Sandy stepped into an illegally placed rabbit trap.

The trap pulled the skin off her right back foot.

The injury was so severe, that it took more than 2 months to heal and her leg had to be bandaged for more than half a year.

2 months, which cost us not only 4000 pounds, but also countless nerves and tears. Tears of despair and tears of relief.

This is the story of a summer. Of the summer with the rabbit trap.

Please note, that bloody and messy pictures appear further down in the text.

It is July 11 in Wickham, southern England.

We were walking in the early evening on the wide woodland path of the 16 kilometer Meon Valley Trail, which is part of the South Downs National Park. It was a humid 27 degrees. The sun glistened through the dense canopy of leaves above our sweaty heads.

Sandy and Tia enjoyed the evening walk under the shady trees.

For three weeks already, we had been working as house sitters in Knowle, very close to Wickham. It was our last walk before leaving for Swindon, 200 km to the north, where another housesit was waiting for us. These following two cell phone photos were taken just before the accident. We did not yet know, that this would be our last walk for many weeks.

We had already been hiking through the forest for over an hour.

Accordingly, our car was far away.

The dogs ran freely around us and also sniffed around the bushes at the edge of the path.

Suddenly, we noticed that Sandy fell back a good 20 meters behind us and was limping badly. We thought it was a thorn in her foot and rushed to her side. What we saw, however, left us speechless.

The entire skin of her hind leg was gone. Just gone. We looked at the open flesh, through which clearly visible, her bones and tendons shone through. She was bleeding, shaking badly and in shock.

We didn’t know what to do at first. We were standing in the middle of the forest. The car was more than an hour’s walk away. So was the nearest town. We didn’t know anyone in the area, had no cell phone reception and no way to call a cab or ask anyone for help.

We didn’t know how bad the injury was, if veins were torn and Sandy was bleeding to death in our arms.

All we knew was, that we would now run. As fast as we could.

First, I took off my Shirt and wrapped it around her leg, to stop the bleeding and protect the wound from dirt. Then an hour of agony began.

We took her backwards in our arms and took turns carrying her. The hot, humid climate and the rising panic were getting to us. After a good 30-minute walk, we had cell phone reception for the first time and called vets. No easy feat. The reception kept going away and it was already after 7pm. A vet clinic near Wickham had emergency service and agreed to take us in.

I was already physically and mentally exhausted and crying into the phone. Sandy was also completely overheated, in great pain and made a tortured face, but remained silent. Tia functioned perfectly in this situation and took responsibility for herself. We didn’t have an eye for her, so we asked her to just stay closely behind us, which she did.

When we finally arrived at the car after over an hour, soaking wet with sweat and physically exhausted, we put Tia in the back seat and Sandy and me in the trunk. We gave everyone something to drink and immediately drove towards the vet.

Of course I didn’t think of photos in this situation. Therefore, there are no photos of the accident.

The wound shortly after the accident looked bad. Scraps of fur were hanging down everywhere. Blood flowed everywhere. Bones and tendons shone through. Earth and dirt everywhere. I’m glad I didn’t take this photo. 

We took the first photo at the vet, four days later. Accordingly, the following photo shows the four-day-old wound, already cleaned, shaved and bandaged twice.

When we arrived at the clinic, Sandy was treated for about two hours.

We were not allowed into the surgery and I was expecting the worst. After an agonizing wait, the door suddenly opened and Sandy limped towards us, her leg wrapped in a thick blue star bandage. I could hardly believe that she was standing on her own feet.

The veterinarian confirmed our suspicion of an animal trap.

The skin had been cut off razor sharp. The diagnosis was a so-called “full thickness skin defect”, in the size of 10×15 cm. This means, that all layers of skin are completely gone, leaving only flesh and bone.

Sandy would need a skin transplant, we were told. It would not close on its own.

From now on, she would need a dressing change at the vet every 48 hours. And that for the next 3 – 6 months, depending on the healing process and the transplant procedure.

Sandy was only allowed to walk and stand for 5 minutes at a time from now on. Must lie down all day. Was not allowed to run. Was not allowed to play. Was not allowed to get wet under any circumstances. If the bandage got even a little bit wet, it would have to be changed immediately, otherwise it would start to chafe and cause inflammation. Changing the professional paw bandage is possible only at the vet.

For the first time, we were glad about this dry summer.

She was not allowed to step even in small drops of water. We tried to prevent the drops around the drinking bowl by laying towels on all the tiles. Access to the kitchen was denied to her from now on.

She would also be put on antibiotics for two months and have to take pain medication daily, until she healed. Not to mention the countless vet visits.

Throughout the entire period, Sandy remained the favorite of all the vets. She took it all in stride. She stood there like a statue and had her leg bandaged without batting an eye.

Even though strangers are always suspicious to her and she doesn’t like to be touched by them.

Even though we were very often not allowed into the treatment room with her, as this is not very common in England.

Not in her dreams would she think of going with strangers or even paying attention to them. If I asked her to go with the nurse, she did. Even though it scared her, she trusted my judgment. I could not have been more proud of her.

When we arrived at our vacation home, I first burst into tears.

