Joining Forces for Joseph

23rd Dec, 2020

Written by Imogen Tarita for Cluny Animal Trust

Professional photography by Africanimage

Joseph’s story started on the 20th of May 2020, when he was brutally stoned, thrown off a cliff, and left to die. He had two very irreparably damaged forelegs, one that required amputation, and the other was severely broken, but we did hope that it would in time heal. 

What a journey this boy has had in the last six months. This road that we’ve walked with him, as a team, all started right in the middle of a hard lockdown. It hasn’t always been easy, and at times it has been downright disheartening, but we never gave up; we refused to give up on Joseph.

The reason we called him Joseph was that, like the story, he was thrown into a pit. We hoped that with time and love he could find his own technicoloured dream coat and that we could help to give him a happy life.

Initially, we thought he’d heal 100% and that we could get him adopted. It quickly became obvious to us that he couldn’t have a proper full life with the limbs that he had left; we could not, in good conscience, allow someone to adopt him knowing the issues he could face further down the line. Dr Katherine Barker and her family decided that Joseph would become one of the Cluny gang, so he was adopted, but we knew we had to do something about his limbs. He could never be a “regular tripod” due to the damage, so the only way to help him was with a prosthetic. 

We put out a plea on Facebook and to our database of supporters. We’d like to thank everyone who donated. They gave us hope that we could get this done, but, more importantly, they gave Joseph the most amazing and generous gift: the ability to be mobile and to live a full and happy life. In a single week, we’d been blessed with all the money that we needed to make the prosthetic a reality. We still can’t believe it, but our supporters made it happen!

Special thanks must also be given to Dr Tanya Grantham from the Animal Health and Hydro (AHAH) for helping us with Joseph’s hydrotherapy sessions. The aim of the appointment was to show Dr Katherine how it’s done, because Joseph is going to need ongoing hydrotherapy to first help to build, and then to keep his muscles as strong as possible. Back in Fouriesburg, weather-dependent, Joseph has regular hydrotherapy sessions “Free State style” in the reservoir in Dr Katherine’s garden.

Joseph’s leg was measured, built and then fitted by the most fantastic team – Antois Ferreira and Casper Steenkamp from Animal Care Division, who work out of the Northcliff Orthopaedic Centre. They were complete professionals, and we thank them so much for their support and dedication to this project. As they quickly learned, Joseph is an incredibly special and deserving dog. He’s the very first recipient in SA of this kind of prosthetic, again just proving how special he is!

The reality is that it will take time for him to get used to the leg. Right now, he’s walking backwards trying to get out of the brace, but the team has assured us that this is normal, and we need to take it slowly. Just a couple of minutes every day and Joseph will get used to the feeling and the movement of the leg. In Dr Katherine Barker’s words… “It is a beautiful leg, it is sturdy, strong but as light as a feather, and as soon as he learns to trust it, it will all be fine.”

Joseph has taught us all so much. When the pandemic began to disrupt even the smallest aspects of daily life, he taught us to never give up… because even with everything that has happened to him, he’s the most gentle and affectionate dog. The world of animal veterinary welfare can sometimes be a very tough place, and we all need reminding of why we do what we do. Thank you, Joseph, we love you and we’re here for you, always.

And then, for the best news indeed… Dr Katherine Barker, who heads up Cluny and is also the vet at Sandstone Hill (in private practice), and her family adopted Joseph when we knew he’d need ongoing care. We decided that it wasn’t right to “dump a potential problem” with unsuspecting adoptive parents, so he’s one of the Cluny gang... there are just some animals that we can’t ever let go!  

Dr Katherine Barker, Joseph’s new owner, shares…

Despite having a number of requests and offers to adopt Joseph, we’ve made the decision to keep him as part of our family. As a welfare (and private small animal) vet, I’ve seen many patients become whole again and happily waved them goodbye (very often with a tear in my eye, and those of my daughter’s) as they go on to their forever home.

With Joseph, it’s a little different. It’s going to take many months, possibly even years, before he can be considered whole. Although he’s a very strong character, and he and I have bonded extremely closely, I cannot hand him to a new family when his emotional state is still in flux, and while his body still has so far to go before he’s at his best. In fact, he’ll probably always be “challenged” and in need of constant veterinary care.

He’s settled so well into the family of other dogs and cats, he’s accepting (ignoring) chickens now, and he’s slowly getting less excited/anxious about cattle, goats and horses. He’s a bright little light in our household, and when I look into those intelligent, soulful eyes, I know that I’ve done right by him.

Learn more about Cluny Animal Trust here.

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