It’s a sound dog owner Gareth Hammond will never forget – the high pitched squeal of his five-month-old Labrador Ruby as she writhed in pain.
“Blood curdling is the only way I can described it,” said the 32-year-old from Shieldhill, who had taken Ruby and his other two dogs, black Labs Millie (13) and Jess (1), on their regular walk in the woods of Callendar Estate.
At home in Easton Drive on Tuesday, Gareth and wife Lauren recalled the horrifying events of last Saturday when Ruby’s right hind leg became impaled on a rusty wrought iron fence, which had been hidden in undergrowth just yards from the main path.
Gareth said: “It was at the very back of Callendar House, where the assault course is – a walk we take every single day. Millie and Jess chased a squirrel into the woods 20 yards in front of me and Ruby came running back to me and, about five yards off the path, she stopped, her right hind leg was caught.
“I ran towards her and held her because she was twisting trying to get free. As I held her I got a look at her leg – it was impaled on a section of iron fence that was lying on the ground in the undergrowth.
“It had gone right through. I put my hand around her leg to try and stop the bleeding, because by this time there was a lot of blood.”
Ruby was in so much pain, she bit her beloved owner’s ear as he tried to help her.
“She wasn’t herself when she did that – it was because she was in pain. I called for help. I couldn’t get to my phone because I didn’t want to let go of Ruby.”
Dog walkers came to help and were able to phone Lauren, who got in touch with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Vets4Pets.
Lauren (35) said: “When I got there the fire service was already at the scene. A lot of people were helping out.”
The couple were full of praise for the team from Falkirk Fire Station, Davie Dawson, Brian Bell, Davie Lines, John Wilson and Catriona McGregor and vets Kirsteen Miller and Alison Will, and the life-saving assistance they gave their “hairy bairn” in freezing cold conditions.
Firefighters used an oxygen mask to calm Ruby down and took turns on a manual hacksaw to cut her free from the fence because the powersaw they initially tried to use was moving the fence so much and causing Ruby pain.
Once she was cut free, Ruby was carried to the front of Callendar House and taken to the vets for emergency surgery, while Lauren took Gareth home to tend to his wounded ear.
“My legs were completely numb,” said Gareth. “I had been holding Ruby for almost two hours in the cold and I had trouble trying to stand up.”
Lauren said: “We let the vets take care of it, they said they were going to be at least another two hours.”
The vets initially thought the sharp piece of iron had gone through Ruby’s leg joint, but luckily it just passed through flesh, missing bones and tendons.
“Ruby is home today but she is going back for more surgery tomorrow,” said Lauren. “She has two more treatments to try and flush out the rest of her wound and get rid of all rusty iron pieces. If any touch her bone it could cause an infection and she could lose her leg. We will know what’s happening with her by the end of the week.”
Ruby was not letting her injury slow her down on Tuesday, playing with Millie and Jess.
Gareth said: “She is definitely on the mend. This is the first day she has been back to her usual self. The first couple of days after it happened she wasn’t Ruby, she was a bit strange for a while.”
Now Gareth and Lauren are hoping Ruby gets the all clear from the vets and they can enjoy a happy Christmas with her and their other “hairy bairns”.
However, the couple have real concerns about the wrought iron fence in Calledar Estate and are calling on Falkirk Community Trust to get rid of it before someone else is injured.
Lauren said: “We are just worried about the safety of everyone who uses the paths in the woods. Ruby got hurt on this occasion, but it could just as easily have been a small child – it’s just a matter of time before someone get’s really hurt if nothing is done.
“The Trust got in touch with us apologising profusely for what happened. It was a boundary fence to divide Callendar Woods from Callendar Estate. They told us they didn’t know this boundary fence was there, that it must have been from the 1940s or 50s.
“They said they had a man working there for seven years and he didn’t even know it was there. It looks like it fell down, or was blown down, years ago and things have just grown over it.”
Gareth said: “You only have to stray off the path a few yards and you will be tripping over it.”
Claire Mennim, team leader parks and recreation with Falkirk Community Trust, said: “Ruby’s owner Lauren made us aware of the incident at the weekend and our staff immediately cordoned off the area and have since removed the old metal fence. We hope that Ruby makes a full recovery.”