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Ex-prison dog has hip replacement so he can run and play again

Thin Blue Paw Foundation supports first ex-prison dog Jax in major hip replacement surgery.

A prison dog who was forced to retire early due to injury is recovering at home following a successful hip replacement, paid for by the Thin Blue Paw Foundation.

Four-year-old German shepherd Jax, was 12 months-old when he joined the prison service in 2018, and is the first ex-prison dog the new charity has helped.

The Thin Blue Paw Foundation – a charity that launched in August 2020 to help support retired police dogs in their new homes – stepped in to help Jax when his new owners discovered he would need a £7,500 hip replacement, which wouldn’t be covered by his insurance.

Jax worked at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes and loved it. His previous handler said: “He really enjoyed working and was very good at his job. He was loved by everyone at the prison and was also the perfect pet at home.

“Sadly, we were only around a year into the job when, in September 2019, I noticed Jax limping. I took him to the vet and they confirmed it was hip dysplasia. It was decided that Jax would have to retire, to give him the best quality of life possible, and I was absolutely heartbroken when I had to rehome him.”

Jax was returned to his breeder who set trying to find him a new home, where he’d be able to take it easy.

Thin Blue Paw trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “It’s a huge responsibility taking on a dog, but taking on an ex-service dog can be even more complex. Often, it’s difficult to insure retired working dogs and they can come with health problems or old injuries that they’ve sustained during their career.

“What many people don’t realise is that ex-police and prison dogs don’t receive any ongoing financial support once they retire; meaning the burden falls to their new owners.”

Thankfully for Jax, he had already caught the eye of a young couple from Reading. Market researcher Hannah Weston and her partner, Jamie Tempest, a microbiologist, had both had dogs growing up.

Hannah said: “A friend of mine had posted about Jax on Facebook and we both just completely fell in love with him. We sent a message to the breeder, who had taken him back in when he had to retire from his job, and we organised to go and meet him. A week later, in February 2020, we brought him home.

“Jamie’s family had German shepherd cross Bella, an ex-working dog, when he was growing up so we weren’t phased about his background.

“We thought he was gorgeous and, when we met him, he had such a lovely temperament. He was such a ‘people’ dog and when we heard his story we knew we’d be able to give him a stable, loving home.”

The couple knew Jax had hip dysplasia and that this would impact him for the rest of his life. They could only take him on short walks, he took daily medication and saw a physio regularly.

“We knew when we adopted Jax that he had health problems that had forced him to retire early,” Hannah said. “However, we’d hoped he’d have a few more years until he needed surgery so it was a shock when he deteriorated quickly and vets decided to operate.

“He’d been doing really well but, unfortunately, he was attacked by another dog and sustained some injuries. The impact of the attack and the rest he needed to recover had a detrimental effect on his mobility and, come December, he couldn’t even bear weight. It was heartbreaking to see such a young, fit, happy dog unable to walk.”

Vets confirmed the worst case scenario; Jax would need a hip replacement.

Hannah added: “Thankfully we’d managed to get him insured but no firms would cover his hips as they were a pre-existing condition. He had x-rays and went to a specialist who confirmed that he’d need a hip replacement costing £7,500.

“We had no idea how we’d cover such a huge bill. We started saving and launched a GoFundMe page but then the Thin Blue Paw Foundation stepped in to help and offered to cover the cost of the surgery. The money we’d raised will now go towards his post-treatment care and ongoing physio.”

Jax underwent surgery on 25 January and now, six weeks later, is back home recovering from the operation.

Hannah said: “Jax is doing really well and is going from strength to strength. He still has a long way to go and we’ll always have to be careful managing his exercise and continuing with his physio, but we’re so relieved that his future is now looking so much brighter; and much of that is down to the support we’ve had from the Thin Blue Paw.

“He is the best pet you could ask for. He’s affectionate, fun, sweet, clever and, at times, a grumpy old man! He loves cuddles, he adores playing tug of war (unfortunately banned until he’s recovered from his surgery) and he really enjoys being mentally challenged. We can’t imagine life without him and we’re so grateful that he’ll now be able to live out his days with us and without pain.”

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