A resilient three-legged dog whose ‘drive for life’ helped her survive one horrific accident now faces another difficult fight.
Little Willa was abandoned by her first owners after an accident with a tractor left her needing a leg amputation at just six months old. Rather than take home a three-legged dog, her owners left her with vets to be put to sleep – but the vet “saw something special” in Willa, and had her signed over to the care of the practice where they carried out the life-saving operation.
When Jess Fox and Katie Markham, from Heaton, heard Willa’s story, they knew they had to make her part of their family. Adopted just before Christmas, Willa was loving life with Katie and dog walker Jess, who owns local business Jess Fox & Hound, keeping pace with the other dogs despite her missing leg.
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For the first few months she made “amazing progress” and captured her new owners’ hearts. But tragedy struck in March when vets discovered she was suffering from a progressive bone disease affecting the hip joint attached to her remaining back leg.
Her only hope of a pain-free and active life is a total hip replacement, requiring a custom prosthetic hip to be made. With insurers refusing to cover the problem because it relates to a limb in an amputee dog, the couple have been left having to find around £10,000 for the surgery and physiotherapy needed to give their beloved dog a chance.
Desperate to give the “vivacious, affectionate” pup a chance, they turned to Go Fund Me to raise the money they’d need for the operation, and were “overwhelmed” by the generosity of locals who quickly came forward to help.
Jess, 34, said: “Because I walk about 100 different dogs around Heaton everybody knows Willa and they’ve really taken it on. The response we’ve got has been amazing, there have been people we’ve never even met donating.
“We were just in tears, it’s been really great. We felt a bit bad asking for help but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep very well at night if I hadn’t tried for her. I would not be able to rest, I would always think ‘what if?’.”
“She’s got this absolute drive for life and it’s painful to watch her suffering because we know she loves to be active – if she gets the surgery we know she’ll have to be on crate rest for six weeks and that is going to be hard.
“We were getting her out and about, taking her on adventure walks, we were being very careful with her and she was thriving, I’ve got videos of her running where you would think she had four legs. She had a great time, but unfortunately, now she’s restricted to 10-minute walks.”
Despite being in significant pain, Willa is still a “happy, energetic, and cheeky dog”, who tries to play until pain gets the better of her. Her owners say it’s clear that “Willa isn’t ready to give up yet” and while vets say there’s a good chance of a healthy life for her, they’re determined to “explore all possible options”.
The pair have now raised enough for the £3,000 CT scan which will establish whether a suitable joint can be made for Willa, after which it’s hoped she’ll be able to progress to the operation.
“If it does come to the point that we’ve had the CT scan and there’s nothing we can do, then at least we will know we’ve done what we could for her,” Jess added.
Donations can be made towards Willa’s care at https://www.gofundme.com/f/willa-make-it?qid=e5cf4c19519c722ee9b6e4c4b1064f61
Any funds that Jess and Katie raise that aren’t needed for Willa’s care will be split between the Humane Society International, currently supporting Ukrainians and their pets fleeing from the war, and Street Paws, a local charity that provides offering vetinary care to the pets of homeless people.