Updated: Jun 4, 2020
*Some Graphic Details*
When our house became a home
When I bought my first home 7 years ago with my partner I found it very empty, I couldn’t put my finger on the reasons why and then it clicked. I’ve always had dogs my entire life, Labradors, Jack Russel’s and a Springer Spaniel. They’ve always filled the home and my heart with love. It’s impossible to feel lonely when you have a pet that you love and who loves you back. I think it’s very hard to imagine how that love feels if you’ve never had a pet but it’s intense, at least for me, and I’ve always loved my animals with my whole heart.
After a few months of living in our house and me going back to my parent’s home often to visit ‘the boys’ as we like to call our family dogs, I knew it was a dog we were missing. My partner had never had a pet before but after a short while he decided he’d love a dog too and the search to find the perfect breed began.
It’s a huge decision buying an animal. There are costs involved and a lot of care. But we knew what we were getting into. I love to research everything and so began researching different breeds. I’d even look at colour traits of different breeds, temperaments and if they were likely to suffer any difficulties for example breathing issues or problems with their eyes. This may seem bizarre but you’re going to have a dog for a very long time and we didn’t want the heart ache of buying a dog in which we couldn’t afford to look after or that didn’t suit out lifestyle as I firmly believe a dog is for life.
We decided we wanted a small ish dog due to the size of our house, we wanted a cuddly dog, that was probably me who wanted that, we wanted an active dog and a working breed. So after months of looking, we decided to get a Working Cocker Spaniel, Show Cocker Spaniels are very different indeed if you were wondering.
Working Cocker Spaniels are smaller with less fur and floppy curly ears which sit higher than that of a Show Spaniel. I believe Show Cockers are calmer in temperament too.
See below a Show vs Working, both beautiful I must say.
Apart from the breed we didn’t know much else about buying a dog and never looked at rescuing a dog, something which I would look at should be buy another pet instead we decided to buy a Pedigree dog from a family. She came with all the correct documents, vaccinations, Mother could be seen and from a nice home. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing apart from we were so conscious and paranoid about buying from a puppy farm purely because this was in the media a lot at the time. I actually don’t agree with breeding dogs anymore because I feel that so many do it for financial gain but that’s another topic all together. We visited her twice and paid £750.
The day we took her home we both had smiles from ear to ear, it felt amazing and we finally called our house a home. I remember vividly stopping at the Co-Op and buying a baguette and some cheese and when we got home we sat outside the kitchen at our living room table, her inside the kitchen and ate our lunch. We had a stair gate on the kitchen and as soon as we sat down she started howling and we looked at one another and laughed. I remember thinking, “are we never going to be able to eat alone again?” After this it was just endless kitchen floor cuddles. We would sit for hours holding her on the floor. At the time we didn’t want her in the lounge on our nice new sheep’s wool carpet however this soon changed.
From very young she started to go to work with my partner. I worked 12 hour shifts and it wasn’t an option to leave her at home. She loved being by my side half the time and my partners the other. She was absolutely bonkers and very ballsy from the get go. Just what we wanted and expected. Nothing made her truly tired, she always had an extra reserve of energy to greet you or friends, in fact she only started to calm down about four years later but to strangers she still didn’t seem calm at all.
Fast forward 6 years to July 2019 and that’s when our hearts broke.
I was driving my car to buy my friends little girl’s birthday gift when my phone rang. It was my partner and so I pushed answer on the cars radio. The conversation goes as follows.
“Milly’s had an accident”
“ok, is she ok?”
“I don’t know?”
“What’s happened?” I could hear the panic in his voice; he sounded half the person that he is.
“She’s been run over”
Instantly I couldn’t breathe, I screamed and wailed and pulled over as soon as it was clear and safe.
“Where is she?”
“I’m going to the vets now”
I was about 2 minutes from my local vets so I drove there to meet him. He arrived 5 minutes later but that felt like an eternity. As soon as he arrived he got out the car and four Nurses came out with a stretcher to transfer Milly from the car to the vets. I had my daughter with me and tried to stay strong but couldn’t, we both couldn’t.
My partner was covered in blood. I remember when they asked us if we wanted to see her before we left, of course we said yes and went through. She lay there with sadness in her eyes, not a mark on her that we could see, gently wagging her tail. In shock, I said she looked “ok”. The Vet looked at me in disbelief and said, “She could have internal bleeding or punctured organs yet”. Her temperament was gentle and kind but they warned us she had growled, totally out of character but we had to give her a kiss goodbye. That growl in which I didn’t witness must have meant she was in a lot of pain. We left in silence, crying, not knowing a thing.
Daisy my daughter two, knew we were upset. I’d never want her to see us this way but it happened. I got back in my car and she began to cry and scream “Milly”. That night we put her to bed and she woke up again and screamed “Milly”. I don’t think we really spoke that day, we carried on as normal for Daisy, playing and eating our dinner but inside we were numb.
I was meant to work the next day and so was my partner. We didn’t sleep and we didn’t go to work. Daisy went to her grandparents for a day of fun and laughter. I’m so grateful because I didn’t want her to see us this way.
We collected Milly from the overnight vets and took her to Northampton to see a specialist surgeon. I sat in the back of the car holding her head as she rested it on my lap. Dosed high with morphine and wrapped in towels she was a shell of a dog. We drove so slow and carefully that journey to ensure she couldn’t feel any bump in the road. Even still, she seemed happy to see us.
We carried her into the vets and laid her on the table. The Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon remained calm and was very matter of fact, something we found hard at the time but equally so grateful for. I don’t know how they remain so professional when faced with two blubbering pet owners.
