December 20, 2016 – A Cocker Spaniel who survived a terrifying fall down a 60-foot (18.22 metres) dam has won a national vote to be crowned PDSA Pet Survivor of the Year, an annual competition run by the UK’s largest veterinary charity.
Two-year-old Darcy was on a walk with her owners, Gordon and Wendy Lyon, at Glascarnoch Dam in the Highlands of Scotland in July this year. She suddenly jumped a five-foot wall, only to plunge down the concrete slipway. It was a miracle she was alive, said vets, having suffered multiple life-threatening injuries. These included a ruptured spleen, damaged liver, air leaking into her chest, fractured pelvis, a fractured and dislocated front leg and a complex open fracture to her back leg and hip joint.
After emergency surgery at a local vet to save her life, brave Darcy endured lengthy hospitalisation at Parkside Vets in Dundee for three more operations, then needed months of further treatment and rehabilitation. At first it wasn’t clear if Darcy would ever be able to walk again, but her recovery has been described as ‘miraculous’ by her vets and she has now been awarded the coveted title of PDSA Pet Survivor of the Year 2016.
The competition, run in association with PDSA Petsurance, recognises pets’ incredible survival spirit, the love and devotion of their owners and the skill and dedication of the veterinary teams who helped save their lives. Darcy, whose family is from Kellas, near Dundee, was up against five other pets – two dogs, a cat, a rabbit and a ferret. Their full stories can be watched on the charity’s website – www.pdsa.org.uk/petsurvivor.
Reaction to Darcy’s win
Darcy’s owner Gordon Lyon said: “Darcy has come through such a traumatic experience, and our huge thanks go to all the people, too numerous to mention, who have helped her along the way. We’re beyond delighted that she has now won such a prestigious award, particularly against such worthy competition. Thanks to all who voted for Darcy to be named PDSA Pet Survivor 2016!”
Vet Hal Drummond, who conducted Darcy’s emergency surgery at Conanvet in Dingwall, was recently reunited with Darcy when he moved to Parkside Vets. “When we first saw Darcy after her accident I was uncertain she would survive, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed that she would ever walk again,” he said. “To see her running around now is nothing short of miraculous. She is an incredibly brave, sweet-natured dog, and everyone who has helped in Darcy’s recovery is delighted that she’s won PDSA Pet Survivor.”
Entries for the annual award were received from all over the UK and a celebrity judging panel, which included actress Pam St Clement, helped to select the finalists. The five other pets who made it into the finals of PDSA Pet Survivor 2016 were:
- Arthur the cat – dragged himself home with an illegal animal trap clamped to his leg, which had to be amputated.
- Bodie the Labrador – was left with horrendous wounds after a vicious dog attack, requiring several major operations.
- Buddy the Jack Russell – suffered extensive burns after pulling a boiling casserole onto himself.
- Dobby the ferret – nearly died after sustaining terrible internal injuries when shaken by a large dog.
- Hans the rabbit – abandoned with a severely infected head injury caused by a dog or fox attack.
Animal lover and PDSA supporter Pam St Clement said: “It was so difficult to choose one near-tragedy over another; they are all deserving of the PDSA Pet Survivor title. These pets are truly brave survivors with loving two-legged owners and skilled veterinary teams for support.”
Wendy Lyon said: “We’ve walked at Glascarnoch Dam many times and she’s never done anything like that before. We have no idea why she suddenly decided to jump. We heard her ‘scream’ and then silence; we expected the worst and ran to look over the wall. Miraculously, she survived the fall and was looking up at us. But we could see she was badly injured.
“We were absolutely distraught as we couldn’t reach her. It took a while for the fire brigade to arrive as we were in the middle of nowhere. When the fireman carried her up the ladder, hypothermia was setting in and she was slipping in and out of consciousness, but she still managed to nuzzle his cheek.”
However, Darcy’s ordeal was still far from over; she was rushed to the nearest veterinary practice in Conon Bridge for emergency surgery to stop internal bleeding – traced to her damaged spleen which was removed. Despite her critical condition, she survived the night and was transported on a drip to Parkside Veterinary Group in Dundee for intensive care and specialist surgery.
Poor Darcy had a devastating list of injuries – air was leaking into her chest, her liver was damaged, her pelvis was fractured, her front leg was fractured and dislocated, and her back leg and hip joint had a complex, open fracture. It seemed a miracle that she was alive at all.
Vets were worried that they may not be able to save Darcy’s leg, but they could see she was a little dog with immense determination. They conducted complex orthopaedic surgery using plates and pins to hold her shattered bones into place while they healed. Just 48 hours after the operation she was standing up, wagging her tail and persuading staff to hand feed her favourite meal of fish and potatoes!
Darcy stayed at the vets for nine days recovering. Gordon and Wendy visited her twice a day and her tail was always wagging – she never once gave up.
Darcy had a further two operations – one to fix her front leg, which had to be fused at the wrist to stabilise it, and another to remove the pin from her back leg once it was sufficiently healed. At home Darcy required months of nursing and rehabilitation, but nothing was too much trouble for the miracle dog’s family. She received hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture, and is now able to run around and enjoy herself on walks again.
Wendy continued: “Darcy’s vets were extraordinary, they really went above and beyond for her. The treatment has cost thousands of pounds, thankfully her insurance has covered a lot of that although we have still had to pay for some parts of her rehab. The costs do mount up, but when we see her happy and running again it’s totally worth it. We’re blown away that she’s now won PDSA Pet Survivor – it’s a wonderful end to what has been a very difficult year.”