What was supposed to be a normal evening walk along the beach, turned into a pet owners worst nightmare, for Noeleen Morris and husband, Enda.
Two year old Bobby, a gorgeous, placid, black Labrador who was full of life and kindness, sadly died in extreme circumstances this week.
A typical two year old Lab, Bobby was all about the nose, constantly sniffing around.
Noeleen, originally from Bettystown, recently returned home after a period living in Maynooth. While away, she frequently returned to Bettystown beach with Bobby to enjoy the sand and the water for daily walks.
Since their return, Noeleen has brought Bobby to the beach nearly every day.
"It was great to return back home, and now my beautiful beach that I’ve loved all my life has killed my dog,” said Noeleen.
In a change from their routine morning walk, Noeleen decided to bring Bobby for his walk that evening instead.
"I brought him out that evening because we got a new pup and I thought he needed some time away from her because she was annoying him a bit.
"Even though he was only two, he was a really kind and soft dog. We walked out to Mornington and we usually walk up to Bettystown and do a loop.
"I noticed a lot of debris, dead shellfish on the strand, but I didn't think anything of it. Bobby was running along the water and the tide was half in. We were delighted with ourselves. He didn’t even stop to sniff, as he was running he just picked up something in his mouth, and he looked back at me and I noticed he was chewing something and I said ‘what are you doing?’ but we just ran on.
Returning home, Bobby went to bed and everything seemed fine and the next day he was brought for his usual morning walk. Noeleen noticed he seemed a little tired and thought he perhaps didn’t get any sleep with the new puppy. He had his breakfast upon return, and Noeleen went off to play golf.
Returning home at 9pm, Enda informed Noeleen that Bobby was very sick, and had been vomiting.
"Bobby was very sick that night,” explained Noeleen.
"I looked up Westgate Vets and called. The vet said there was no need to bring him in, he’ll be fine, he’s probably just had a bit of an allergic reaction to something, but he'll be okay, make sure he drinks water and he'll be fine.
"But I said ‘no, I don’t mean to sound melodramatic here, but my dog is very sick. He's doesn't make a peep, he’s not like that. I said he's howling out the back garden and its very distressing and you have to see him.”
Once they got to the Vet, the vet agreed that Bobby’s pupils were dilated, putting him on an IV and monitoring him overnight. Noeleen and Enda were told it was not life threatening and they could pick him up early the next day.
"So we left feeling a bit better. I thought we had caught it in time. But the next morning he rang me and he said he was so sorry. He said Bobby had taken a turn and he didn’t make it."
Since Sunday, Noeleen has looked into the cause of Bobby’s death and is concerned that a possible red tide over the weekend may have been a factor. Red tides are life threatening to both humans and dogs, with K. brevis producing brevetoxins, which is a neurogenic toxin, affecting the central nervous system and can cause death.
While the red tide is not a confirmed theory for Bettystown last weekend, shellfish, crabs or razor clams when rancid are lethal.
“The vet has had a long chat with us and they believe this is the cause. Dog owners need to be aware, even consuming a small bit can be fatal.
"There definitely needs to be signs on the beach,” added Noeleen, “and if I had known I would have had a muzzle on my dog, or a nose strap to stop him from eating bits on the beach.
"Poor Bobby suffered so dreadfully. It’s unbelievable how a young fit, vibrant dog was killed so quickly.
“We want to thank Westgate Vets in Drogheda who were brilliant and did everything they could have possibly done even after Bobby died – they have given us so much time.”
Advice from vets when walking dogs on the beach involve maintaining control of your dog, and the best way to do this is to keep them on a lead.
Grainne from Westgate Vets said, “This will help to keep them away from some of the dangers that can be found there:
“There is the potential to eat dead crabs, fish birds etc. which can cause illness due to bacteria such as salmonella. This illness can range from a stomach upset at the minimum to fatalities at the worst case.
“Jellyfish stings which can vary in reactions with each dog. Although some jellyfish are worse than others it is at least an unpleasant experience for the dog and at worst a severe reaction! If your dog gets a jellyfish sting, wash the area with salty water and contact your vet for advice if your dog has any reaction.
“Do not allow your dog to drink salty water, particularly from pools after the tide has receded as these are also a breeding ground for lots of bacteria. Keeping a supply of fresh water to allow your dog to drink will help to discourage the drinking of seawater.
“After a visit to the beach it is a good idea, if your dog has been swimming, to shower them down at home as salt water and sand can cause irritation to the skin especially the pads.”