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Khan, canine hero dies

Ann Wynyard and Khan

Photo by Carol Ann Johnson

READERS will be sad to learn of the passing of a dog which made the news by saving his mistress’s life twice and overcoming health problems that plagued him from an early age to live a full and happy life, writes Nick Mays.

Gold sable GSD ‘Khan’ - Shadowsquad Sherekhan For Braeduke - was born in 1993 and bought by Ann Wynyard, who shows under the Braeduke affix, principally Tibetan Spaniels, but also
Cavalier King Charles and Labradors.

Khan became famous in 1998, making local and national newspaper headlines when he saved Ann’s life – twice, each incident being within a few months of each other.

In March 1998, Ann drove out to one of the remote farms on her land to inspect the buildings, prior to the farm being sold. As usual, Khan came along for the ride.

"It had been snowing quite heavily when we set off and by the time we arrived, it was white-out," says Ann. "I set out across the field on foot towards the farm, whilst Khan was off hunting rabbits as he enjoyed doing. But because the snow was so heavy, I completely failed to see a gully ahead and I slipped and skidded halfway down it. There was water at the bottom, but the sides were almost completely smooth. If I’d not managed to stop myself falling further, I’d never have got out of the bottom. As it was I’d lost my stick on the way down and simply couldn’t move and was at a loss as to how I’d get out."

At this point Ann looked up and saw Khan’s dark face looking down at her. To her horror, he seemed to turn away form the edge as though to walk off.

"I’m afraid I mistook what he was doing and called out ‘Come back miserable monster," recalls Ann. " Then I saw a fat, bushy tail coming down towards me from top of the slope – Khan was reversing himself down to me, whilst keeping himself from slipping down. He looked at me as though to say ‘Well grab on, woman, I can’t stay like this all day!’ I grabbed his tail and then his collar and for the first time ever I used the command ‘Pull!’ and he did. I was able to retrieve my stick as he hauled me up and used this to help gain purchase on the side of the slope."

Once out of the gully, Ann’s leg was in considerable pain from the fall, but Khan supported her all the way back to the car, after which she was able to drive them both home.

"I gave him a reward for that, of course," says Ann. "Because of his delicate stomach, he couldn’t have many treats, but he was alright to have cooked chicken, which he adored, so I gave him lots of that.

Khan received two medals for bravery, one from the British Association of German Shepherd Dogs and one from Pro-Dogs, which was presented to him by Suzanne Dando.

As if this heroic rescue wasn’t enough, Khan hit the headlines again a few months later in June 1998 when he tackled the so-called ‘Althorp Panther’, an ‘Alien’ Big Cat spotted several times close to the Althorp estate. Although speculation was rife as to whether such a beast did exist, Ann saw it with her own eyes when she was walking on farmland in her estate along a dirt track between a cornfield and a wood.

"Khan was chasing rabbits again and I thought to myself that there seemed very few rabbits about," says Ann. He’d gone into the wheat and the next thing I saw was a handful of rabbits scampering out, followed by this big, dark coloured animal which leapt over a four foot wall alongside the track, just ahead of me. Khan pursued it and followed it over the wall, after which I heard a terrible yowling sound from the woods."

Ann called Khan several times and then saw him scramble slowly over the wall, after which he fell to the ground, pawing at his jaws. Ann was horrified to see that he was covered in blood and had sustained several scratches and bites to his body and face, inflicted by the large wild animal.

"I virtually had to drag him back to the car," says Ann. His face was so covered with arterial blood that I couldn’t see his eyes. For all I knew he’d lost them in the attack.

Khan was rushed to Ann’s vet for treatment. Initially the vet thought that Khan had been attacked by a badger, but having seen the extent of the dog’s injuries, he soon came to believe that he had been attacked by a big cat.

"I’m certain that I might have been attacked by that panther," says Ann. "Khan saw it off for me and fought it with no thoughts of saving himself. He was a double hero that day."

In the last year of his life, Khan received veterinary treatment for a number of conditions, but remarkably recovered from them all with his usual strength of body and character, much to Ann’s delight. Sadly, he began to deteriorate in the November.

"He went downhill a lot," says Ann. "He was very quiet, slept a lot and sometimes didn’t want to go for walks, which was most unusual. My vet believes he suffered form bone cancer towards the end, which would explain a lot of his symptoms. He was so poorly on December 17th that I had to take the decision to have him put to sleep – and I felt awful at having to make that choice."

Ann couldn’t bear to have Khan cremated, so he was buried in the woods where he enjoyed so many walks and chasing rabbits, close to the graves of two other dogs owned by one of Ann’s friends, so that he had company.

"He was such a brave dog with the heart of a lion," says Ann. "He didn’t shirk his duty, he was loyal to me and an incredibly affectionate dog. He was very much my dog and was unique. There will simply never be another Khan."