We arrived in England three weeks before the accident. We were booked for 5 house sits over the next 6 months. One of them in Northern Ireland. The morning after the accident was already the first moving day. Two Magyar Vizslas and half an acre of land were waiting. Long car rides. Moves. New dogs. Pure stress for the injured Sandy, one day after her accident. We didn’t have a permanent home to return to. My guilty conscience expanded into the bottomless pit. I felt so sorry for Sandy and blamed myself for everything that was, still to come and ever will be.

I immediately contacted the homeowners in Swindon.

I told them what had happened and what consideration now had to be given to Sandy.

They reacted in an exemplary manner and immediately made the next doctor’s appointments with their vet for us. Because from now on, it was every 48 hours to change the bandages. For the next few months.

I would have preferred to take a vacation home for several months. Impossible, however, at such short notice and in the middle of the English summer vacations, while thousands of pounds of veterinary bills came our way.

Our savings were used up in no time and we worked like military horses to finance everything. This only worked out with the possibility of free living.

For the first time, I tasted the downsides of being a nomad to the fullest. Never before had I longed so much for a permanent home.

Sandy hated her finger-thick bandage.

She initially refused to do her business, limping on the leash. So we unleashed her and let her decide on her three legs where she wanted to go.

With strong painkillers, she seemed to be relatively pain free. Again and again she asked us to play and wanted to do her daily hooks and somersaults, which we had to forbid with bleeding hearts.

She was not allowed to walk for more than 5 minutes at a time. The frustration and constant bans visibly wore on her, even though she never admitted it to us.

The most annoying thing about our short runs, however, were unfamiliar dogs.

We always shouted to the owners, that our dog was injured and not allowed to run around or play. In 90% of the cases, however, the other dog owners were not able to call their dog back. And so, we constantly had strange, bouncing, sometimes yelping dogs, hanging on our butts.

With healthy dogs already annoying. With injured dogs, however, an absolute no-go. I really do get infuriated. Dogs that don’t have a functioning recall, belong on a leash! No matter how friendly they are. There is absolutely no discussion.  We have already gotten into so many unpleasant and sometimes dangerous situations, that the subject really gets me on my nerves.

On wet days or early in the morning, or late at night, we put a poop bag with Velcro over her bandage, so it wouldn’t get wet. At night, she slept with a cone. During the day, one of us always stayed with her, so she wouldn’t fiddle with the bandage. The latter was her greatest wish, which she was soon to fulfill one terrible Sunday morning. More about that later.

The first moving trip went smoothly.

We put Sandy in her fluffy bed, as this is her favorite and we wanted to make sure she had a little more support in the car and moved as little as possible. Also, we wanted her to have her own area, so Tia wouldn’t accidentally step on her leg. Later we bought a plastic tray as a boundary. I would have preferred to buy a kennel with a partition grid. However, this failed due to space and logistics. I have resolved to implement this at a later date to ensure more safety.

The two Vizslas, Fleur and Fred, were very sweet and calm dog parents.

They welcomed Tia and Sandy and shared all the rooms with them without any objections. The house was huge. Sandy and Tia got their own living room. The property was laid out like a massive park. So we didn’t have to leave the property with Sandy, which we were more than happy to do, because of many unpleasant dog encounters.

The garden was so huge, that we walked her there and she could spend the rest of the day dozing in the sun in front of fragrant lavender flowers. Right by the garden gate bordered a forest and lake area. There we took Tia and the Vizslas for a walk. But always separately. One of us always stayed with Sandy to spare her any emotional stress.

Except for her injury, Sandy was basically fine.

However, I decided to increase her food ration by 1/3 during the acute phase of her wound healing. Not because she was too thin, but because I wanted to signal to her body, that it could go into full gear in terms of wound healing. It should know itself so well supplied, that it did not even think about saving on wound healing.

Similar to bodybuilding. The body should build up in certain places and not even get the idea to suspect a deficiency somewhere. We have always cooked high quality food for our dogs. Optimal supply of all nutrients is instrumental in good wound healing (and everything else). Since Sandy’s fantastic wound healing surprised all the vets and I felt vindicated in what I was doing, I wrote a blog article about my way of feeding dogs during that time, which you can read HERE.

In fact, Sandy gained a full pound during the course of the wound. However, according to doctors, she was still at a normal weight, which of course was very important to me. In no way did I want to push her into obesity, just give her body a push in the right direction.

The first photo of the wound was taken four days after the accident.

Since then, I have documented the course of the wound at every dressing change.

Since we changed vets several times during the course of the wound process due to our moves, I e-mailed the photographic wound documentation and the medical history of the previous vet to each new doctor in advance.

This was quite an effort each time. Many vets were not accepting new patients. We had to call around a lot. Repeatedly, the announced medical history was not sent from vet to vet, as promised. We did not feel comfortable with every vet right away. Some took the triple rate of the previous vet. And twice we had to go to an emergency clinic on Sundays. In all, six different vet clinics were involved from the beginning to the end of the wound process.

The wound healed so fantastically, that after three weeks, it was decided to try secondary healing. This means allowing the wound to close on its own and only supporting it with dressing changes, antibiotics and pain medication.

