Cleveland Comhrá: Wolfhounds, Knees & Nurses

By Bob Carney

Wolfhound Part One
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’re aware that Mary and I love animals. We share our home with three cats, our little terrier Doolin, and our three Irish Wolfhounds. Draoi is our youngest, eight months as I write this, but already 120lbs. or so (he was featured on the cover of the April issue of iIrish).

A large dog by most standards, but with the brain and behavior of any eight month old puppy. Exuberant is one word that jumps to mind, he goes from one thing to the next whenever he’s awake. Aisling is a favorite target, he’s learned that if he antagonizes her long enough she usually responds and the “roughhousing” begins.

When that ends, he’s off to chase a cat or steal something to chew on, even though our house is littered with “indestructible” chew toys that we replace every two weeks or so after he makes a mockery of the maufacturers’ claims. I won’t go into detail about the firewood incident!

None of this is behavior we haven’t experienced before. Cian, who was an incredible wolfhound, chewed a hole in the middle of the living room floor carpeting. Morrighan destroyed the molding around the kitchen door from the floor to about five foot up.

All that behavior changes somewhere around eighteen or nineteen months and they become the “gentle giants” that most people are familiar with. Cian became one of the greatest ambassadors of his breed. He was always aware of his size and would become even more gentle around special needs children or anyone with a disability.

He loved the festivals and parades and thrived on all the attention he used to get even on our walks. We still miss him dearly.

Rían, my big 200 lb. male, is just over three years old and has many of those same traits. Aisling, was just turning the corner into adulthood until Draoi entered the household and she did an about face and chose to be a wild child like her new little brother for a while longer.

Our evenings and weekends revolve around the dogs, two mile walks are the norm and happen daily, along with play time in the yard, followed by a popsicle; Rían and Draoi are partial to cherry. Any wolfhound owner can tell you a story about accidental injuries they’ve endured from our heart hounds. Having your foot stepped on or getting whacked by a paw from someone looking for attention are common.

Rían will get me with a powerful head butt in a sensitive part of my anatomy when he wants his ears rubbed, and I’ve joked with Mary that if she ever has to go to the doctor’s, I’ll be arrested because of the bruises she usually has on her legs from Aisling’s tail.

Which, by the way, has also broken a lamp and most of the control knobs on our stove. I’m not complaining though, it’s a small price to pay and we always remember they soon out grow it.

Wolfhound Vs, Knee Part Two
The second part of my story took place the Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend. I was in the yard with all of the dogs, little Doolin was on chipmunk patrol. Six years and he still hasn’t caught one. The high pitched scream that comes out of him when he spots one across the yard gives his elusive adversary ample time to make it’s escape.

Anyway, the hounds were at their favorite game of chase, a clockwise circuit of the yard, around the trees on the east side of the house and along the fence on the west side. Rían will usually run a lap or two, but then will wait in ambush behind a tree or table for the other two to come around again.

Rí was behind me, over my left shoulder as Aisling ran by my left side at top speed, with Draoi in hot pursuit. When she went by, I glanced over my  shoulder to see if Rían was going to pounce on her, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.

Draoi had been focused on catching his big sister and slammed directly into my right knee. I got up cursing in some distant, long forgotten language. I thought I might have dislocated my ankle since that was where the pain seemed to be coming from.

Mary packed my ankle in ice and we watched television for a couple of hours before bed. The pain intensified during the night and by morning I couldn’t put any weight at all on that leg.

A trip to the emergency room and an x-ray showed I had a compression fracture of the tibial plateau and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. He sent me for a CAT scan and determined I had seven fractures and advised corrective surgery. Yea!

Surgery and Recovery Part Three
The surgery was performed the following Friday at Southwest Hospital and all went well. I was out of recovery and in my room by 5PM, with some new hardware in my knee; I was looking forward to going home in the morning.

Now, after forty-six years, I never sleep well when Mary isn’t by my side, and that night was no exception. I had decided against any pain medication aside from Tylenol, so I was very much aware of the work that was performed on my leg.

Around 7pm the shifts changed, and Jenna came into my room to introduce herself, take my vitals and to see if I needed anything. She told me my nurse Nikki would be in shortly to check on me.

Nikki came in soon after and we talked about large dogs as she changed my IV. Someone had written on my chart that my injury was the result of a collision with a large Irish dog.

Nikki has a Great Dane and a large labradoodle, we chatted awhile about our pet families and then she left to attend to other patients. Both young women checked on me throughout the night. On one visit I asked if their twelve hour shifts were the norm, Nikki replied they were but it allowed her to work a four day week and wasn’t really that bad.

Thank You!

As I lay there reading throughout  the night, I could hear a couple of other patients that were having a bit of a rough night, and I could not help but think of the job that Jenna and Nikki are tasked with everytime they come to work. I was reminded that night that medical training alone does not make a nurse. Compassion and empathy are just as important to someone who is frightened or in pain. So to Nikki and Jenna and everyone else that is there for us in times of need, I am grateful, and thank you all.

I would also like to thank our friend, Wizard (Loren Nauth) of for the photo!

*Bob Carney is a student of Irish language and history and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Rían, Aisling and Draoi and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected]

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