ALL PAT Dogs are special, but perhaps former racing greyhounds Toby and Cass are particularly special, for they overcame hardship and ill treatment to find a loving home with their devoted owner Lesley Phillips.
Toby, a fawn dog, is 12 and a half years old and came to Lesley five years ago from the charity Greyhound Compassion based in Tiverton. English bred, Toby had previously raced with his brother and sister at Stamford in Lincs. When he was no longer earning, he and his sister were dumped on the M62 in Yorkshire.
They found their way into nearby fields and though she was not a danger to local farm stock, Toby’s sister was shot. He wandered alone for three weeks becoming increasingly thinner and to stop himself starving stole bird food from a garden. Eventually, the owner of the garden called the dog warden and Toby was caught and taken to the local pound. With only one day to go on his seven days reprieve, a nurse looking for a small dog caught sight of Toby and fell in love with him, she adopted him and soon brought him back from 19 kilograms to a healthy 28.
Toby and his new owner, Marian, moved to Devon but commuting everyday to Plymouth for work made it difficult for Marian to care for Toby properly so she asked Greyhound Compassion to find him a new home. It was through Greyhound Compassion and her friend Sue that Lesley met and decided to re-home Toby. Fortunate to have an experienced greyhound vet, Clive Lloyd, to seek advice from, Lesley discovered Toby was suffering from a number of ailments including a torn gracilis muscle (the most likely reason he was discarded in the first place), several poor teeth (something which greyhounds are known for due to their protein-rich diet), a limp offside fore and bronchitis - an illness that Toby still suffers from.
Though Lesley admits it has been a struggle to keep on top of Toby’s injuries, he is now an incredibly loving dog and luckily appears to have forgotten how cruel people can be. With a calm and gentle nature, he is a qualified Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog, regularly visiting adults suffering from autism, behavioural problems and physical difficulties and was runner up in the 2004-5 Dog of the Year Award for PAT dogs.
Cassia, has been with Lesley for eleven months now. A timid dog of Irish descent, Lesley found Cassia in the RSPCA shelter. She was very thin, wouldn’t eat or be petted, had dreadful teeth needing several extractions and had an injury in the pastern of the offside fore, an injury that like Toby, Clive Lloyd believed to be the cause of her cessation from racing. The vet thought it probable that Cassia had been raced on the injury while taking pain killers as the extent of the damage in the joint is so great that even after two operations on the foot, there is minimal improvement.
Lesley believes that in the past Cassia was beaten as, even after nearly a year and though she receives lots of reassuring cuddles, if Lesley raises her hand or makes a sudden movement, Cassia ducks out of the way and the fear in her eyes is visible. She was found wandering in Exeter and taken to an animal sanctuary by a member of the public and though once Lesley met a man who knew Cassia by name who informed her that her previous owner had moved to Kent, Lesley has no way of knowing how or why Cassia ended up where she did or even how old she is now.
Cassia too is a qualified PAT dog and is about to start her career visiting the elderly in residential accommodation. The greyhounds are very good friends, they love to walk and play together especially on the beach and hate being separated if the other is at the vets for a few hours.
Lesley says that generally speaking, theirs is a peaceful household except where the cat is concerned - Toby completely ignores the cat but Cass will have a go if she can get away with it!