The Corcoran family adopted Cleo from the DSPCA as a puppy and she settled well into their household. She's a gentle, good-natured animal, getting on well with everyone.
Whippets are like small versions of greyhounds, and Cleo loves trotting off the leash beside Anne Marie. She's fast and nimble, dashing around like a little gazelle.
When Anne Marie went for a walk with some friends on the Cliff Walk between Bray and Greystones, she took Cleo along.
For the start of the walk, she kept her on her leash, but when they reached the midpoint of the pathway it seemed like a safe place to let her off.
There were no farm animals and very few people, and it was a bright clear day with excellent visibility. Cleo trotted happily beside Anne Marie, moving ahead sometimes and falling back at others. She loves running, like a trotting horse, and she never goes far from Anne Marie's side. Nobody could have guessed Cleo was about to suffer a major traumatic incident.
There was a four-foot-high stone wall on the right of the footpath, between the path and the steep drop down to the railway tracks beside the sea below. Cleo's athletic instincts must have got the better of her.
As Anne Marie watched, Cleo for no particular reason smoothly and gracefully leapt over the wall, like a racehorse jumping a hurdle, then disappeared from sight.
Cleo must have assumed there was solid ground on the other side of the wall, but Anne Marie realised that it was a sheer drop. To her horror, she heard the far-off sound of a dog yelping.
Anne Marie couldn't bring herself to peer over the wall. She had to ask her friends to look for her, and she was relieved when they reported that they could see Cleo, still alive, at the foot of the cliff, 50 feet below.
She was standing on three legs, right beside the railway tracks. Now there was another danger: a DART train could come by at any moment. Cleo was in shock and wouldn't know to move out of the way, and obviously the DART wouldn't be able to stop in time to avoid hitting her.
Anne Marie had to get to Cleo as rapidly as possible, but there was no obvious way down: there was a sheer cliff between her and her dog.
Luckily, two local women were also out walking and saw what had happened. They knew about a switchback footpath that led down to the railway, so they went ahead, with Anne Marie following them. After 10 minutes that seemed to take forever, they emerged beside the railway. Cleo was lying close to the tracks, trembling, still in shock.
Anne Marie picked her up, hugging her but being careful not to hurt her. She carried her back up the hill, then along the cliff walk to her car before driving on to our clinic.
As Anne Marie told me what had happened, I was afraid that Cleo would have suffered serious internal injuries. I examined her carefully, taking X-rays to check for internal damage.
She had been exceptionally lucky, with only one serious injury. She has a badly dislocated wrist which will need to be repaired with an orthopaedic metal plate.
She must have extended her right forepaw as she landed, and this had taken the pressure, protecting the rest of her body from damage.
Cleo's leg will be repaired next week, once she has recovered from the shock of her tumble. Anne Marie hopes she has learned a lesson: never jump over a wall if you don't know what's on the other side.
> Dogs don't have a 'natural' understanding about hazards
> When walking dogs in unfamiliar areas, it's safest to keep them close to your side
> If in doubt, dogs should be kept on a long leash