The damage

Because it was after 5 when we arrived at the hospital, the x-ray department was closed. Once the Nurse had taken a look at the outside of my leg, she suggested I might have damaged the tendon.

She phoned the orthopaedic department at Harrogate hospital and consulted with them. They instructed her to wrap up my leg from crotch to ankle in a really tight bandage thing, it has a name, at this point the codeine started to cloud my memory, so I can’t remember what it was called. I was given an appointment at the fracture clinic the next morning and sent home.

Nick stayed off work to try and settle a somewhat confused dog and I headed to hospital with the in-laws.

After several x-rays and a CT scan, the prognosis was a tibial plateau fracture (google it if you’re interested in the details). One of the doctors looking at the scans asked if I’d been skiing or in a car accident. That’s apparently how you’re most likely to break this part of the body. I then had to clarify the break hadn’t come from the fall when Dexter knocked me over but from the impact of his solid skull with my knee. Everyone seemed quite impressed.

I was relieved it wasn’t the tendon as apparently this can take a really, really long time to heal. The orthopaedic team told me that I was going to need surgery to put a plate and some pins in whilst the break healed. I would have to be non-weight bearing for 3 months and then build the leg back up with several months of physio.

Up until this point I hadn’t cried at all and on hearing this news, I lost it. What bothered me most was the prospect of not being able to walk Dexter just at the time when he needed a calm and regular routine.

We would have to call on a number of people to help out and cash in as many favours as we could. After the initial shock, I had to accept that it would be difficult but we’d manage, somehow.

I was given a solid plaster replacement of the bandage, loads of painkillers and sent home to await a surgery slot and a week later was operated on.

Here’s the before and after.

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Freak accident

29th October 2013

We’d had Dexter about a month and had got into the habit of giving him a run in the little field almost every day. I was really enjoying the breaks in the routine, having to go out for walks several times was a welcome punctuation to the days.

Watching him run was becoming a high point. We were all gaining more confidence with each other and letting him blow off some steam felt really good for us all.

He’s built so perfectly to run and it’s when his ungainly pointy body absolutely makes sense. It’s quite mesmerising. Sighthounds have a real elegance and grace too, which I’d never really noticed before.

It was the evening before Nick’s 38th birthday and we had a nice dinner planned for after we had all been out for a walk.

Dexter had a good burn straight up the path away from us when we first let him off, did a clumsy curve, ran halfway back down the field and came belting full tilt back towards me. I have no idea why at this point my left foot decided to take a 6 inch step into his path but it did.

I remember a sharp pain to the side of my knee as I spun round and hit the deck. Nick was laughing, I was too, sort of. My next thought was, “Oh god, I’ve killed the dog” but he was up licking my ear almost immediately. Nick said he yelped and did a forward roll but I don’t remember that bit.

After the (very) brief hilarity, I almost instantly knew something wasn’t quite right. Nick came over and was concerned I’d dislocated my knee and pressed down on it. Through gritted teeth, I said, I wasn’t sure what was wrong but how about we get me to the car and over to the minor injuries department of our local hospital as soon as possible please, darling, thank you.

I’m not quite sure how he did it but Nick managed to manoeuvre me, over his shoulder because I couldn’t put ANY weight on my leg and Dexter, who periodically jumped up at us because he thought it was some kind of game.

To get out of the field and back to the car, we had to get up and along an old railway embankment and down the other side. I did the down bit on my arse, whilst Nick sorted the dog.

I now realise we should have called emergency services of course, it could have been a great case for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, I could have been on the telly and everything but I’m still quietly happy I saved the NHS a bunch of cash.

We dropped a very confused dog back at the house and headed to Ripon Hospital, where a fabulous nurse got me onto a bed and gave me a monster dose of painkillers, which kicked in pretty quickly.

Nick called his mum, who came up to accompany me and I sent him home to check on Dexter. He was still nervous and hadn’t completely settled in and I was worried about leaving him on his own for too long.

The nurse and Nick’s mum carefully removed my wellies and jeans and we all looked down at my leg.

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This was a scan done the next day but I think you get the gist.

Dexter hit the left side of my left leg. The picture shows how much force was involved, as all the swelling is on the opposite side.

So, be warned, a 20+kg dog, travelling at 30+mph is a bit like a baseball bat to the knee.

My advice: When they’re running towards you, STAY STILL

 

Wind him up and watch him go

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Once the trial was complete, we filled in all the paperwork, paid a donation to The Dogs Trust and had his check done at the vets. He was now officially our dog and had as they say, found his forever home.

Next priority was to give the big lad a proper leg stretch. Obviously he’s built for running but had only had on lead exercise for about 3 weeks.

First we needed to find a suitable location, which had to include a good place to run, no other dogs –  or plenty of visibility to see anyone else coming, and be properly enclosed. If he caught sight of a rabbit or pheasant we wouldn’t see him for dust, so until we had built up good recall a good fence was really important.

One of the biggest thrills of owning a skinny hound is the speed they can run. Second only to a cheetah, a greyhound can reach more than 40mph, so we figured Dexter was probably quite quick.

We were not wrong.

He shot off, leaving us both open mouthed at the acceleration. It seemed like he’d be at the top of the field in seconds but turned and did a big loop back to us, overshooting and looping back again. We let him have another go and tried calling him back. He came to us immediately and it was clear that we had made enough of a bond and with the help of treats and positive reinforcement, his recall was going to be just fine.

You may have heard that these dogs need lots of exercise. You could be fooled into thinking with a physique like that they could run all day. Wrong.

