Sammy's parents were farm dogs in Mayo, bred over generations to herd sheep and cattle around fields and hillsides. Sammy's just a pet, but he has inherited his ancestors' high energy levels, as well as their love of chasing and herding. He's taken for a walk twice daily in local fields and he's always loved chasing sticks. He's being doing this since he was a young dog, but after an incident a few weeks ago, he won't be chasing sticks any more.
It happened one afternoon when Paul was out walking with Sammy. The dog had found a stick in the undergrowth and it seemed perfect for throwing; it was about a foot long, and half an inch in diameter. In fact, the stick was a classic example of a dangerous object to throw, as the sequence of events was about to prove.
At first, everything went well. The stick was thrown time after time and Sammy chased after it enthusiastically, grabbing it and bringing it back to drop at Paul's feet so that he could throw it again. It was a game that Sammy played every day and it seemed like the ideal way of burning up the dog's energy.
The crisis came when Paul happened to throw the stick into a softer area of ground. It landed like a javelin, with one end buried in the ground and the other protruding at an angle. Sammy rushed up to the stick at full tilt, seizing the protruding end with his open mouth. It was as if he'd run onto a spear. The sharp end of the stick rammed straight back into the back of his throat, impaling the dog. He collapsed on the spot, falling onto his side.
Somehow Sammy was able to get back onto his feet, and walk home with Paul, but he was dull, wanting to lie down and be left in peace. Paul brought him up to see me at once.
As it happened, Sammy was a lucky dog. Under anaesthesia, I carefully inspected the back of his throat. There was a large jagged tear where the stick had stabbed into him, but somehow, major blood vessels and nerves had escaped damage. If the injury had been in a marginally different position, Sammy would not have survived.
I was able to suture the wound back together successfully. Sammy also managed to get away without splinters of wood being embedded in the wound, another common consequence of stick injuries. Some dogs suffer complications that can continue for months, with deep-seated infection that can be difficult to cure.
Sammy made a slow recovery over the following two weeks, needing several more visits to the vet to deal with the inevitable complications of the life-threatening injury. Gradually, the edges of the wound knitted together and his damaged throat returned to normal.
One month later, Sammy has made a full recovery. He doesn't chase sticks any more. Paul's been to the local pet shop and Sammy is busy learning the joys of chasing tennis balls and other safe dog toys.