Ian Fortune

Just a few minutes before 8pm on Monday evening, the phone buzzed beside me. I was just about to put the kids to bed when a rush of emotion swept over me as I watched a short video of a greyhound walking on grass.

The message had come from Owen McKenna and the video was of Pestana. Just nine days after suffering a career ending injury in the final of the Boylesports Irish Derby, the brilliant brindle looked like any normal dog sniffing his surroundings, enjoying a stroll and more than content with life.   

Surely, it couldn’t be Pestana, however. Here was a dog walking with fluency, with a pep in his step and no obvious scarring, just a few areas of shaved hair. I replied to the message with a request to share it. “You can of course”, was Owen’s response.

And so, at 9.02pm I posted the video on twitter (Pic right) . For the next twelve hours, the response from the greyhound world was incredible. So many likes, retweets and the feeling of good will towards the dog was immense.

Many commented on how the veterinary team had done an incredible job. That seems undeniable and Owen McKenna echoed that view when we caught up with him on Tuesday morning.      

Said Owen, “I got the call yesterday [Monday] morning that the dog was ready to be picked up. I was actually in Cork trialling dogs but couldn’t take him. He’d need to be on his own so I dropped the dogs back and came back for him in the afternoon.

“The dog walked out. I was amazed. Considering what he’s gone through he looked a picture. He’s a little light but that’s to be expected but there he was in front of me wagging his tail. I’ve already said it but Denis Beary did a great job, the first few hours were vital and he was made so comfortable.

“When we dropped him in Cork, I had to carry him in with a massive cast on his leg and now here we are looking at him standing there, after walking out on his own, wagging his tail.

“I’m amazed by the job that Shane Guerin and Ciaran Jones did. They did a master job. They started to tell me about what they did which included a bone graft, taken from his shoulder, there was mention of stem cells but it was all very complicated. It’s just amazing what they can do.

“We have to bring him back down in a few days to get the stitches out and they will keep a close eye on him with a six week and ten week check-up. We’re absolutely delighted to have him back and we’re so grateful to everyone that helped, especially Denis, Shane and Ciaran.

“He’s like one of the family. [Owen chuckles] I’d say they’re happier to see the dog back than if I were in the same situation.”

As I write these words, the video of Pestana having his stroll has been viewed over 22,500 times. You can say what you like but it’s perfectly clear that greyhound people love their dogs. We as a sport will continue to take joy from watching our canine athletes race but, when it comes down to the nuts and bolts, we just love our dogs and Pestana reminded us all of that fact.