19th Apr, 2024

Written, and photography supplied by, Yvonne Jansen

Professional photography by FidoPhoto – Dog Photography

Finley came into my life in 2017 when I saw him on the Australian Shepherd South Africa Rescue Organisation (ASSARO) page. In January he arrived at the rescue as a stray. He wasn’t claimed where he was staying and, unfortunately, he couldn’t stay there. The people brought him to Border Collie Rescue SA, who asked ASSARO to assist; being an Australian Shepherd cross, he went straight into their care. He looked awful – dirty with matted fur that needed to be cut and in need of a good groom. They reckoned he was about four years old and they named him Finley.

Looking for a home

Finley was up for adoption, but nobody came forward to adopt him and he stayed at the rescue. After some time, Ingrid, ASSARO founder, noticed that Finley struggled with his hind limbs. On taking him to the vet, he was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia.

Finley’s hip joints were totally merged; the femur head and the socket were one piece of bone with no movement in the joint. The left hip was so severe that the only option to relieve the pain was surgery known as Femur Head Ostectomy (FHO). This means that the orthopaedic surgeon removes the head of the femur (thigh bone). There’s no more joint, but the leg and hip are held together by muscles.

That’s when I came in. I knew the founders, Ingrid and Terrence, a little from a previous adoption which had failed due to the adoptive dog showing discomfort with one of my dogs. From then on I supported them. I sometimes brought dog food, and that’s when I saw Finley. They started fundraising to pay for the surgery, so I donated towards that, and after a week or two she’d raised more than half the amount and I asked her to allow me to donate the last bit she needed for his surgery. Two days later, he had his operation. All went well – no more pain and better movement. He started with short walks that gave him strength, and after a while he went with the other dogs for country walks.

He always slept inside on the sofa; the rescue doesn’t do the normal kennels and all dogs sleep inside the house. Finley was Terrence’s favourite, the easiest boy ever, and he was very close to him. Nevertheless, Finley was still looking for a home.

Meet, greet and stay

Despite working abroad, I followed his progress and asked for updates. Time passed and it was the end of October. The moment I came home, I opened my phone and the first message was one asking if I was interested in adopting Finley. The day after, I helped them move and saw Finley again. His beautiful smile was his trademark. We immediately agreed on a meet-and-greet at my home. Ingrid had another dog for a meet-and-greet and dropped off Finley first at my home; she’d pass by on her way back to see how it went.

Finley was very quiet – some sniffs here and there with my dogs; all were relaxed and friendly with him and vice versa. He lay down as if he’d been there his whole life – it was the best outcome. As planned, on her way back, Ingrid stayed for a while to see Finley in his new home and it was perfect. After ten months, Finley had finally found his forever home.

I prefer giving an alternative name – new life, new name – but Finley suits him so well, a sweet name for the sweetest boy I ever met.

Settling in

He must have been extremely tired, because he was on the couch for 99 per cent of the time in the beginning, something that continued for another two months. And then he came out of his shell. We went to the dog park but he didn’t go in the water. I stepped in the water with him and slowly he got the hang of it and ran and enjoyed being in the dam. He played with his brothers and sisters in the garden, in the paddocks, and was having fun. He was a delight to have around, super sweet, calm, well behaved and so easy-going.

From palliative care to surgery

We were all aware of the severe hip dysplasia, and the operated hip was fine, but he needed constantly strengthening as his right hip was also quite bad. We went regularly to the vet for pain relief medication. For nearly three years we endeavoured, but surgery was unfortunately unavoidable.

We went to the same orthopaedic surgeon who’d operated on Finley’s left hip and he recommended the FHO as before. I enquired about an alternative, to retain the hip joint, and whether a hip replacement (implant) might be an option. It’s quite costly, but only the best for my Finley. The X-rays indicated that it would be all good to go for the implant. The surgery went well, but on the first walk he dragged his toe, which most likely was a nerve issue.

Some days after that, and luckily while he was still at the vet, he suffered a hip dislocation (the head popped out of the socket). He had to go for surgery again to place it back in. This occurred three times whilst he was in their care. The vet explained to me that the socket simply didn’t have enough bone to place the artificial socket in at an angle that would hold the femur head, which hadn’t been visible on the X-ray. The vet decided to remove the implant and he ended up with an FHO anyway, but at least we’d tried.

Home sweet home

Finley was so happy to come home after nearly three weeks at the vet. I kept him in a crate to recover with limited movements, especially not jumping on the sofa, climbing stairs or sliding, and in order that his siblings left him in peace. Slowly, he gained strength, better movements and is pain free. Although he doesn’t drag his toes, the nerve didn’t fully recover and he has a hyperextended ankle.

He’s still doing well, and not having hip joints doesn’t restrain him from anything. He’s active and runs around, going everywhere. He’s getting old, though, and he likes to spend time alone. Often he lies in the garden under a tree in the shade, especially at sunset, cooling down, watching life passing by and chewing a hoof. What he loves most is going upstairs and napping in his big bed for hours. Since his second hip operation, he’s under vet surveillance once a month to continue joint care for shoulders and general care. Finley does yoga, goes to the park and he loves car rides, lying on the back seat where he falls deeply asleep.

I googled “Finley” and it means courageous one; fair hero. He definitely is. He has the most beautiful smile and is the most super sweetest soul on this planet. It’ll be seven years in November, and I couldn’t wish for a better dog – he’s so lovely and wonderful in every aspect.

In September 2019, Terrence passed away. I’m sure there’s always a little star watching over my precious boy.

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