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Big Ben gets special presents: A new hip and a new family

Grand Rapids foster family thrilled to adopt ‘awesome’ boy


Mary Martin-Williams, left, Lily Martin-Williams, 11, center, and Curt Williams, of Grand Rapids, embrace their new adopted dog, Ben, whom they had fostered before his hip replacement.

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Ben was impatient. Despite his still-healing artificial hip, the 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever couldn’t stop wiggling Thursday while his new family completed adoption paperwork at the Toledo Area Humane Society.

The happy-go-lucky canine had surgery Dec. 12 at a specialty veterinary clinic in Columbus to replace the head of his right femur with steel. The surgery was paid for with $2,800 raised by the humane society and $1,200 from Cutie’s Fund, a program created in November, 2012, to help dogs at Lucas County Canine Care & Control with high-cost medical needs.

Ben came into the county shelter Oct. 9 as a stray from Schwamberger Road in rural western Lucas County. He was heartworm-positive and was transferred to the humane society Oct. 29. The organization soon found he also had hip dysplasia.

“Both of his hips are severely affected,” said Dr. Debbie Johnson, humane society director of operations. “Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The femoral head should be round and smooth like a ball. With hip dysplasia, the femoral head is flat.”

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While dysplasia is commonly considered an old dog’s condition, it sometimes crops up in younger animals because of improper breeding. Ben’s condition is likely the result of poor genetics. “An old dog can certainly get arthritic changes in their hips, but at 2 years old, that’s not normal,” Dr. Johnson said. “People think they’re going to make a few bucks by breeding a dog, and they just set those dogs up for a lifetime of pain.”

Grand Rapids resident Curt Williams and his wife, Mary Martin-Williams, toured the organization’s Maumee facility with their daughter Lily at the end of October. Lily had collected donations for the humane society through “Pennies for Pets,” a program she started with her Whitehouse-based youth group from the Center for Conscious Living.

It wasn’t long before she spotted Ben, with his light gold coat and big brown eyes. “He was awesome,” Lily, 11, said.

The family had lost its 14-year-old Labrador retriever-shepherd mix in June. “We had just started thinking about getting another dog,” Mr. Williams said. “When we saw Ben, that discussion accelerated.”

The family fell in love with the gentle boy and inquired about him. They learned he was being treated for heartworm and would need a hip replacement, so he wasn’t up for adoption yet. They decided to foster him until they could adopt him.

“He’s a great dog,” Mrs. Martin-Williams said. “He fit right in with our family. We have five older kids and they have families, so we needed a dog that was good with children. The house was full [on Christmas], and Ben couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Before his surgery, Ben walked with a stiff, painful gait. Now that he has a new hip, the dog wants to make up for lost time. “He’s really playful, so he wants to run around more than we’re supposed to let him,” Mr. Williams said.

While he’s healing, the family uses a sling to support Ben’s hips when he walks on hard floors or up and down stairs. They have been stretching his leg when he allows it.

Dr. Johnson said Ben is recovering well: Though he limps, he is bearing weight on the limb.

“He has been a trouper through all of it,” she said, noting Ben may need a second surgery for his left hip down the road. “A lot of times with dogs this bad, you give them one good hip to stand on and with medications and supplements, they do pretty well with just the one leg. As he gets older in life, his owners will have to see how he does.”

On Thursday, Ben went back to the humane society to have his surgical staples removed. The good-natured dog found a small rawhide bone in the hallway and carried it around for a while before eventually devouring it noisily.

The family got an unexpected surprise when they were told they could officially adopt Ben. Lily picked out a red heart ID tag, which the organization engraved with Ben’s name and a phone number and placed on his collar, with rabies and microchip tags.

Ben “smiled” when Lily hugged him as the family posed for his adoption photo. His tail never stopped wagging.

Cutie’s Fund has raised more than $55,000 to date. Donations, which are tax-deductible, may be made in person or mailed to Lucas County Canine Care & Control, 410 S. Erie St., Toledo, OH 43604, or online at​donate/​cuties-fund. Checks should be made payable to Lucas County Canine Care & Control with “Cutie’s Fund” specified on the memo line.

Contact Alexandra Mester:, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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