Support For Bionic German Shepherd With Hidden Illness Helps Restore Faith In Humanity
The incredible support a ‘bionic’ dog received from his Instagram followers helped restore his owner’s faith in humanity.
Leah Sheppard, from Wales, brought home Bear the German Shepherd in July 2018, when he was 10 weeks old and looked every bit like a ‘perfectly healthy’ pup.
The lovely dog was clumsy and lanky when he was young, so his owner put his wobbliness down to a lack of control over his long legs. When he was around four months old, Leah noticed his issues became more pronounced, as he was ‘more tired than he should be after playing and groaned like an old dog when standing up’.
By the time he was six months old, Bear was displaying several symptoms typical of hip dysplasia; a painful condition causing one or both hip joints to develop abnormally so the ‘ball and socket’ of the hip don’t fit together properly.
The German Shepherd was stretching excessively, displaying discomfort after exercise and bunny hopping with his hind legs, and one afternoon after playing he developed a limp. Leah took the pup to the vet and he was diagnosed with severe bilateral hip dysplasia.
Though Bear came from ‘health-tested’ parents, hip dysplasia is hereditary and, unfortunately, if it has existed somewhere in a dog’s bloodline it can affect a number of dogs in future litters.
When Leah first welcomed Bear into her life, she set up an Instagram page to fill with cute photos of her adorable pup. The fluffy pooch quickly gained a big following and after his diagnosis Leah used the page to document his road to recovery.
Bear’s followers had a soft spot for the German Shepherd, and one of them suggested Leah set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of the dog’s surgeries.
The owner decided to take them up on the idea, and was overwhelmed with the response.
Speaking to UNILAD, Leah explained:
A total hip replacement is a major surgery that will only be performed once a dog has fully developed, so despite his diagnosis at six months old, we had to wait a further six months before they could operate.
Initially, I set up Bear’s Instagram because I wanted a place to share his puppy photos. He’s always been so photogenic; I had all these adorable snaps of him and no where to put them!
After his diagnosis… his followers were with him every step of the way.
We had an overwhelming response from Instagram, the love that his followers have for him is so heartwarming.
We were totally blown away by the generosity of people who only really knew Bear through his Instagram but cared so deeply about him. Thankfully, we were able to get Bear all the surgery he needed, with the help of amazing friends and family. It was incredible and really restored my faith in humanity.
Bear had his left hip replacement shortly after his first birthday and had his right hip replaced several months later, once his left hip had healed.
Leah believes Bear felt the difference ‘almost immediately’, and as soon as she picked him up from the vet after his first surgery he was ‘raring to go’. Much to the pup’s frustration, though, Leah had to hold him back to ensure his legs had time to heal.
The 23-year-old owner told UNILAD she and her family booked time off to supervise Bear during his rehab and recovery, which involved a lot of confinement – something Bear was not a fan of.
It took each total hip replacement three months to become 100% solid and he spent the first six weeks of that in strict crate rest, only leaving it for very short toilet walks on a leash with a sling around his waist – it was tough.
After six weeks he was allowed free-reign indoors but had to wait another six weeks before getting his full freedom back outdoors.
The owner suffered a major setback when one of Bear’s implants dislocated, leaving him in need of immediate corrective surgery. Leah said the viability of the hip and chances of success were under question, but with the help of family and GoFundMe donations they were able to fund the pioneering correction.
One year on, with his two bionic hips in place, Bear is completely recovered and pain-free. He’s described as a lovely boy who’s very cheeky and always has to be the centre of attention, and after spending the majority of his puppyhood at vets and hydrotherapy centres he’s now making up for lost time.
Bear will be celebrating his second birthday this May and now that he’s totally pain-free he’s living his best life!
To see him running around you would never know he had ever had any hip problems, he’s 100 miles per hour!
He loves nothing more than running around and playing with his four-legged friends. That’s something he really missed during his recovery, he’s not the type of dog who likes to sit still.
We’re lucky enough to live near some beautiful woodland and that’s probably Bear’s favourite place to explore, he would spend all day sniffing out the trails there if he could!
Like many German Shepherds, he’s very smart and eager to learn so we practise scent detection work at home, which he really enjoys. He thrives off the mental stimulation and just having a job to do.
The dog is said to be ‘an absolute teddy bear’, and though he’s a little wary of strangers at first, once he gets to know people they have a ‘friend for life’.
Bear continues to attract followers on Instagram, which Leah now uses as a platform to raise awareness for hip dysplasia and to show it ‘doesn’t have to be a life-limiting condition’.
I receive messages almost daily from owners who have found themselves in the same position we did last year, asking advice and what to expect – and knowing how that feels, I’m just glad that I’ve been able to help in some way.
If any good can come from Bear’s story, I hope it helps inform owners about their options and prevents irresponsible breeding. So many puppies are bred from dogs that have not been properly health-tested, I just wish that those people would consider the consequences of their actions.
Leah advised dog owners to ensure they have good insurance to help cover any medical costs and urged anyone who thinks their dog might be displaying hip dysplasia symptoms to get them x-rayed as soon as possible.
It’s not an easy process but to see Bear running free now, totally without pain – it makes it all worthwhile.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers and his own determination, I’m sure Bear will continue to live his best life and be an inspiration for other struggling pups out there. What a good boy!
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