A registered veterinary nurse and her partner, a former Army dog handler who was injured in Afghanistan, have set up a dog hydrotherapy business.
Miss Robinson, 31, holds the Nurses Certificate in Animal Behaviour, while Mr Wilkinson, a former lance corporal in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, knows the benefits hydrotherapy can bring, having suffered injuries when a roadside bomb went off during a foot patrol in Helmand Province in 2011.
Mr Wilkinson underwent three years of recovery and rehabilitation at the Headley Court centre in Surrey – part of which involved specialist water therapy. He is now recreating some of the treatment he received to help dogs and said his personal experiences had shown him the value of hydrotherapy.
“Because I have been through it, I know how beneficial it can be,” he said. “Dogs have always been a way of life for me and with the experience Rebecca and I have, this seemed ideal.”
Mr Wilkinson, 29, joined the Army in 2007 and retired from the RAVC this year. He was with his dog Tam on his third tour of Afghanistan when he was injured in an improvised explosive device blast.
He was left with life-threatening injuries – a severed femoral artery, nerve damage and shrapnel wounds to his abdomen and upper legs – but colleagues got him on board a helicopter and flew him to safety.
He was in an induced coma for a week, had numerous operations to reconstruct his abdomen, had a hip replaced and has been told he will need a further replacement in future. He also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The couple met in 2013, drawn together, in part, by their love of dogs.
MissRobinson said: “James’ health means he needs a vocation practical for his physical limitations. After our German wirehaired pointer puppy needed orthopaedic surgery we talked about rehab for it. It dawned on us dog hydrotherapy would be a great way to involve both our skills and experiences in helping dogs rehabilitate from injury or surgery, just as it helped James.”
They opened the centre in September and Miss Robinson said the business was going well. She said:
“We are getting referrals from vets as a lot of practices know me as a VN.” she said. “Vets feel confident referring to a VN and James’ personal hydrotherapy experiences are a great testimonial to its benefits.
“We are registered with the Canine Hydrotherapy Association and are obliged to follow its strict code of conduct, meaning we can offer a safe, regulated service and promise to continue to update our skills and knowledge to improve our service. Being registered also means we can work with pet insurance companies to reimburse our clients’ hydrotherapy fees under ‘complementary therapy’.”
The centre has a 13ft by 8ft pool with jets, which allow for the resistance to be increased as needed. There are also multiple resting platforms in different sizes to cope with large and small dogs.
Miss Robinson qualified as a vet nurse in January 2006 through the College of Animal Welfare. She intends to remain on the RCVS register and to continue working as a locum so that she can keep her nursing skills up to date