2007 was not a good year for us, we have had a roller coaster ride of emotion. It all started in March.
I let Callaghan and the rest of the hounds out of the kennel for they're morning romp in the paddock before breakfast, this was something we had done everyday with no exception, for over five years, this morning was to be life changing. Callaghan ran too close to the water butt, he shattered his right hock, the sound of the bone breaking and the yelp made my blood run cold, the fracture was open and it was of paramount importance to get medical assistance immediately. I managed to quickly get him in the car putting his leg in a clear plastic bag to protect the wound but enabling the vet to see the extent of the injury, I put the rest of the hounds back into the kennel and rushed Cal to the vet.
Once I got to my vet he came out to see Callaghan in the car, he took one look at him and sent us to a vet specialists. Callaghan was taken in and it was decided to put a plate on the break, two weeks later he came home, he was managing really well on three legs, I took him back for a dressing change two days later to discover he had an infection in the wound, so he would not have to endure another stay in the vet kennels I elected to take him back every day for a dressing change and antibiotics, this was a 50 mile round trip but it was not a big problem.
After almost two weeks of this, the vet informed me that the infection was not dissipating and the decision was made to take him back in to "hospital" take the plate out and leave the wound open and "floating" so the infection has less places to hide and therefore eventually be eradicated. The plate was sent for analysis, the report came back that eColi was found on the plate. An external fixture was then put on the break to stabilise the bones. Callaghan had to stay in hospital for a further 5 weeks having intravenous antibiotics. At long last, after what seemed like forever, the vets told us that he had beaten the infection and he can come home in two days time when the antibiotics had been finished.
The day we were due to pick him up, the vets were concerned that Callaghan had stop using his leg, up to this point he had been lightly using it putting more and more weight on it everyday, he became lame and reluctant to use it. They x-rayed his leg and the diagnosis was the one thing I never thought, in my worse nightmare, I would hear, Callaghan had bone cancer.
This was the most devastating of all news, after a long discussion with the vets taking care of him, we decided to amputate his leg and to start a course of chemotherapy, a week later I collected him and took him home. When I saw him for the first time in 9 weeks, my heart broke to see this magnificent creature missing his hind leg, he however did not care and turned him self inside out with glee of seeing me, I was licked within inches of my life, it was wonderful holding him again and looking into the chocolate brown eyes, so full of life and love. I questioned if I did the right thing in the decision that I made, this was a question I would ask over and over again.
The day I brought him home European Borzoi landed on my door mat, Callaghan was featured on the front cover so full of glory, the picture was taken at the East of England Championship show, he won best of breed and the open stakes class that day, also a feature in the issue was of Ambassador, KC and Toms borzoi who broke his leg whilst coursing, and too, the diagnosis was bone cancer, KC took the same action as I had, reading her story was almost like a sign that I had done the right thing, I made contact with her and she was a wonderful support to me.
Once home, Callaghan spent the afternoon and the whole evening lying out on the lawn, I had to physically go and bring him in. He was so happy to be free of the wire kennel he had been in, to lie on the grass in the open air, was utopia to him. The days were warm and dry, we took small little walks several times a day and he was allowed to go and say hello to Harry on the other side of the paddock fence, which cheered Callaghan up immensely, as the days went by. He got stronger and put on weight.
Three weeks later we went back to the "hospital" for his second of four doses of chemotherapy, he was taken to the treatment room where the nurses fussed him and gave him many cuddles, something they could not do whilst he was in their care because of the barrier nursing he was under. Callaghan grew stronger and managed to run after rabbits, he was so full of life, incredibly happy. We played on the lawn playing tag, the one thing he always tried to do and we had to stop was jumping up. He was back with his beloved brother, seeing him run after Harry following his every footstep filled me with much joy, the look of sheer happiness on Callaghan's face when he was with his brother made all the decisions the right ones.
