Finding our feet

The next few months I continued to limp about, had a bit more physio and upped the mileage. I have never got around to getting a drivers licence and was keen to get my primary mode of transport, my legs, back in proper working order.

I was loving walking Dexter again but had yet to face the fear of letting him off for a run when Nick wasn’t there to hide behind.

As much as I enjoyed watching this face coming towards me, the speed and accuracy of his trajectory was still extremely unnerving and at times took my breath away.

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Obviously, it was up to me to stand still and trust that he wouldn’t hit me again, even if sometimes he came ridiculously close. It was a real test of my nerve for sure.

One sunny morning I took him for a walk down an old river path I’d frequented as a child. We’d not been this particular way before as it was difficult to see if other dogs were coming but it was so pretty and quiet that day I decided to chance it.

We came to an opening where I could see enough into the distance and I decided this was the time to face my fear.  Before I had chance to think about it any more, I unclipped the lead and let him go.

All went according to plan and I felt a quiet sense of achievement for the rest of the day. Now Dexter didn’t need to miss out on a run because I was being a bit wussypants about it.

We continued the routine for the next few months and by the time we celebrated the first year anniversary of adopting Dexter, I was pretty much (aside from the large scar and odd twinge and creak) back to full working order.

In that time Dexter too had gained an enormous amount of confidence, was properly bonded with both of us and continued to reveal more and more of his hilarious character every day.

I found myself grabbing the camera or the iPhone almost daily, he was challenging to capture when moving but he also wouldn’t necessarily play ball when he was still either. Like my mother, the moment a camera is produced or a lens pointed in their direction, they both turn their heads away.

I persevered with patience and treats and managed to get a couple more quite nice shots.

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For photo’s of my mum on the other hand, you need patience, stealth and alcohol.

 

 

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First Holiday

It was the end of March, I had rid myself of stitches and crutches and was into the physiotherapy stage. I was still hobbling about and my leg was devoid of muscle, which I was in the process of building back up.

For the previous few years, Nick and I had been renting holiday cottages on the Isle of Mull. We loved going out of season for the peace and lack of people. The weather is usually pretty kind, the scenery is amazing, there’s some jaw-dropping wildlife, lots of things to take photographs of and I get my fill of seafood.

It would be another test for Dexter too. Starting with a 5-6 hour car journey to Oban, a 45 minute ferry and a whole new house to get used to for a week.

This time we’d got a lovely little place on the edge of Loch Na Keal. There wasn’t much walking nearby but that obviously didn’t matter this time, as I wasn’t really ready for much of that business. What it did have was a good grassy fenced garden, which we knew D boy would enjoy.

We spent our time enjoying the location and the view. We had a lot of this…

 

 

Followed by quite a bit of this…

 

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And when we got home and I reviewed my shots, I discovered I’d taken another photo I was really pretty proud of.

 

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When zoomed right in, you can see the reflection of Nick in his eye.

Bonded with his master. It’s the look of love alright.

Ears and DNA

During my ‘non-weight bearing’ period, I spent a lot of time at my computer, sitting some distance from the screen, on a sun lounger, with a wireless keyboard. The splint on my leg dictated the ridiculous furniture adaptation. At least this way I didn’t have to lie in bed watching daytime TV.

I’d been obsessively researching my dog, his breed, the issues he had. It was all still so new and I had to distract myself from watching an endless stream of very helpful people come in and walk Dexter for me.

A lurcher is a cross between any sighthound breed and something else. Sighthounds are bred for hunting predominantly but their grace and elegance mean they have been the companions of Royalty and the rich since, well, humans pretty much. They go at least 5000 years back and I really quite liked that.

Anyway, it was clear that Dexter had a good chunk of greyhound but he is smaller and slightly stockier in proportion when you compare him to a pure grey and his colouring is a little unusual too. I was becoming more and more fascinated with his physique and with certain characteristics, expressions and drives.

Most of the time his ears lay firmly flat down the back of his neck, especially when he spotted something or someone he liked, which is very greyhound but occasionally his ears would unfurl to their full extent, stand straight up and well, they’re really quite something.

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Somehow or other in my endless web trawlings I came across a DNA test for dogs. A simple swab that you send off to a lab and get a report on your dogs heritage a couple of weeks later.

SOLD. Dammit, Science is such a wonderful thing.

So here he is

3 parts Irish with a sprinkling of Spanish. Which totally explains the ears.

 

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It’s a really amazing thing to be able to get this kind of information about your mixed breed dog. Not only will it answer a bunch of questions you have about what they might contain but it can be really helpful for your vet if there are health problems.

I highly recommend it. I got a right kick out of it.

One of these days I might get around to doing my own DNA. I know I’ve got Irish, English, German and some potential Italian in there. The human equivalent of a mutt.

Or you could say I’m a European.

#Remain

 

First proper photograph

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I took this picture 4 days before the leg break.

He’d settled himself in a window shaped area of Autumn sun and was looking gorgeous. I grabbed my camera and shot a handful of him snoozing.

He looked so much more relaxed than he had 3 weeks ago and I got a bit of a buzz seeing him all chilled out and content.

When I pulled up the images in Photoshop I got quite excited by this one. The contrast is nice, the depth of field is good and it shows his great lines and curves. And those eyes.

It’s not perfect, his nose is just nudging out of the light but I allowed myself a little quiet credit. I subscribe to extremely high standards but I’m aesthetically more drawn to and appreciate the little imperfections in things, if I’m honest.

Coming from someone with a massive scar down one leg, I guess I would say that.

What I try really hard to do is take the pictures I want to take and not attempt to recreate something I’ve seen before. Although I understand that’s part of the learning process too, there’s SO much photography these days it can be too distracting and can (for want of a better way of putting it) blur my focus.

I’ve been into photography since I was a student and had worked around it professionally for years but had never really considered myself a photographer as such. It was a hobby I enjoyed for myself and something I knew quite a bit about but without professional equipment I wasn’t about to call myself one. Besides, I was of the opinion at that time that doing something creative, that you love, for money, was a bit of a contradiction.

At this point I had been working as a freelance graphic designer for several years and had been feeling for some time that it wasn’t quite right. Any joy I had for it felt like it had been sucked out of me. I think I applied that same logic to my photography and was actually quite scared about sharing something so personal and fulfilling, in case I lost what I loved about it.

But corny as it sounds, Dexter became my muse and because I had all that time on my hands to look at and study him whilst I healed, as soon as I was mobile again I became a little obsessed with walking him of course, and photographing him.

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.

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.