hating physio as there’s some discomfort during the rehabilitation process. Bear has also developed bone spurs in his left hip and will need to have an operation to clean these out as they also contribute to his discomfort.
Due to this the physiotherapist, Ansi at Petfit, gave us exercises to do at home, which we’re working hard at. While we’d love to go to physio in winter to use the underwater treadmill, which is heated, funds prohibit this at present. Only time will tell, but Bear is a fighter and a happy dog – we know he can do it.
Rebuild Bear and Friends
Bear’s medical bills continue to pour in. But it isn’t just Bear – over the last three years we had four tripaws (all failed Border Collie Rescue fosters) join our family who at one time or another all needed physio or had medical bills. They all deserved a chance.
That’s why we changed Bear’s Facebook page to the Rebuild Bear and Friends Fund. This is solely for the purpose of medical bills as I personally cover all their food and supplements.
Bear and his friends value your donations towards giving them a life they would otherwise not have had the privilege of having.
If you’d like to donate to The Rebuild Bear and Friends Fund, your donation will be truly appreciated, and can be deposited to:
LS Coetzee, Standard Bank
Branch Code: 051001
Account number: 100 608 235 32
Reference: The Rebuild Bear Fund