Tim Witoski’s resume identifies him as one of the most senior orthotists in the region, if not British Columbia.
He has worked as chief orthotist for the Greater Victoria Hospital Society, served as president and ethics chair of the Canadian Board of Certification Prosthetists and Orthotists, and can look back on a private practice first established in 1989. But as he has scaled back his professional career helping humans, he has transferred his skills helping their four-legged friends.
“It sort of grew organically,” he said.
Witoski’s transition was not necessarily unexpected. Over the years, he has received inquiries about fitting dogs with knee braces, but never the time to pursue the subject of canine orthotics seriously. This reality started to change when he scaled back his hours.
Since he started 10 months ago, he has supplied orthotics for some 25 dogs, ranging from knee and wrist braces to a cart for an amputee dog.
This raises an immediate question: whom does Witoski like treating better? Humans or dogs?
“Oh absolutely, dogs,” he said with a laugh. “Dogs are just so motivated to move, period. They want something that allows them to do whatever they are programmed to do, which is run and jump and chase [things] around. So when you put something on them, you get immediate feedback. You see that they will actually run around and move around, or they will stop and look at you, ‘What the hell are you doing? This isn’t working!”
In creating canine orthotics from scratch using techniques and material that he has used for his entire career, Witoski draws on his knowledge of human physiology.
“It [canine physiology] is very similar in general terms,” he said. In terms of ligaments and skeletal structure, humans and canine are close matches. “All the terminology is transferable,” he said. “It’s all stuff that I have used for my entire career.”
Witoski works on dogs about two days a week, with the rest of his time going towards his human patients.
“I would love this to be my only thing,” he said. “Growth-wise, if it doubles, I would say, ‘OK, I just do the dogs.’”
Witoski, for the record, does not own a dog himself.
“Unfortunately, my wife is super allergic, and our kids are gone,” he said. “They wanted a dog. If we got a dog now, we would be divorced from our children. I got lots of dogs now. I’m compensating for what I don’t get at home.”