Bessie the Basset – a remarkable road to recovery

The angel with a dog in a pram


There are many amazing stories of people who rescue dogs and I salute them all. All the owners who give selflessly of their time and love. This is a true “tail” of patience, tears and incredible courage to give one dog a normal life.


You may have seen her on one of the dog walking trails. The lady with a pram… and riding inside: a Basset Hound named Bessie. To some the whole idea is absurd, and as Anne comments, she gets many uncertain glances, but the true story of this Basset and her owner is unlike that of many rescue cases.




Bessie was left with the farm electrician as the owners were emigrating. She arrived at Anne’s home with only a choke chain attached from her past. Her gums were literally green from infection and her teeth were black, whilst her nose was raw and bloody from flies biting her. She had cysts between her toes, her nails had grown into her pads and she had a slight deformity of the front left leg due to the fact that she could not walk properly. She



was terrified and smelled bad, but Anne opened her home and began a journey she never thought she would have to endure.


The very next day Bessie was booked into surgery for her ears, full dental, nails cut, cysts between her toes lanced and treatment for severe bladder and kidney infection. She had to undergo a series of surgeries to restructure her feet. While vets gave a dismal diagnosis, Anne persevered and after the fifth surgery it seemed everything had been successful.


But that same evening Bessie must have attempted turning in her sleep, and, with all the drugs in her body for pain, she ruptured a thoracic spinal disc.


Anne awoke in the morning to find Bessie with complete hind limb paralysis. Bessie would have to learn how to walk all over again. This created the greatest challenge Bessie and Anne had to face together, with her deformed and aching fore limbs and completely lame hind limbs. Without hesitation Bessie was taken to the vet and booked in for surgery the following day. In Anne’s words, “No one can prepare you for the trauma and pain.” Unable to move, Anne now had to do everything for Bessie and she could not be left alone at home for any amount of time. She was fitted with a full body harness to support her and had to be turned every hour with much care so as not to rupture another spinal disc, and needed constant rehabilitation.


Throughout the days, Anne continued to help Bessie with massages, taking her to treadmill therapy sessions, acupuncture sessions, hiring beamer mats to stimulate healing, ensuring her bowels were working, and turning her every hour right through the night. Bessie lost all confidence and relied completely on Anne. For the first 3-4 months, Anne worked on her 6-8 times daily. Sleep deprived and with an aching body from carrying and caring for Bessie, Anne continued to do her best, day after day, night after night.


Good signs


The first milestone was Bessie placing her feet flat on the ground for the first time. Then she stood by herself for a full second. Slowly the recovery started… one voluntary leg movement, then an actual step with support, and eventually, 3-4 months later, a few more steps. Then more steps using biltong trails for encouragement – but still supported – then one step alone but using the walls as support. And then finally – one big step – all alone, no support, no wall, just Bessie! Thereafter came further progress to many steps and standing alone to urinate, being able to get up alone, and taking a corner without falling over.


Now, 9 months down the line, Bessie has almost made a full recovery and beams with confidence. She can walk only short distances so still enjoys rides in her pram, but she can walk. She no longer has to be carried around and supported; she can walk to her food bowl and eat; she can go outside to use the toilet alone; she can change positions during the night if she’s uncomfortable; and she can move to another room in the house to follow her faithful owner. Bessie can do all of this on her own now – because one person believed in giving her a chance.


Perfect love and kindness


Anne so humbly gives credit to those who helped with therapy, but I choose to give it all to her. Her kindness, love and absolute devotion is what Bessie needed the most.


So the next time you pass a dog in a pram and inside are Basset eyes staring at you, remember that a little miracle sits within and her angel pushes her.