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How I got my first Stafford by Sue Cleveland

My Stafford arrived on 22 December 1993 when a good friend arrived with an eight week old puppy, complete with large pink bow: my Christmas present!

Since childhood, when I'd always had dogs, I'd always wanted a dog but never "got around to it."

After the initial panic of soul-searching and arranging bedding and food, I began learn about the Stafford about which. I knew little or nothing. Friends and family were wary as the Pit Bull scare had started in Australia. But of course by then I had fallen totally in love.

Sam (a girl!) is now five years old, my best friend and companion. Never before had I known a breed that seemed half-human. She has the most amazing nature, loving play and cuddles equally. I have two nieces and a nephew whom she loves and, when we're out walking, has been known to walk up to total strangers wearing that big Stafford grin and sometimes even "talking."

Swimming is her favorite avocation, and she spends hours playing in the creek on our property. We have two house cats that definitely stand higher on the pecking order, so when a cat is coming indoors and the Stafford is going out at the same time, Sam always defers.

She snores like a trooper, refuses to get up in the morning until she has had her cuddle, and adores riding in the car with me.

Probably my hardest task was to find Stafford-proof toys. Sam now owns a basketball (for supervised play only) and two Kongs, one a floating Kong, that have proven to be excellent.

Of course, I'm now "hooked" and would love to have another Stafford; however, she is somewhat jealous and possessive, so I'm not sure how this arrangement would work.

One of Sam's favorite activities is chasing thunder. She is not frightened at all and regards it all as a huge game. Needless to say, I am always on my guard when a storm occurs and have to keep her inside, else she may run for miles. About two years ago she got away just as a storm was starting, made her way through the fence, and ran into a moving car. I heard a yelp and then saw a three-legged creature running towards me for protection. She was remarkably patient as I wiped up the blood, called the vet, and visited the surgery.

After X-rays, we could see that Sam had shattered her right elbow. My local vet advised me to take her to one of Australia's top orthopedic surgeons at West Chermside Clinic near Brisbane . There they operated on her and wired her shattered elbow together. After she was bandaged up, I was told that she shouldn't move much. (a Stafford not move?)

Sam lived in a child's play pen for four weeks. Every time she needed to go empty out, I carried her outside and then returned her to her pen. She couldn't walk, couldn't play, and couldn't even sit on my knee. I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the play pen with her!

We returned to the vet time and time again for X-rays because the wires weren't holding in place, and she had to be operated on again, this time taking a bone graft from her chest to build up the elbow joint. At one time I really thought that I was going to have a three-legged dog permanently, but the surgeon and Sam battled on.

Throughout the whole experience Sam remained patient as though she knew that she had to be quiet. Never once did she try to run or play, not even while the leg was healing.

When the bandages finally came off, her front leg was completely atrophied and obviously needed intensive physiotherapy, so again Sam pitched in. Each day we would visit a nearby waterhole where she could swim attached to a horse's lunge line so that I could help her if need be.

I now have a dog who runs, jumps, and plays normally. And even after all this time, as I watch at her chasing a ball or stick, I silently thank the vet who made it possible.

Sue Cleveland
Australia


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