About 12 months ago we took a small male puppy Spinone (along with the big Spins) to a Spinone party hosted by some splendid folks, Babs and Mark Davies. It was a lovely day out and all for a good cause…………

This puppy of ours caused quite a stir and we had many questions and lots of interest in him. You see this puppy had had a really tough time in coming through birth and thereafter development. He was an extremely large puppy when born and what is known in the dog world as a “Swimmer”.

Effectively he was doomed to fail in life and without hiding behind words and pretending these things don’t happen, most swimmers are unlikely to survive post birth.

Seeing him in that litter pen with the others who were scampering around and climbing over him was heartbreaking, but the little guy refused to give in and managed to feed well and get around, albeit very ungainly.

However, this little puppy had something, he did not give in, he would not back down and he had oceans of courage where his well formed and fit buddies didn’t.

So for all those very nice people who have continued to ask about that little puppy and “how’s he doing” we have compiled this anecdote of his fight to be a “Normal” Spinone………….

The pups name is Duncan

I named him because he looked Duncan disorderly all the time!!!! (Not sensible)
The Dearest One named him after Mr Goodhew – the Olympic swimmer!!! (Very sensible)
My versions better………….!!

And so, this is………Duncan’s Story

Duncan was born on the 29th May 2010 and was one of 3 puppies born to that litter, the others were all fit and well.

It was obvious from day one that Duncan was different, a swimmer. Being only one of three he was a very big pup. But it became apparent that there was a problem very early on.

But what to do? We thought about it, talked about it and all the time the Dearest One was always with him to assist with feeds and clean up after him and of course to keep him moving. It was a daily and very regular event almost to a routine. Initially, the Dearest One never once backed away from the challenge, of course we’re all human(ish) and she got depressed and tired. Anyone would in those circumstances, but despite Duncan’s odd looks and actions he was nevertheless developing into a nice Spinone……it sounds contradictory.

He looked intelligent, alert and moreover looking back on it – he looked determined not to be outdone. This boy was a fighter.


I have to say from the outset that the Dearest One did ALL the investigations, questioning and ground work on ‘swimmers’ she took information, advice and knowledge from friends in and out of the dog world, a number of vets and practiced learned fellow Spinone owners and breeders.
Looking after him, the rest of the pack and feeding and watering herself was of course an extensive period that in most people would have worn them down to the point of giving in, but in the introduction I said Duncan was a fighter and he had an ally in that fight, because the Dearest One was not going to back down from the fight either and if Duncan was willing to fight then she would be with him all the way on his journey.

At two weeks of age both our local vet and a friend suggested we start a physiotherapy regime to try and strengthen the leg which was worst affected. This regime was to take place approximately every two hours and in this we recruited the help of the family, and for this we are eternally grateful for the help of Jamie who although studying at University gave up much of his time to assist with the therapy. This included the night shift which was the requirement suggested by the vets.

At four weeks he could get up on his back legs and put pressure on ONE front leg? Unfortunately, the front leg that was good started to bow under the pressure. This complicated the core issue of the original problem.

We took him to a vet we knew in South Wales who examined him and told us he could ‘possibly’ help get Duncan up on his feet. The problem was that one of the bones in his front leg had stopped growing.

Was this a throwback from him being born a swimmer? No one seems to know……..

Is a swimmer a hereditary condition? Again there are differing views on this question because no one has a definitive answer……….from a personal perspective we think it has a lot to do with how the puppy forms/develops whilst in the mother.

The one thing we do know and have been assured of is that the bone in his front leg that had stopped growing was definitely not a hereditary condition; it was pure bad luck, one of those things.

At this point, even for us this really was Duncan’s last chance because if the vet amputated the bad leg, the remaining good leg would not be strong enough for him to have a decent standard of life.

So at this point a decision had to be made, but Duncan was a genuine fighter and after much deliberation we all agreed to give the vet and Duncan the chance he deserved.

During a visit to the vet in South Wales he had offered us or rather Duncan a unique operation on the bad leg. For the vet it was an operation that he was prepared to do with a BUT?

The ‘But’ was that at 9 weeks of age Duncan was potentially too young to go through such a major operation and further with Duncan so young there was a chance he may not survive the anesthetic. We had a real dichotomy on our hands.


We gave permission for the vet to go ahead and conduct the operation as described to us. He took Duncan and we went off home with fingers crossed knowing that this was make or break time so to speak
The operation to repair the bad leg was long and complicated due to the muscle and bone that had to be completely repaired. I will not go into the details as it is inappropriate but the vet was nothing short of amazing in what he did.

For the Dearest One she waited what must have felt like a lifetime but eventually we got the call from the vet. Duncan had survived the initial recovery from the anesthetic and the operation…………Phew!