Another three weeks sailed by in a haze of warm lazy summer days, gentle walks, cuddles and long conversations with him. I had noticed a small lump on Callaghan's rib, it was about the size of a grape but had slowly but steadily grown, I was debating whether I should tell Cal's vet or not, however I did tell him, after a simple and quick test my biggest fear was realised, it was another growth of bone tumour, the chemotherapy had failed. My heart was ripping apart with pain, I looked into his trusting eyes and asked the vet what he would do. It seemed so unfair, he was full of life, he was happy and enjoyed every second he lived. I was told to take him home and enjoy the time I had left with him. It was 13th July, I was told I had just weeks with him. How can life be so cruel, he did not deserve this disease he was the most gentle and beautiful of creatures. Where is the justice in that? My life shattered.
I don't remember the journey home, I drove through tears that would not stop. The weeks turned into months, we went to the beach, somewhere he had never been and I felt he needed to run free on the sand and into the sea, he thoroughly enjoyed him self despite being chased by a seagull.
Each day was as what had become normal, gentle walks, tag play on the lawn, he played with the rest of the pack, his face lit up with joy when his brother, Harry, came out the kennel to play with him, he would rest with Harry and Trilby under the big old oak tree, his favourite spot. Life was peaceful and happy but laced with extreme disbelief and sadness. But despite this, I knew I had made the right choice to let him live as long as he could, to see him play, run and rest with his family, justified my decision time and time again.
As the weeks mellowed into autumn I noticed he started to cough and I could feel more small lumps on his ribs, his walks became shorter as he would get tired, we would walk to the old horse chestnut tree on the green, sit under it and watch the ponies graze, these walks took longer as he became more and more tired needing little rests along the route.
I noticed that on the last Thursday he did not "light up" when Harry came out of the kennel to play, Callaghan stayed on his sofa, he was not interested in play or saying hello We spent our days sat in the garden room on the sofa watching the leaves turn from green to shades of gold and red, gentle fluttering down from the trees like multi coloured snow. On 21st October, a Sunday, late in the afternoon Callaghan and I sat on the lawn for sometime watching the late afternoon turn into evening, the bats came out and we watched them dart around catching flying bugs. I knew his time was close, his breathing was laboured and his cough was becoming more persistent.
Monday I decided to sleep on the sofa with Callaghan, he slept well not stirring at all, I found it difficult to sleep. Tuesday early afternoon my GP vet came to see us, we sat with Callaghan for sometime stroking him, I could see that the light of life was no longer shining bright in his eyes, the time had come to allow my most beautiful boy to leave me and travel over the rainbow bridge. My heart was, and still is, in a million pieces, my vet administered the cocktail of drugs that would help ease him on his way. Callaghan sighed and slipped away from me, my strong handsome boy was gone
I cannot believe he was no longer here. He owed me nothing and I owed him everything, he was virtually unbeaten at Crufts, winning every year but one, when he got second to the DCC winner but he went on to challenge for the RDCC which he won, that was 2005, at Crufts 2006 he won the DCC. Not only to win his and my first CC, but to win it in at Cruft, under a breed specialist was amazing. He pulled all the stops out and gave everything to me, he was a true showman, he loved the ring, people and other dogs. He was a gentleman, a true ambassador for the breed. He has left a magnificent legacy in his children who all possess his happy zest for life. My life is richer for having shared 6 very short years with him and all the poorer for being without him.
Would I do it all again? …………….. Yes, I would, why a dog should not have a chance to live just because it no longer conforms to our idea of perfection, dogs cannot count so they don't know or care if they have one leg less, it doesn't matter to them. I spent the best few years of my life, being in his presence. We went to a garden party with lots of other borzoi, he played and tried to steal food …….. in true borzoi fashion, we visited the beach, he was guest of honour at a companion show.
Because of knowing of the limited time I had with him, I made sure have no regrets or "what ifs" As the years go by I will be able to think of him and smile, at the moment that day seems a long way off.
I had a dog in a million, he was my soul mate and best friend, I have been blessed, and for this, I am most grateful