Years ago, Mollie and Tom Ingram were mourning the loss of their Golden Retriever when the breeder they’d purchased her, Diane Casey of Casey Golden Retrievers in Marshall, Va., offered them a loaner. Some younger dogs had been bothering Clover, one of her older breeding dogs. Diane suggested that the then-8-year-old dog could come stay with them for a while.
Diane had told them she wanted Clover back, that she was one of a kind. But, of course, the Ingrams fell in love (Diane suspected this might happen and agreed that Clover deserved a nice retirement in Potomac, Md. where the Ingrams live).
Clover is special, Mollie, a retired schoolteacher, says. The 12-year-old dog is very sweet and extremely smart, but stubborn as a mule and doesn’t really respond when her name is called. She’s an escape artist– can open the screen door both ways- but she’s also mellow. She never needs a leash when they walk her and is never fazed by other dogs.
She’s a natural mom, too. From the day they brought their younger Golden, Skye- one of Clover’s granddaughter– home, Clover started babying her. The two dogs play together each morning and every night Clover cleans Skye’s eyes and ears- just like she used to do with the puppies she had.
Clover had been in good health until one day last April, she started limping.
Tom and Mollie aren’t exactly sure how Clover got injured. They think it might have happened during one of their routine hikes by a stream near their home. There are steep embankments off the trail they walk on that the dogs sometimes run down.
This wasn’t the first time the couple had had a dog with a leg injury. Three-year-old Skye had developed a severe limp when she was just 10 months old. Their regular vet wasn’t sure what had happened to the dog, so they referred her to Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group (VOSM) in Annapolis, Md. where the dog was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. After surgery and a lengthy recovery, Skye can now run like the wind, Tom says.
The couple decided to bring Clover along to a follow-up appointment Skye had scheduled at VOSM with Dr. David Dycus. After Dr. Dycus looked over Skye, Tom asked if he could take a look at Clover’s leg. It turned out Clover had torn her CCL.
Dr. Dycus said he could do surgery on Clover– he’d just done a similar surgery on his own 12-year-old dog– but suggested they try a brace for her instead. He handed the Ingrams a card for Animal Ortho Care.
“It was interesting for us to hear a guy who earns his living doing surgeries on animals saying he would offer an alternative,” Tom says.
Dr. Dycus spoke highly of Animal Ortho Care founder Derrick Campana, CO, so the Ingrams called to ask about their options. They visited the Sterling, Va. office where Derrick took a cast of Clover’s leg. A week or two later they were able to pick up the completed device– a custom stifle brace. Head operations manager Jenn Reitz showed Mollie how to fit the brace on Clover.
“Jenn made it so welcoming for her,” Mollie says. “She told Clover, ‘This is going to make you feel better and this is going to be fun.’”
And Clover took to the brace like a duck to water, Mollie adds.
Initially, they only put the brace on for an hour or two a day, until Clover got used to it. But they could see right away that she wasn’t limping with it on. Gradually, they began increasing the amount of time she wore it until she was wearing it eight to 10 hours a day.
For about five months, Clover wore her brace daily and the Ingrams observed improvements in their dog. Last September, when they saw she could walk two miles without limping with the brace off, Mollie decided to retire it.
“She still goes up a long flight of stairs like a person with a cast on,” Mollie says, “But as far as walking, that girl is cruising,”
Aside from a couple adjustments and refurbishment they needed for the brace, the Ingrams said their experience using the brace for Clover was good.
Tom says he wished more dog owners who were facing the prospect of surgery knew about options like orthotics.
“We’re thrilled with it for an 11-and-a-1/2-year-old dog to come back the way she did from a serious limp with no limp of all,” he says.