IF there is such a thing as a regular reader of this diary, they may well remember an extremely fortunate dog named Zak, writes Dominic Plumley.
To fill you in, Zak, named after the Greek island Zakynthos, was a stray dog destined for the annual cull when he was befriended by his guardian angels, John and Sam.
At no little emotional - let alone financial - cost, John and Sam brought Zak back to the UK and after the then obligatory six months stay in quarantine kennels, introduced him into their existing two-dog home.
If the world were perfect, I would be able to report that Zak’s immigration into these green and pleasant lands had been nothing but a bed of roses and he was now the ideal pet. Of course, we all know life does not always work that way and as you will have no doubt guessed by now everything hasn’t been entirely straight forward.
Zak’s first problem – unfortunately there has been more than one – was his digestive tract. Living the life of a vagrant, picking scraps from where he could and being exposed to any number of gastric parasites, has left him with a chronic bowel condition.
When fed the very best dog food he would be quite literally pooping through the eye of a needle and any weight that he had managed to gain since his adoption would rapidly fall off him again. At one point it was mentioned that he was just missing his food from home and that feeding him kebabs might be the answer, but this idea was soon dismissed.
Undaunted, John and Sam have persevered and with a degree of veterinary investigation, including several trips up to the Royal Dick Veterinary School in Edinburgh, Zak is now pretty much under control on this front – actually becoming part of a medical trial to boot.
I mentioned that this was not his only problem. Having lacked an appropriate mentor in his early life, Zak had one or two behavioural problems as well. Having an adolescent Greek street urchin thrust upon them didn’t go down particularly well with John and Sam’s other dogs Evie and Paddy – particularly as the young upstart just didn’t seem to know when enough was enough.
Some careful behavioural advice and the instigation of a little discipline helped matters on the domestic front, but there was always an undercurrent of tension whenever Zak was out and about. Zak just couldn’t be trusted wherever there was livestock.
This fact became even more apparent than when the team were on holiday around Loch Lomond. The red mist descended and Zak took off after a deer only to find himself a few minutes later with his front leg impaled on a rusty spike. To cut a long story - that involved a police escort and a couple of operations – short, Zak was lucky not to lose his leg.
You would probably forgive John and Sam for thinking that they would have been better off leaving him to his fate on that Greek island.
True guardian angels don’t give up on their flock and Sam enrolled the services of Ingrid Grayling, from Penrith, who is specialised in training dogs not to chase livestock.
The proof of the pudding came last week when Sam, with the blessing of the farmer concerned, walked through a field of sheep with Zak off the lead. He never left her side and was the epitome of the perfect Greek gentleman – though a name change to Philip is not on the cards yet!
What is more, Zak’s new-found manners have had a dramatic influence on life in general. All tension has evaporated and you could almost say that he and Paddy were now best buddies.
What is more, the new atmosphere of bonhomie has extended to John and Sam, who now feel considerably calmer and never more certain that their grand rescue was worth every bit of the hassle!