Sharen Hart stands behind Dukie

Sharen Hart stands behind Dukie

Online search helps dog avoid surgery

When Dukie's age clashed with his exuberance, Sharen Hart went to look for an alternative to surgery.

When Dukie, a five-year-old border collie and Labrador retriever mix, ruptured his rear right leg after getting caught on a rock, Sharen Hart found a way to avoid surgery.

“We took him to the vet and they said surgery was an option, so I went home and I thought surgery is very invasive for a dog because it’s usually a three-month recovery period and they have to be quiet,” said Hart.

Hart recounted that Dukie felt sad after injuring his leg, and had to limp around three-legged.

Hart remembered that dogs with no rear legs could use a mobility device with wheels to get themselves around. This sparked her curiosity to search for devices that might help Dukie.

“I was just chancing it, I just thought ‘I’ll just look up braces for dogs,’ and … it popped up OrthoPets,” said Hart.

Orthopets makes custom orthotic and prosthetic devices for pets, according to their website. Their main office is in Colorado, but they have a satellite location in Mission, B.C.

She was quoted $700-$1,000 for the brace, compared to at least $3,000 for surgery.

Hart made an appointment with the specialist at OrthoPets and found that Dukie fulfilled the criteria for a brace.

Dukie was lifted up by his tummy, and then they put a plaster on him, exactly like the process of building a cast. They cut the cast off and sent it to Colorado.

About a week later, the brace arrived in Mission and Hart went down to fit the brace onto Dukie.

“As soon as they put it on him, he started walking. Like, running. We took him to Mill Park in Abbotsford and he was running all through the park and everything,” said Hart. “He played ball, he played Frisbee.”

Dukie wore the brace for about two years and healed quite significantly.

“He was walking … normally without a brace,” said Hart.

But just as Dukie was playing ball, he landed the wrong way and injured his rear left leg. Off to OrthoPets again. Now Dukie has two braces in order to ensure equal support for his hind legs.

Hart said she gets many curious comments from people as she takes Dukie around.

“Everybody stops me all the time and asks me about him,” said Hart. “Oh poor baby! Poor dog! What’s wrong with him?”

Hart usually replies saying that Dukie is not suffering pain or feeling sad.

“It looks bad but it isn’t,” she said.

The Hart family rescued Dukie when he was one year old. They have lived together for four years.

Hart remembered that Dukie could swim for an hour, and could catch a ball repeatedly for 30 times. Due to Dukie’s injuries, Hart has scaled back the exercise intensity, such as throwing the ball a shorter distance.

“I don’t know if (Dukie’s legs will) fully recover. I’m sure that he’ll still be able to walk and do a few things, but he won’t be an active, young dog like he was,” said Hart.