We could go and collect him but were told quite openly that he was far from being out of the woods. We had to get him on his feet as quickly as possible. Good old Duncan…………..ever the fighter. It was if something inside of him had told him he had a chance and he was not going to waste the opportunity he had been given. Once at home he almost immediately started to use it, very wibbly wobbly at first but you could clearly see he was trying to put his weight on it.
With sensible instruction, careful watching and even more careful where he could go and what we allowed him to do he progressed. And progress he did……………..



A week later we were back with the vet for a checkup. He was thrilled to see such a remarkable recovery and further the development of the leg that had stopped growing. Duncan’s leg was developing as normal and overall his recovery was a testimony to the skill of the vet along with the belief that something could be done and indeed was done.

An important factor to Duncan’s recovery was his diet, not enough and we might slow down his development, too much and he could develop problems and in turn this could have caused damage to all the good work that had been put in.

The downside to this, is that today Duncan is not the fullest of the Spinone dogs looking slim but not unhealthy. On the other hand as I write this today he is easily as healthy as the others and has no problems tearing around the beaches, running for hours in the parks and woodland and still jumps in the Land Rover at the end of a four or five hour run about.

Nature’s way? We will never know……………………..

Duncan’s first ‘proper’ outing with many other dogs and equally many other humanoids was the Spinone Party at Babs and Marks in Pembrokeshire, where he spent the day being cuddled and fussed over. It was amazing to see him like that and equally mixing it with the big dogs when he wasn’t signing autographs and being adored by his loving fans.

Duncan had reached cult status……..The fighter had made it through and won not just the fight of his life but he won the hearts and minds of those who met him that day.


Since that early recovery period Duncan has gone from strength to strength and is now today just another of our Spinone’s. Of course he will always be special, but there’s nothing he can’t do, and no matter the challenge he will not be beaten. Tough walks nowadays are a breeze to him……

The reason we are telling the story of Duncan is to let people know that no matter the adversity there is always hope, and for Duncan we hope he never grows up. He really is a lovely dog that is making the most of his life. If an animal is fighting and you can sense and see he is trying to help himself through his adversity then who are we to be judge and jury on him?

If he thinks he has a chance then why shouldn’t we give him that chance?

Don’t get us wrong, we are all individuals and we have the ultimate sanction. This was not in any way easy to follow through and the decisions, the waiting, the questioning and the ethics of it all (only the fittest survive) challenged us all the way through.

But it was Duncan’s fight, not ours. He gave us the opportunity to see that he wanted to try. So we gave him that chance. That was our decision……………….and I have to say one of the best decisions we have ever made.

We do not know what the future holds for Duncan, but had those moments in the past not been challenged then he would not have had a future. But today he lives life to the full, he’s very fit, very healthy and long may it continue. Duncan has given us much joy, a lot of laughs as well and moreover he has touched the hearts of so many others who know him, have met him and in turn we have seen the joy on their faces as well.

In his short life to date he has been through more than most dogs go through in a lifetime and from our experience today………Duncan intends to make it one hell of a life. The boy certainly enjoys!!

Duncan disorderly no more.


Appreciation, Respect and Gratitude

A BIG, BIG THANKYOU to the following, who not only supported us, but input in some way, encouraging us to continue and show that from the teeth of adversity comes the smile of success:

Mr Vet Man: We cannot express enough our appreciation and respect for the skill and professionalism that was given over to Duncan by this vet – his belief in our cause and his support was invaluable as was the aftercare and follow up to his ‘patient’

A true professional throughout, and today we still visit his surgery, we see him out with his family and their dogs in the park and he still remains a Duncan fan. Duncan?? Just runs past him………….!!!!!!

Viv Steere: For the moral support, being on the end of the phone, being there in support at the difficult moments and for the treats you gave the supporting army of Spinone’s!!!

Nice one Viv………..(I liked the beefy biscuit thingys)

Jamie: The time taken out from study to concentrate on those legs. I know you’re not studying physiotherapy but if all else fails!!!!!!!!!

The Grimbles: For feeding and watering the Dearest One during the early days. Took away some pressure of ensuring that the nurse didn’t need nursing………..and the munchies were nice

ALL the Spinone Breeders and Dog Owners………Tracy, Annette, Jan, Wendy, Sharon who remained in touch all the way through and were all rooting for success and were always there for a cheer up chat……trust me ladies…….that took pressure off me!!!!!

Babs and Mark Davies: Spinone owners and good eggs. No one would ever know about Duncan had he not got his first publicity from that splendid Spinone bash last year. We’ll be back of course this year……..Don’t panic?? We have given Duncan his own pen this time for all those screaming autograph hunters…….

And of course – The Dearest One: On behalf of a very, very grateful Duncan “Thank you”
Life is what you make it………you made mine and for that no words can do justice, but “Thank you”


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