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Surviving on Slim pickings

Name: michelle whelan from co wicklow

Animal: slim, her 11-year-old greyhound

PROBLEM: greyhounds have thin skin, which is easily torn or grazed

Half an hour later, when she went outside, the greyhound had come into her driveway and was standing near her garage door, as if he'd followed her home. He was filthy, and so thin that she could see his bones. She went up to him, but he was nervous and, as he darted away, he stumbled. It was only then that she realised that he was so weak that he could hardly stand up.

Michelle brought out a bowl of food for him, and he was ravenously hungry: he physically attacked the bowl, snapping at the food as if he thought it was going to be taken away from him. He had a peat briquette-bale cord tied tightly around his neck, so she cut this off to give him some comfort. She also discovered that he had tattoos in both ears: she made a careful note of the numbers.

Michelle took him in that night, just to give him emergency recovery care. She already had a good-natured Labrador and a scattering of cats. There was no space in her home for a half-starved greyhound.

The following day, she phoned around animal welfare groups and learned more about the sad plight of unwanted greyhounds. She heard how the sanctuaries that specialised in these dogs were overflowing, with unwanted greyhounds being left tied to their gates, and suffered a chronic lack of funds to pay for the care that the animals needed.

It was at that stage that Michelle decided to keep the greyhound until he was fully recovered and ready to be rehomed. She named him Slim, and somehow he never made it to the rehoming stage.

Ten years later, he's still a part of her household.

Greyhounds can make excellent family pets and Slim has been a good example.

He fitted in well with the other animals from the start, ignoring the cats, and becoming a close friend of her Labrador.

He's a quiet animal, spending most of his day sleeping, but enjoying his twice daily walks. He's a good watch dog, springing to attention at the sound of visitors, but not barking in an annoying way like some other breeds.

From his tattoos, Michelle was able to track down his original owners, and nobody had any problem with her taking on his long-term care.

Last week, Slim had a typical greyhound injury. A couple of yappy Jack Russells appeared at the gate, and he charged out of the door, sprinting down the drive to see them off.

He was going too fast to stop in time, and he stumbled onto his knees. His left knee was only grazed, but his right knee hit the ground at full tilt. Greyhounds have thin skin that tears easily, and he ended up with a nasty open wound.

I had to apply a supportive dressing that will need to be replaced every few days for the next few weeks, but I expect him to make a full recovery.

Greyhounds may not be for everyone, but Slim's story demonstrates how a dog designed for racing can fit unexpectedly well into a typical family home.