By JONECE DUNIGAN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Every moment Joyce Clelland spends with Quincy, her 8-year-old blue merle sheltie, is like a priceless treasure.
Clelland has enjoyed Quincy's laid-back character since her husband, Bob, bought him from a breeder in Knoxville, Ill., when he was a puppy. Clelland says the dog kindly wobbles up to strangers instead of barking at them.
However, it became more difficult for Quincy to do that since he developed a walking condition three months ago.
"He's our child. He's our baby. You wouldn't want to see your child not be able to walk or go through that," Joyce said.
A set of braces, however, appears to have solved the problem.
Quincy developed a condition called abduction, which causes a dog's feet to deviate and make them wobble like Charlie Chaplin, the famous silent filmmaker and actor. Dr. Bob Reich, a veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center in Quincy, said one option to fix the problem would have been to surgically place a bone plate into the joint. However, he believed that option would have done more harm than good, because he was worried the plate would not hold.
The Clellands had talked about putting Quincy down, but Joyce refused to go with that option.
"We used to lay awake at night, thinking that there must be something we could do for his feet, to keep him straight and keep them together," Joyce said.
She spent weeks searching the Internet for bracing companies, eventually finding a site called My Pets Brace. The Pennsylvania-based company creates orthotics and prosthetic leg braces for dogs, cats and other animals.
"They are neat. I didn't know that they could do something like that for an animal," Joyce said.
Reich said he has not seen braces of this quality for a dog in his 41 years of working with animals. After Reich sent a mold of Quincy's leg to My Pets Brace, the owner of the company called to ensure the dimensions were correct to the final inch and talked with Reich about extra information about the dog.
"Not everyone knows how to make a proper brace, but this company in Pennsylvania has done quite a nice job," Reich said.
Two weeks after the mold was sent in, Quincy slipped on his new classic black pair of braces on May 23.
Reich says braces are difficult to keep clean, and a dog will not simply take off running through the backyard when the braces are first put on. He said it can take up to four weeks for a dog to get used to them. Quincy's braces have adjustable straps, are padded on the inside and fit to his unique dimensions.
"It's all about balance and comfort. Kind of like wearing a new pair of shoes, You don't want to get a blister on your heel," Reich said.
Bob says Quincy is being tolerant of the braces after the first week. The dog hops like a bunny from the living room to the bedroom, but Bob sees a great improvement in Quincy's walk.
"Sometimes we let him sleep with them on to get the hang of the braces. He's a whole lot better, but I think it will take a couple months to get him back to where he was before." Bob said.
Reich said the braces cost $1,200. For the Clellands, that is a small price to pay for the extra years they will have with Quincy. They will share priceless laughs as they watch Quincy walk out the back door, sniff the air for other dogs and walk back inside to avoid confrontation.
"He's super laid-back. You can do anything you want to him, and he would never ever do anything. He would never bite, never be nasty. He's just lovable," Clelland said.