Born in 1997, Fennel was the only liver (brown) coloured Curly Coated Retriever in a litter of 14. Of the twelve that survived, poor little Fennel found herself rejected by her mother in the first few days of her life, perhaps Mother knew what was to come!.

During her first visit to the Vets for what should have been just a routine check, the Vet discovered a heart murmur, which he described as sounding like "an old washing machine", with Fennel being given just a few months to live. One look at the lovely little puppy, that had fitted in so well made the decision to try and save her life a mere formality. Frantic phone calls followed, which resulted in a consultation at the Cambridge Veterinary College, which gave Fennel her one chance to live - a major heart operation.

In November 1997, she visited Cambridge for her initial assessment, this was followed by surgery two weeks later. The day of the operation, was one never to be forgotten, a nail biting experience where Fennel's future (if any) was held in the balance.

A week later after an amazing recovery, she returned home as a jubilant and enthusiastic puppy, sporting a furless body with a large scar. Never has such a welcome been so appreciated, as she was collected from the college, where she had become a special favourite with all the staff.

Fennel's recovery from such a major operation was remarkable, with the small brown puppy with the large scar rapidly maturing into a big strong retriever, each day providing further justification (if it were ever needed) for the decision to undertake her life saving surgery.

With her heart operation behind her, a long and trouble free life was hoped for., however little were we to know that further trauma was just two years away. Such a happy dog was Fennel, that her tail was always wagging, so much so that surrounding objects were never safe from her whip-lash wag.

The inevitable result was of course a split end to her lovely tail, with the frequent site of blood splattered all around the house. Whilst this is not unusual in this type of dog, with many animals suffering similar problems, but usually recovering within a couple of days, poor old Fennel had an added problem of infection setting in.

Further visits to the vet resulted, with several attempts to cure the problem, this eventually led to yet further surgery to remove the infected region, with around four inches of her proud tail having to be removed.

Thirteen visits to the vet to have the dressings replaced over TWO MONTHS and it was clear that the operation had not worked, with further infection setting in. An emergency visit on a Sunday morning to the vet was greeted with an instant judgement, that the infection had become very serious and urgent action was required. The next day poor old Fennel found herself once again on the operating table, the third time in her short life. This time for what resulted in a major amputation of most of her tail, leaving just four inches for her to wag.

The operation, which we mistakenly expected to be relatively minor, turned out to be anything but, with trauma setting in, and things looking really bad for what was once a happy and enthusiastic dog. Fennel had now been reduced to a distressed and very agitated dog clearly in a state of panic and probably great pain.

Recovery from this operation, was fortunately a much shorter period, and within a few weeks, Fennel was back to her old self, having adapted and accepted her new tail, wagging it enthusiastically for every one to see.


Whilst Fennell has packed one hell of a lot into her first few years, and provided her with the reputation as being one of the costliest dogs in the area (all of her treatment was paid for without the help of any insurance cover), anyone that sees her now will agree that the money spent on her was well worth every penny.


The cost of treating her tail problems were as follows:


12 May 2000 - initial consultation & antibiotics £35.37
16 May 2000 - surgery to remove 4 inches + medication £128.85
13 visits between 16 May & 17 July consultations & dressings £125.84
 + medication £45.20
17 July 2000 - surgery to remove remainder of tail £231.50
+ medication £15.88
Total £582.64

And of course the £811.23 for her heart operation - and no insurance - phew!

I would just like to add that although Curly Coated Retrievers are not normally a docked breed, I fully understand why the Council of Docked Breeds and its supporters, do not wish to put these 50 odd breeds at risk of enduring the same pain and suffering that Fennell has gone through.