Shira's Story

Shira, a Dutch Shepard, standing in front of the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center with a woman and manThe Veterinary Medical Center had a very special patient this spring: a former military working dog. Shira is a beautiful 4-year-old Dutch Shepherd who served several tours in Afghanistan as a tactical explosive detection dog—first as a civilian contractor and then as a U.S. soldier. These remarkable dogs are living mine detectors, sniffing out explosives and signaling their location to soldiers.

One day, soldiers noticed that Shira was limping. When her lameness didn’t improve, she was sent to the U.S. Army base in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for an exam. Veterinary staff there suspected she had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the most common knee injuries in dogs. 

In September 2014, Shira was transported from Virginia to New York City to be evaluated at The Animal Medical Center, where an extensive veterinary evaluation resulted in a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. Based on Shira’s young age, it was determined that an aggressive medical management approach would be the first course of treatment. Shira was officially retired, and the U.S. military arranged for Sgt. Kelsi Davis to adopt her. Davis lives in Minnesota, so American Airlines offered to fly Shira to her new forever home.

Unfortunately, Shira’s condition worsened; she was unable to even make it outside on her own. It soon became clear that Shira would require further medical help. Davis reached out to Tails of Hope Foundation, a New York-based organization dedicated to helping service K9’s, and Tails of Hope reached out to us at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center (VMC).

Shira came to the VMC for an exam in February, and veterinarians determined that her condition was severe enough to require a total hip replacement. The surgery was scheduled for the same day. Since the anatomy and function of the hip and knee joints in dogs are very similar to that of humans, the surgical techniques are also nearly identical and the majority of dogs that have total hip replacement have an excellent outcome.

Shira returned to the VMC for her eight-week recheck in April, and we are happy to report she is doing great! She is ready to enjoy her forever home and get out and about as a K-9 ambassador, educating the public about military working dogs.

Without financial contributions from our very generous donors, Shira would not have received this great care, and for that we say a heartfelt thank you! If you are interested in supporting the work we’ve done for Shira or cases such as this in the future, please contact Lauren Craft at lcraft@umn.edu or 612-626-6501.

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Have we helped your pet? We'd love to hear from you. Share your VMC story by emailing vmcfb@umn.edu. Don't forget to include a photo of your pet!