Meet Fern, a dear furry friend of mine! I’ve known Fern for a fair few years as she belongs to a receptionist I used to work with, and I would say that Fern was fairly instrumental in me taking the rehabilitation path to where I am today! Fern was diagnosed with hip dysplasia when she was hip scored at just over a year of age. I ended up referring her for a total hip replacement a couple of years later in 2012 when she started to struggle with the agility that she loves doing. Jackie, Fern’s owner, played a monumental role in her recovery by putting Fern through a detailed and rigorous rehabilitation protocol, specifically designed for Fern by the physiotherapist at the referral centre that Fern went to. This meant that Fern went back to the level of agility that she was performing at prior to her hip beginning to cause her problems. And this got me thinking about rehabilitation!
Fern has had a fairly rocky past year - she went acutely lame on her left forelimb in June 2015 and was diagnosed with a biceps tendon problem. She ended up having a bicipital tenodesis, where the biceps tendon is cut and then attached to the humerus (the arm bone between shoulder and elbow). Again Fern had rehabilitation at the referral centre where she had had the surgery and started making good progress, before becoming lame again on this limb. After extensive discussion with some of the country’s leading orthopaedic specialists, it was suggested that an exploratory surgery may be required. Jackie simply didn’t feel able to entertain this option as in the interim Fern had had to undergo an unrelated soft tissue surgery - and nearly died post operatively from complications.
This is when Jackie and I met up again - at the beginning of April 2016. I assessed Fern and came up with a bespoke rehabilitation plan for Jackie to follow, as well as a couple of laser therapy sessions for some trigger points that she had. We felt we had little to lose; whilst one specialist felt exploratory surgery was the only way forward, another felt that Fern was mechanically lame and needed strengthening and getting fit - given that the latter was our aim and the former was the fall back position, we went for it.
And Fern has done brilliantly! Two weeks after I first saw Fern she was placed in her first agility competition. Admittedly it wasn’t the highest placing, but given what she has been through we had a real sense of achievement. We changed nothing with her regime and after a further 4 weeks Fern was competing and would have won a competition but for a disagreement as to the way through a tunnel -watch the video here!
Jackie really deserves all the credit for Fern - she is fastidious with her care and implementation of the rehabilitation and is always watching for any subtle signs of a setback with Fern. She devotes hours each week to rehabilitating Fern. Fern is one of the most intelligent dogs -if not the most intelligent dog - that I have met in my career, and we knew that we needed to keep her working (and to a good level) to keep her mentally stimulated. If we had not been able to rehabilitate Fern back to a good level, she simply would not have coped as a traditional pet who had two walks a day and sat on the sofa (or the like!) the rest of the time.
Watching a video of Fern bombing around an agility course, clearly enjoying every minute, has been such a joy for me. It also reinforces how important rehabilitation is, not just for the agility dogs but for all dogs. A good surgery can have a fantastic outcome with the right post operative rehabilitation as we saw when Fern had her hip replacement, and now seeing her response to rehabilitation recently shows how life changing it can be.