Hipless Joe Jackson

Jackson Small.jpg

Introducing Jackson. He’s a Chihuahua x Jack Russell. I know you think that’s a Jackahuahua, but to me it's a Chiwussell.

Here’s how we met.

There I was, doing a practical workshop for trainers at my local welfare centre. There he was, fresh in and anxious, trembling by the kennel bars. Our eyes met, my fingers touched his soft face, took in his shivering form and his attempts to meld himself through the bars to reach me. It was love at first sight.

Once out of the kennel, he proved to be even more charming. Gorgeous with people, cute, bright and sweet. At only five months old he was admittedly, snarling and barking at every other dog in the vicinity, like a miniature whirling dervish, but hey, what’s that amongst friends – it looked to me very much like the symptoms of having been in a kennel environment for last three weeks – and anyway, love is blind!

My husband came, reluctantly, to visit him. I told him he was a JRT-cross (no mention of the Chihuahua part in case it wasn’t what he wanted to hear!). As soon as he saw him, I knew everything was going to be OK. Jackson did an admirable impression of Puss in the Shrek movie – eyes like melting pools of liquid love – there was no way a man with any kind of heart could resist that! Tentatively, I got Jackson out of the kennel. He dashed towards my husband, squirmed himself into his arms and onto his lap, and the rest… as they say is history! Their mutual adoration is now legendary.

Jackson has now been with us for five months. Apart from attempting to mount my Collie-Jack bitch (bad idea, he only did it once), he has fitted in beautifully with my other dogs, and … after lots of hard work and exposure to more dogs than I knew existed in my locality in the most intensive behaviour programme I have ever implemented (that’s another story) we have no more silly screaming at other dogs – in fact he’s now revealed his true character as a truly socially gregarious and charming boy.

However, and here’s the point of my indulgence in telling you this story: falling in love carries a risk. My little fox-boy turned out to have the most terrible hip dysplasia that my vet had ever seen.

“In a crossbreed?” I said more than once, unbelieving. The boy was in terrible pain, and quite obviously had been for some time. The signs and symptoms? None, except for a slight reluctance to sit on cue….. which is why I took him to be checked out in the first place.

My vet’s belief is that poor early rearing and nutrition may have been a significant factor in the development of the problem. He certainly looked waif-like and rather runty when I got him. His advice? Well, in his words, “If he wasn’t so gorgeous, I’d forget it.” No pressure then!

So, despite no insurance (no pay-out on a pre-existing condition) Jackson underwent the first of two 'femoral head & neck excision arthroplasty' ops only three weeks after I took him home (hence the rather intensive socialisation programme with other dogs!). This is the removal (not replacement) of the femoral head, which effectively leaves the dog with no hip joints (and has meant the coining of the name ‘jelly-legs Jackson’ in our home! For obvious reasons, this can only be done in small, light-weight dogs. Post-op, the leg muscles need to be built with physio etc to support the dog’s weight, and to enable full and free movement. Having successfully achieved this with one leg, and aware that Jackson’s pain in the unoperated hip was critical, he then had the other one done just ten weeks later.

Now, I’m guessing that many of you will be familiar with this op (although bi-lateral cases in dogs are relatively rare here). We’ve worked hard on his physio: focusing on core stability (pilates for dogs?!), balance, and muscle strength. We’ve done (and are still doing!) massage, stair climbing, obstacle courses, on and off lead physio walks, and hydrotherapy.

Jackson continues to do well, although any helpful hints on encouraging him to use the most recently operated leg would be most welcomed. He’s pain free and can run (like the wind!), jump a metre span (not sure how!), climb onto the kitchen table when I’m not looking, jump up at people (which we celebrate!!!) play madly with other dogs, and have a good scratch with either back foot! In fact, all round, he’s having a wonderful life!

What I would really like to achieve is to get to the stage where he supports his body weight fully on all four limbs at once – all the time. This is still intermittent and when trotting at certain speeds, and sometimes when standing, he’ll hold the most recently operated limb up off the ground. Perhaps I’m being too ambitious, but do let me know if you have had a similar experience or any expertise to share. All hints and tips gratefully received!

Jackson is the most cheerful, engaging little dog I have ever met. (OK, small amount of bias there!) He’s given us more back each day than I could ever have imagined. So, despite all the heartache and outlay in time and money, would I do it again? Absolutely! That’s love!