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A dog’s life: how a community rallied round to save Gelert

31 Mar 2024 8 minute read
Grommit-cocked ears, image by Sarah Morgan Jones

Sarah Morgan Jones

Two weeks ago, we prepared to say a final goodbye to our beloved dog, Gelert.

Grief mode had kicked in days before our appointment with the vet but amid the feeling of total devastation, I had started to come to terms with the inevitable, heartbreaking loss.

I can still feel echoes of those intense emotions, but I sit here today stroking his head, thanks to the kindness of a dog loving community who rallied around us when no hope remained.

Being the custodian of a lurcher can be a very happy lot. Our hound is a proper Heinz 57 with saluki ears, a smattering of wolf- or deerhound, some collie like patches on his paws, heaven knows what else.

He came into our lives aged about 18 months, in 2017, rescued by Newport Dog’s Home who had provisionally named him Scamp.

Seven days later, he knew his name to be Gelert and appeared happiest ‘roaching’ – lying on his back, wedged between us in bed, with his legs in the air and his teeth arranged in a stupid grin.

Heart of the house

Since then, he has become my husband’s One True Love, won hearts on our local doggy field, developed best friends among other canines, resisted his primal instincts around our old cat (now departed) and made us laugh every day, repeatedly.

Even through dark episodes of bereavement, here was a chap who made us get up and go every day, a ray of sunshine with Gromit-cocked ears and a sense of humour, a lad whose glee would play out in spins and zoomies making it impossible to stay glum for long.

Gelert when he was Scamp at Newport City Dogs Home

A change

Back in February, he suddenly became ill. Didn’t seem right at bedtime when the ‘out for a wee’ command was met with a tight curling up on the bed, his body language emanating refusal.

We went to the vet and apart from a slightly raised temperature, there was nothing the vet could put her finger on, but she took a blood test and said come back Monday if he’s not better.

That night, he deteriorated, could barely stand, was lethargic and distressed. We were advised that we should seek help immediately from the out of hours pet hospital across town.

From that point on we descended into a five-week hell of decline, tests, treatment, and vast expense, quickly running out of insurance, savings and credit and with little clue what could be wrong.

Despite being in the middle of a protracted house move, all we could think about was this funny, mad little soul that we both felt was the glue at the heart of our relationship.

Amid tears and anxiety, we played out the scenarios – the pragmatic approach (we can’t lose the roof over our heads for this), the emotional ‘let’s do whatever it takes’ (everything that can be sold will be sold), the philosophical approach – he’s had the best life and suffers no fear of mortality.

But whenever we found some resolve or drew a ‘red line’, we would look at each other and wonder what would become of us without him?

Lifeline

Each day he goes out with his mates and like many dogs, gives his humans the opportunity to interact with and to react to other people.

We lived near a field on the hill where people of all backgrounds and opinions would meet up and shoot the breeze, debate and put the world to rights while their dogs ran and played.

During COVID this community was a lifeline to us all, a permitted reason to get out and socialise, walking at the requisite distance, listening to each other, looking out for each other, giving each other hope that we were all still here and one day this will end.

He was a password into a group of friends whose sole common denominator was the love of dogs.

Before the move we worked out how that social could continue – the bus back up the hill passed our door at key dog walking time, so if I couldn’t drive due to work, the chief walker could still get up there to see everyone.

When we planned out the new house, consideration for his comfort and safety was equal to ours – his bed can go there, that glass needs covering up, the garden is safe but there’s a fox run there…so imagine if we ended up moving without him.

What then?

Gelert unwell, image by Sarah Morgan Jones

Diagnosis

When finally, he got a diagnosis – something visible in his bowel which would need to be removed – we had run out of money and he had almost run out of time.

He hadn’t kept a meal down for nearly two weeks and was disappearing before our eyes, losing 10% of his already lean frame.

I wept uselessly and the vet urged surgery. My husband was thinking more positively. ‘He’s only 8 he said, he’s healthy, apart from this, we have to do something.’

She let us go home for the weekend to think about it but said she wanted to see him on Monday morning at 9, and just in case, don’t feed him from midnight. I scowled.

Crowdfund

That night, I was all cried out and utterly exhausted. My husband sent me a text from downstairs saying ‘set up a crowdfund, write this’ … he sent me a short blurb … ‘if this doesn’t work then at least we have tried.’

I was reluctant because people are skint, life is hard for so many, and I felt like it was too much of an ask.

But I set up the page on my phone, while I heard him on his phone downstairs talking to some of our lovely dog walking friends.

Before I’d even published the crowdfunding page, he had pledges of £250.They were looking out for us, for him.

By the end of the evening, we’d reached £1000, within 24 hours we had enough for the operation and by Monday morning enough for some of the aftercare as well. We were stunned.

Survival 

Over the weekend, Gelert was so weak that I feared he wouldn’t make it to Monday or that if he did, he wouldn’t survive the operation.

We were feeding him teaspoons of milk and dripping Bovril into his disinterested mouth in a bid to stimulate his appetite and give him some strength.

Monday morning came and we arrived at the surgery to listen to the details, the risks, to decide on CPR, and to sign his little life over to their care.

We said our goodbyes and distracted ourselves with moving the last things from the old house, in anxious silence, increasingly allowing ourselves to believe that no news was good news.

Post-op, image by Sarah Morgan Jones

News

By late afternoon, I was climbing the walls and called. He had survived, he was just waking up and they thought we could collect him at 6:30.

They had removed 4-5cms of his bowel and resectioned it with upwards of 60 stitches.

Within that piece they found a cancerous tumour but felt confident that they had it all, although the risk of recurrence was slight.

He began to improve daily, eat and gain weight, and a week on from surgery they were happy enough with his progress to simply call us the following week.

As I settled the bill, I told the receptionist that Gelert’s friends were covering this and she got all weepy. As did I.

Post-op, day 7 – back on the bed! Image by Sarah Morgan Jones

Team Gelert

So here we are, two weeks on from a terrible day when we thought death was the only option.

A fortnight since friends and even strangers gave generously to give our little friend a chance to live. A fortnight since #TeamGelert showed its fettle and finery.

We had insurance, we had some money in the bank and a credit card yet still the options we ended up with were debt or death.

Without any doubt, Gelert would not be here today, snoring contentedly on the bed, without his backers and benefactors and my husband’s heroic refusal to ‘be pragmatic’.

People? I’m not always an unmitigated fan, but this has shown me how kind they can be. And that there is always hope. Sometimes that’s all we have.


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Del Hughes
Del Hughes
9 days ago

A lovely piece about a lovely boy! Great news that Gelert’s on the mend x

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
9 days ago

A lovely heartwarming account.

Wonderful that you and Gelert are blessed with such caring friends.

Hopefully you and Gelert will have many more years together.

Frank
Frank
9 days ago

👍👍👍👍

Art Byrant
Art Byrant
8 days ago

God bless Gelert, a beautiful dog. The best of us

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