Joe Balloo’s Journey

28th Jun, 2019

Written by Desireè Pollock

Professional photography by Helen du Plessis Photography

Dear Universe. 

This is Joe Balloo, and we need your help! 

30 November 2018: Olivia Stirling, from A New Hope Dog Rescue, received a text message from someone. This giant guy, now called Joe Balloo, was found 50 kilometres north of Bethlehem by Luca, an international traveller who happened upon this gentle giant. Olivia asked Luca to get Joe to Oakdene Veterinary Clinic, situated just south of Johannesburg, and deliver him to Dr Joe Lewis. With VERY large gashes on his back and front legs, Dr Lewis began treating him and took x-rays, as he wasn’t using his leg at all. The results of those x-rays concluded that he had very nasty breaks. Dr Lewis had, off the bat, suggested amputation.

The wonderful thing about animal rescue is that while there aren’t enough people doing the rescuing versus the amount of people who put animals in a position to be rescued, there’s still a very large network of us. So, we networked like crazy! We went as far as possible, even to the Free State, but still couldn’t find his people!

Vicky Welman-Gerber, from Furry Godmothers, tended to Joe Balloo immediately at the clinic and began visiting him daily. Vicky describes seeing Joe as a complete “shock-horror” – she saw a physically broken boy, riddled with ticks and fleas:

“I hugged him tight and he lay on my chest; I knew right then that he had an incredible spirit – he just wanted love. I made him a promise that day that he would be okay, we would do whatever we could, and that he would, in the end, have a home, a family.”

Vicky cried daily at the state of Joe Balloo, but his indescribable and unmissable spirit meant we’d continue doing everything we could to find him the best home.

Enter Desireè Pollock, animal-obsessed local dog helper & client of Oakdene Vet. Des happened to be doing her usual visit to the clinic and saw Joe Balloo in his kennel, where he lay with a visibly broken back ankle. Des inquired with Dr Lewis, who explained how he came into the clinic:

“I saw Joe Balloo lying there, and, as ‘intuition’ would have it, I knew this boy needed me. I started networking him immediately. I know a couple of people who know the Great Dane breed and they would be my first point of call.”

Vicky came in the next day to see Joe Balloo’s kennel, saying, “Des Pollock found a home.” Bruce Haworth, a long-standing friend of Des and a big animal guy with a special love for Great Danes, was keen to home Joe.

Hello Universe! 

Dear Universe, they’ve named me Joe Balloo. I’m getting used to that name now. 

04 December 2018: I had my first operation today. I’m in so much pain, but I can’t wait for Vicky to visit today, like she does every day, to give me love. 

07 December 2018: I heard Dr Lewis say I have an infection. I’m not sure what that means, but I think I’ll be okay. Dr Lewis also said I may not have four legs at the end of this. 

11 December 2018: These humans care so much. I hear them talking every day about the research they’ve done and that they’re raising money for me. The internal pins didn’t work. They have to move me to another place. 

17 December 2018: Bianca Castleman Peens, from Furry Godmothers, arranged for me to be moved to Brackenhurst Veterinary Clinic under Dr Ajit Bholla. It’s so cool, I got to ride in a human ambulance with an ER24 escort! 

19 December 2018: They operated on me again today. I think it went well. I have these giant pins sticking out, but I guess I’m smiling, so it’s okay.

29 December 2018: I started using my leg for the first time today. I was ready to go into kennel rest.

21 January 2018: I’ve been doing so well, and once again we were bulldozed with bad news – an infection had set in again! Vicky and aunty Karolien Theron are moving me to Bryanston Veterinary Clinic, under Dr Ross Elliott. He wants to try with plates and screws. The cost for this was going to be enormous! Hello Universe, are you there? We still need more help! 

22 January 2019: They updated my possible new dad, Bruce, on what’s going on. He might not want me after all of this. When they updated him, Bruce, who works in the medical field, contacted OrthoXact to find out about a possible sponsor for my plates and screws. Fritz Potgieter and Kobus Lubbe from OrthoXact said YES, they will help!

23 January 2019: Off I went for my third operation with titanium plates and screws, and it went really well. I only need six weeks of cage rest and I could go home! 

30 January 2019: Our high of a successful operation didn’t last long – the infection is back! They’re giving me more cultures and antibiotics to help fight it.

So many people come to visit me – Danna Buskin Yates, a New Hope Dog Rescue volunteer, is keeping me very spoiled with visits while I’m so far away from the south of Johannesburg. The antibiotics seem to be working and I’m feeling great.

09 February 2019: I’ve been doing so well. I love when these humans come to visit me at the clinic, but today the infection is back. They’ve done a live culture test and have put me on antibiotics, but the infection is getting worse! They say I have Osteomyelitis, and they have to do another surgery to further secure the pins into my bones. 

11 February 2019: Hello surgery number four. This time feels different, and they’re even letting me go to nice kennels for cage rest at Kenisha Dog Boarding with Dr Jeneane Joseph.

