Dog Milo cures master's wound
May 19 2005
Tryst Williams, Western Mail
DOG OWNER Mitch Bonham has more reasons than most to count his faithful Jack Russell Milo as "man's best friend".
Following an industrial accident, Mr Bonham came within a whisker of having his leg amputated when it turned black and began to wither. But the terrier-like tenacity of Milo helped saved his master's leg - after he started licking the affected limb for hours at a time.
Mr Bonham, 45, of St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan, originally injured his right foot when a heavy anchor fell on it when he served with the Royal Navy as a diver.
After leaving the Navy, with a mention in dispatches for bravery, he soldiered on with the pain for a decade. A subsequent slipped disc meant surgeons had a chance to operate on both problems at the same time.
The operation was a success but during his recovery he developed Sudeck's Atrophy, in which his nerves became traumatised and his leg became discoloured and began to wither.
"It went from a normal fleshy colour to a burnt purple and then to black, and the smell was terrible," he said.
"It was like a rotting smell. The muscles weren't doing anything and I couldn't hold my own weight on it. I had an ankle support, a hip brace, a leg brace and a back brace. I was on crutches and I thought what more can I get now?"
It was then that his consultant told him the leg might need to be amputated if it didn't show any improvement within five weeks.
"I suppose when I got home I was quite tearful but at the time I was 'OK'. It didn't really sink in," he said.
Laid up in bed, Mr Bonham placed his foot inside an orange box to remove it from the attentions of Milo. But with a terrier-like tenacity, the Jack Russell helped to "lick" the problem.
"The situation we had was that I was flat on my back and Milo was interested in my foot. I didn't want him to go near it. I didn't want anybody near it. I didn't want any more to go wrong.
"But my wife said he couldn't do any more damage so I just let him get on with it.
"I was scared he was going to do something - he's got nails like cats' claws, and I thought he might give me a bit of a scratch and I wouldn't have been able to feel it. Half the time I didn't even know he was there he was so small.
"He was cwtching beside me most of the time and then in the morning he was licking my leg again.
"Then one day I felt my toe twitch. It was like the muscles in my leg were being reactivated.
"I went to the consultant after five weeks and I thought, 'here we go' - but he was absolutely gobsmacked.
"The consultant told me that in licking my leg for such long periods Milo had stimulated the nerves and helped the oxygen get into my leg.
"He said he had heard about it before but it was very rare.
"He just told me to let Milo get on with it.
"It took about two years for the blackness to go but at least I could look at it again."
These days Mr Bonham has recovered and is back at work as a systems support engineer at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend.
"My wife Julie had a lot to do with it. She had to work nights to bring a wage in and cover the mortgage. And there were a lot of people helping me out. But it was Milo who saved the day, really.
"We bought him a bone that was bigger than him and it took him months to get through it. We just love him to bits.
Truly man's best friend.