He said he needed to do a better x-ray than the one previously performed at the Vets. But he advised she had broken both sides of her pelvis, seat bone and pubis bone. One side of her pelvis was an open fracture hence the blood. He advised she had catastrophic bruising and kept warning us over and over how serious this was. Milly hadn’t urinated by herself yet or had any bowel movements. He said if she has no feeling then there was not much hope in repairing her pelvis. He then got out a metal instrument which looked like a pair of Pliers, I turned away, and he started squeezing her foot. She did not react. We were advised to leave her overnight and see what the situation was in the morning. We were left feeling like there was no hope. The pain in our hearts that we felt was indescribable.
I told my partner the pain he felt was a broken heart and he agreed.
The next morning we received a phone call. They’d taken her off the morphine and she had shown some improvements. I believe it was the day after that we received a call to say she’d done a wee and had some feeling back and she was whipped in for surgery that day.
We could not believe it.
It took two surgeons to fix Milly’s pelvis. One side they decided to leave to heal on its own. The other side had come away from the spine and muscle had been torn from the bone. In short, somehow they managed to fit a plate to hold her together but the bruising and bleeding was catastrophic and she needed a blood transfusion.
We were ecstatic and went to visit her as soon as we were allowed. I went and bought a chicken to roast and took this with us. She was doing incredibly well. She had improved hugely after being taken off the strong medication. She was eating and urinating just fine. We went to visit every day and drove the 2 hour round trip to see if she was ok.
The Nurses all had a soft spot for her which made me feel like she was doing just fine. After a few days she was even using her stomach muscles to pull herself closer to us.
I genuinely believe that if she wasn’t such a fit and athletic dog she would be dead.
Once we were allowed to take her home, approximately 7 days afterwards we were faced with a huge vet’s bill. We had already discussed re-mortgaging if we had to. We would have done anything financially even though we didn’t have the money especially with baby number two on the way. Luckily our insurance with Pet Plan covered £4,000 and we ‘only’ had to pay £1,500. I question whether to buy myself a £10 jumper yet this didn’t seem to matter at all. We had already said to each other that we weren’t to get upset or discuss money.
I have to admit, although we have the best insurance which covers any condition for life, meaning if she needs medication for life that our insurance, after renewing, will still cover these costs, we didn’t have the highest coverage. I could never foresee her having an accident so bad so was never to know £4000 wouldn’t cover her. We pay almost £40 per month for Milly’s insurance and I have absolutely no regrets. I cannot urge you enough to get pet insurance. These accidents can happen to anyone at any time and I don’t think it’s a monthly bill that can be a budget buy.
Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy
Milly started weekly Physiotherapy with Paws and Hooves in Bletchley and then just recently (October) started Hydrotherapy. I strongly believe this has helped her gain her strength back and after one month was able to walk for short periods on all 4 limbs. Nisha has been brilliant with Milly’s recovery, she’s patient with her when she can’t sit still and has a calming and soothing presence. Milly’s been enjoying the Hydrotherapy, Nisha gets into the water assisting her with the correct movement of her leg and placement of her foot, which she can’t feel yet 3 months down the line. The Hydrotherapy is done at a slow pace and for short periods only so Milly doesn’t get too tired or overworked. Milly will need Hydrotherapy as well as special exercises for a long time but the surgeon has told us this is a very important part of her recovery.
I was given a small discount on the Physiotherapy provided by Nisha which I am incredibly grateful for.
The recovery hasn’t been an easy one though because she’s such an active dog it’s been hard to keep her on a harness and it’s been hard to keep her still. She didn’t deal well with being left at home in a crate, with the neighbours telling us she howled and cried almost immediately after we would leave, previous to her accident she was ok to be left at home for a few hours. The vets say its tough love and I agree however as much as our close neighbours were understanding some wouldn’t have been and so my partner took her back to work to sit in a crate there so she could see him working although she’d still cry sometimes.
When she started using her leg more and not tucking it under her body as she moved, we noticed she wasn’t always putting her foot flat on the floor instead standing or walking on her knuckles. So at the end of September I took her to see a vet. He advised Milly would have had severe bruising around the nerves and only time, no tests, would be able to tell when or if that feeling would come back. He said she had deep feeling, the example he used was crushing her bones (nice) but she didn’t have the feeling where if she was to tread on something hot or sharp she would realise. This also means she doesn’t know where her foot is hence she doesn’t always put it flat to the floor.
Due to this she has scraped the top of her knuckle and because she’s now back to full strength we find it very difficult to still use the harness as effectively. By October as I’m writing the final details in this blog, some feeling has already returned and we are to give her another 4 weeks for another assessment. We are to take her for really short walks on grass only and not near any concrete or pavements. We had bought her a neoprene protective shoe to keep her skin protected however he said this isn’t helping with her foot placement. I’m to go back to the vets next week to learn some more exercises to encourage her to lift her foot, it sounded similar to agility but we have to do them very slow and controlled on the lead. It’s a long journey ahead but we count our blessings every single day that she’s still here.
Things to note
When Milly initially had the accident and I shared that she’d broke her pelvis, a few people kindly advised to put her in a harness to carry her or put her in a dog buggy. I didn’t and don’t plan to do this. I decided it was kinder to let her rest and recover even when she didn’t want to. I think it’s worth noting as well that she didn’t ‘just’ break her pelvis, her injury was catastrophic and I wouldn’t have risked even for a second, her recovery. She’s too large for a carrier and too large for a pram. Be sure to know that we spent lots of time outside sat on the grass stroking Milly though and she didn’t suffer through her recovery which is still very much ongoing.
I would like to say thank you to all the dog owners who take their loved ones to give blood as Milly wouldn’t have survived without this. Milly’s too small to donate herself as they need to be over 25kg.
I’ve added a link with the criteria for giving blood below.