23 February 2019: Can you believe through all of this, this is the first time Des & Vicky meet each other. I have so much love around me! From this day, Vicky, Adriaan, and Des do twice daily runs to feed me, clean my wounds and play with me and my cage buddy, Nero. This goes on daily, for three weeks.

07 March 2019: Vicky and Adriaan, Vicky’s husband, take me back to Bryanston vet for an x-ray update. I had to spend the weekend at the clinic. I know all the humans are waiting nervously, but by the end of the weekend, the doctors gave good news! My bones had not completely healed yet, but definitely almost there – with another two weeks of cage rest I can go home.

11 March 2019: I came back to the kennels for the remainder of my cage rest. Des noticed something wasn’t right with me since I’ve come back and my leg is very painful. Vicky confirmed what Des had suspected, and Vicky raced me back to the vet in Bryanston.

19 March 2019: Vicky, Des & Aunty Karolien speak to the vet, who has now done more x-rays. We’re all confused as they confirm that my body is creating its own infection and rejecting the pins, there’s no bone left to hold the plates in place for the remainder of my healing. The Doctor tells them that the option is to try the operation again or amputate – it was all up to Vicky. Vicky battles with her own head, but after a phone call with Adriaan, it’s settled: I’m prepared for surgery and nobody is giving up on me.

20 March 2019: Doctors go into surgery with Joe. It’s not great news – they’ve opened me up and there’s absolutely no salvageable bone. The option is amputation or PTS. I lost my leg this day.

Bruce & Karmen shared their feelings on the news:

Wednesday 20 March… how we would ever forget that day? Joe was going to have the leg amputated, as his body would just not recover from the infection. We had so many questions – how would a big animal live on only three legs… What would his quality of life be? Vicky let us know that all went well and that he was already up and hopping all over the show. The photos we received from Vicky showed that happy glimmer back in his eyes. That leg was obviously a big issue, and I think not having it was a blessing. Us humans wanted to have a whole dog, but, in effect, he suffered.”

21 March 2019: Vicky came to see me. I think she was scared to see my “new look”, but when I saw her, I knew she loved me just the same as always.

22 March 2019: Des came to see me today. With tears in her eyes, Des moved to the side of my kennel and behind her there were two new humans I’d never seen before. The lady started crying, but it was love at first sight! I wish all these humans would stop crying. I’m so happy my leg is gone. I’m okay! We went outside to the grass, and I realised these two new humans were going to be my mom and dad. They’ve been my mom and dad right before my first surgery back in December, I just didn’t know it. They were telling me about all the walks we will do, the friends I will have, and that I will have my very own BIG RED COUCH!

Karmen said:

“We met our new baby horse for the first time. My ‘9-month pregnancy’ was finally over. I couldn’t stop the tears – he’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen, and he connected with us immediately.”

29 March 2019: I’m going HOME today! And guess what – Nero, my kennel buddy all this time, he’s coming home with me!

FIVE surgeries, FOUR months and THREE legs, TWO parents and ONE loving home – with a whole lot of love! I’ve never been happier! I am HOME!

Vicky Welman-Gerber gives thanks to…

Vicki Potts-Nicholson from Furry Godmothers arranged for donations on the Furry Godmothers page for Joe Balloo’s second operation, so big thanks to Vicki and the members on the page. 

Dr Jeanine Joseph from Kenisha Kennels for letting Joe stay there for his cage rest period. 

Lauren Nightingale for your endless talks over the phone. Some for more info, experiences, the natural homeopathic ways we can try, the pep talk when it was so badly needed, and just plain thank you for your ears.

My Furry Godmother team – Vicki Potts-Nicholson, Karolien Theron, Natascia Day, Ursula Hope, Kerry-Lynn Pavkovich Scott, Bianca Castleman Peens, you are my eyes, ears and voice.

Des, thank you for finding Joe Balloo the perfect home, and thank you for being my wingman.

Adriaan Gerber, my husband. I am blessed. Thank you for being my partner! Without you I am nothing – thank you!

Bruce Howarth and Karmen van der Walt, Joe Balloo’s new owners, share…

After the passing of our Great Dane, Skilo, at 13, we found an emptiness both in our hearts and home. When the time eventually came, we decided to start browsing the net and contacting a few breeders to look at the possibility of finding a new Dane to join the family. We looked at a few options and hadn’t found what we were looking for, until… in November 2018, we came across a Facebook post from Desiree Pollock with a desperate plea.

She had a Great Dane who’d suffered substantial injuries after being run over, leaving him with a broken fore and hind leg. The decision was made; we were adopting a rescue Great Dane.

Joe Balloo’s journey had just started… and what a journey it proved to be! You know how his story went, but ever since, he’s stolen the hearts of everyone that he meets! He cannot wait for cuddles. He sleeps on his red couch like he’s the king of the house. (Snores like a beast – might I add.)

We’ve since forgotten what four paws running to the door sounds like – we just wait for that thump. Joe is happy – he’s found his forever home. We are happy – we found Joe.