Like cheetah’s they’re built for speed, not stamina and they don’t need huge amounts of exercise. More often than not they prefer a comfy sofa to doze on and can, for up to 18 out of 24 hours.

This is one of many reasons why a sighthound (greyhound, whippet, saluki, lurcher, etc.) makes an excellent pet. Especially if you’ve not got much time for exercise or don’t get around as easily as others.

I’ll get to the other reasons.

 

The boy’s got issues

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For the first two weeks Dexter was still officially the responsibility of The Dogs Trust, so we had to keep him muzzled when out and on lead at all times.

We were told he was a lurcher but they had no idea what flavour. What we did know was that he was born on July 1st 2010 and brought over from Ireland as part of a litter. He was adopted by a family pretty quickly but 18 months later was brought back after apparently biting one of the children. This probably sealed his fate for the next 18 months as no one wanted to deal with that kind of behaviour.

As it happens, lurchers (and some other dogs) tend to ‘mouth’ the arms and hands of their owners as a sign of affection, their way of stroking you back. We suspect this is probably what happened but it’s understandable that parents don’t want to take that kind of risk.

We were also told that Dexter had a fear aggression issue, which meant he could not really be around other dogs. After being attacked by a brown Labrador type bitch whilst at Dogs Trust, he developed a bit of a hate towards this kind of breed. To this day, if not distracted with a treat, he will make himself very big and scary looking at the sight of any large, dark coloured dog. It’s his way of getting in first, a warning to them to keep away from him.

Deep down, he really is the biggest wuss though and would run a mile at the sign of any actual threat.

Because of his breed, he has a really strong prey drive too. Sighthounds are amazing at spotting movement, whether it be a fly (he’s great at catching blue bottles in the house), squirrels, pheasants, rabbits, cats, little dogs, a leaf blowing in the wind, whatever. If it moves and if it moves fast, he wants it. This was another reason we were told to be super careful when out and always need to be very mindful where and when we let him off for a run.

To add to the list of issues that left him increasingly hard to find a home for, he was nervous of new people, loud noises and terrified of fireworks. But despite the challenges, one of the Trust’s employees, Angela spent countless hours working with him, teaching him basic commands and building a strong bond.

Her work and the support she subsequently gave us was invaluable. We have the utmost respect for her and all the other people who work tirelessly with rescue animals of all kinds.

Which is why, if you’re thinking of getting a dog, I urge you to consider giving a home to a dog that really needs it. The staff at most rescue centres are trained to place the right dog with the right people. No one’s getting rich off the back of it and the feeling you get from giving one of these animals a better life was an added and unexpected bonus for me personally.

I knew within hours of Dexter being at home that this was no “two week trial”. As far as I was concerned, he would never spend another minute in a kennel.

 

 

 

Getting the weight on

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October 2013

Within 5 minutes of arriving Dexter had reached the top of the stairs in 2 bounds and claimed a sofa I was about to get rid of as his own. 5 years on, we still have this sofa.

He was 22kg at this stage, about 3kg underweight and although the Dogs Trust provided us with a tried and tested brand of food it wasn’t doing the job. He often had us up at 2am crying to go out and it seemed whatever we gave him wasn’t staying in him long enough to give him any benefit.

I had never owned a dog before and have to admit, a scoop of dried pellets made of god knows what just didn’t seem like much fun to me. I was skeptical of the claims on the packaging and even more skeptical that the most expensive would be the best for our beast. Ultimately though, it was just totally obvious that these convenient kibble meals were not doing him any good.

Aside from the weight/runs issue, Dexter had a flatulence problem that was on a par with mustard gas, moments of super crazy hyperactivity inside the house, brown teeth and bad breath. At this point, we didn’t realise that a change to his diet would solve all of these problems, overnight.

After some research, we decided to try him on a diet of raw chicken wings, lamb bones, vegetables and fruit (you can easily find lists of what you can and can’t give them online). And before you point out that chicken bones are bad for dogs, let me just clarify, cooked chicken bones splinter and can cause real problems but raw bones do no harm and in fact contain many of the vitamins and minerals a dog needs. When do you ever hear of a fox choking in the hen house? You only need to watch how much he enjoys crunching those bones up and how easily they go down. Not to mention the 2-3 firm bowel movements a day he now has.

Other unexpected benefits include, no need for any anal gland emptying – his body now does this on it’s own (got to be a bonus!) and a much cheaper dog food bill.

Dexter now weighs between 25 and 26kg, has a glossy coat and bright eyes. In 5 years his only vet visits have been for flea or toenail issues.

I don’t need any more convincing.

 

 

 

Sticky dawg

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September 2013

When we saw this face peering reluctantly from the back of a Kennel at Dogs Trust Darlington, we couldn’t ignore it.

Dexter was known to the staff as a ‘sticky dog’, one that had been overlooked by potential adopters for too long; in his case, 18 months. He was stressed, a few kilo underweight, had battle scars after not getting along with any of his kennel mates and a checkered history that made him a real challenge to re-home. Needless to say, he wasn’t a particularly happy boy.

When the member of staff who was interviewing us discovered we had no kids and no other dogs, she became quite enthusiastic for us to meet him. Once we heard of his story, we immediately agreed to him coming home for a two week trial to see how he would get on.

It was clear to me if we were going to adopt a rescue dog, it had to be one that really really needed a home. We weren’t there for the prettiest or easiest, we wanted to do the right thing. Dexter provided that opportunity and started his trial one week after we met.