Southern Counties German Shepherd Rescue is a charity established primarily to provide care and shelter for stray, neglected and unwanted German Shepherd dogs (also known as Alsatians or GSDs) by means of rescue and rehoming. We never destroy a healthy dog, believing that a kind and permanent home exists for every dog whatever their temperament or disability. We always carefully match dogs to their new homes as we believe this is the key to ensuring a long-term, happy, fulfilled relationship between dog and owner.
Southern Counties German Shepherd Rescue was set up by Alison Jane Mills, and is run entirely by volunteers working from our base in Hampshire, who fit the rescue work around their normal work and other lives. Our work is funded entirely by the generosity and kind donations of supporters and the general public.
Sam’s story starts out like many other strays. He was picked up on the streets, taken to a council dog pound and given seven days to live. As he neared the seventh day, and potential euthanasia, Southern Counties German Shepherd Rescue came to his aid, giving him a secure place until he was found a permanent home.
Sam was about 5 years old, and it was obvious that Sam’s gait was a little strange. A visit to the vets the next day confirmed he had multiple orthopaedic problems, marked arthritis in both elbows and also in his left hip joint as a result of previous damage to his pelvis.
We took Sam to a specialist orthopaedic vet in Winchester. After joint fluid was taken to rule out any inflammatory joint disease, a CT scan was carried out. The scan showed severe osteoarthritic change, a wearing away of the joint cartilage on both elbows, causing painful bone-on bone-contact. The vet advised us that the best option for Sam would be total elbow replacement.
This operation is a relatively recent surgical development for dogs, and greatly reduces, or even eliminates the pain associated with elbow osteoarthritis. Any surgery has risks, but a successful elbow replacement can provide a new lease of life for a dog otherwise facing chronic joint pain or even euthanasia.
The specialist surgical expertise and equipment did not come cheap. The implants themselves are expensive, and the surgery involves three surgeons for most of the day. As Sam needed both elbows replacing, his operations were staged to allow full recovery between operations.
Southern Counties German Shepherd Rescue is a relatively new rescue run solely by volunteers, who raise funds and give their valuable time. Our belief is that once we have taken a dog in, we are committed to providing all the necessary care and treatment a dog needs, only considering euthanasia on medical grounds once every other opportunity has been exhausted.
Everyone who met Sam commented on what a beautiful dog he was, with a calm, tolerant nature, always happy to see you and play ball. Sam was amazing – despite all the pain he must have been in when he first came to the rescue, he still wanted to play ball. He did it by throwing the ball to you, so you could throw it back for him.
Sam’s medical costs added up to about the same amount we spent during the whole of 2011 vet’s bills. BioMedtrix, the US Company who make the prosthetics, kindly supplied them at a reduced cost, so that helped, but we still had to raise a huge amount of money for his operations to give him his much needed bionic joints.
Following a call from the vet saying “we have the technology, we can rebuild him”, Sam had his first elbow replacement on 7th October 2011. After several hours of surgery, and much fingernail biting here at the rescue, the vet called to say the surgery had gone well.
In April 2012, Sam had improved enough to have his second elbow replacement, and following his operation and subsequent x-rays, the procedure was declared a success. The biggest challenge was keeping Sam from jumping around on his bionics too much before the bones had a chance to set.
Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that Sam is the same dog who came to us 18 months ago. He now walks, runs, and can play ball all day with his new family. Through it all Sam has been a happy and contented dog, always keen to greet you with a wagging tail and a pleading look as he throws you a ball to play with.
Sam embodies the work we do as a rescue. No one else would have given Sam a chance, but he has more than repaid us with all the love and happiness that he has given back.