However, with such a wound size, there is a risk, that the wound will scar and grow too tightly together, limiting the dog’s movement in the long run. But since the wound healing looked good, we wanted to spare the skin the trauma and risk of grafting.

While the actual wound was healing well, the healthy skin under the permanent dressing began to react. The leg became really sore and the dressing literally scrubbed holes in the skin. Despite the thick cotton pad and our attempts to keep Sandy as still as possible, her healthy skin reacted strongly. We couldn’t do much. The bandage had to stay on. We could only try to keep Sandy calm and dry. In the following you can see the healing of the wound during our stay in Swindon over the whole month of July.

One horrible Sunday, Sandy decided she didn’t want to wear her bandage anymore.

For the first week after the injury, she still slept with her cone on in the living room, next to Tia.

When we came into the living room one morning, the shock: Sandy had fumbled off the entire bandage overnight in the most meticulous fashion. She must have somehow slipped off the well-fitting cone.

Sandy was now lying on the hairy living room carpet with her open, bleeding leg. And not only that. Next to her bed was a large vomit stain in which we made out her thick wound dressing. Not wanting to wait until breakfast, she ate her wound dressing, which was soaked with wound fluid, and eventually threw it up again.

The risk for infection from dirt in the wound was huge.

It could have cost her the leg. I roughly cleaned the wound with bottled water and tweezers and applied an amateurish bandage from our car bandage kit. Then, we made calls to veterinary clinics, because it was Sunday and our vet was closed. We finally drove to a clinic further away to have the bandage renewed and the wound professionally cleaned. 200 pounds was the cost of this Sunday fun. Amazingly, the wound didn’t get infected and continued to heal peacefully. Even more amazing was, that the outside temperature was 38 degrees and our air conditioning failed just that Sunday. We wet Sandy’s fur and our own heads with water, packed her in the back seat and hoped we wouldn’t get heat stroke.

After this mishap, we decided not to let Sandy out of our sight.

We positioned her bed next to ours. Normally our dogs don’t sleep in the bedroom. They sleep in the living room.

It was an adjustment for all of us.

Sandy, at this time, was a very loud sleeper.
She would let loose while she slept.
Every night, we woke up several times to her barking, growling and woofing, while she dreamed wildly.

A few times she would roar at the top of her lungs in her dreams, causing us to stand upright in bed, thinking she was being lynched by a burglar. She doesn’t bark at all when awake. Really absolutely not at all! But when she’s asleep, no one can beat her. Whether it was due to the pills or her mental imbalance, we still don’t know.

We also decided to get a pet camera.

As soon as we left the room for even a moment, Sandy started messing with the bandage.

A single wet lick alone would not only cost us 200 pounds and result in an immediate vet visit. A premature dressing change would disrupt the wound dormancy, which should be maintained until the actual dressing change. So it was elementary, that she didn’t mess around with the bandage and a permanent cone around her neck is torture, i felt.

So, for example, when we were cooking in the kitchen, we always had the camera running on the phone. If Sandy touched the bandage, we would yell a salty “Sandy Stop It” from the kitchen.

Sandy was initially outraged, that we could see what she was doing, even though we weren’t even in the room. She quickly realized that our eyes seemed to be everywhere. Since she became aware of our psychokinetic abilities and therefore didn’t want to mess with us, she quickly stopped the constant fumbling with bandages.

Week after week passed.

Our lives had been fully adjusted to Sandy.

Planned trips, festival visits, hiking tours, stud inspections, movies, museums, dining out, nothing was possible anymore. Surely we could have just locked Sandy in a cage, strapped the cone tight to the max, and jetted off by car. Oh dear, how I would have loved that.

However, we felt this would have meant total stress for Sandy and didn’t want to put her through that. Especially since we were already subjecting her to the stress of constant moves and new care dogs.

Any stress slows down the healing of the wound, that was my feeling. Sandy needed to be as relaxed and content as possible. And I think she was. Not least thanks to the beautiful weather, the huge sun garden and the nice dog company. We were insanely lucky to be able to spend the first phase of her healing on such an estate.

As the wound continued to heal, we changed accommodations several times.

We confirmed our arrangements as house sitters. Sandy had by now gotten used to her lumpy foot and was walking without a limp.

As she got better and better, we expanded our walks from 5, to 10, to 20 and 30 minutes a day. What worked and what didn’t was revealed by changing the bandages every 48 hours. In fact, all normal walks up to 30 minutes (per day!) were fine. Anything over 30 minutes was followed by a sore front hind leg. The hot summer made sweaty feet (yes, even for dogs) and they unfortunately chafed with every step. Still, we were incredibly grateful for our first walks together, which, thanks to our slightly later month-long house sit in London, were not longer, but increasingly spectacular.

For months, we feverishly awaited our very last visit to the vet.

Although we no longer had to change the bandages every two days from the 2nd month, but could extend this to every three to four days, we, and especially Sandy, were tired of the many doctor’s visits. We just wanted to be able to live and walk normally again. We hoped at each doctor’s visit, that it would be the last and that the damn wound would just close up.

It actually seemed to be shrinking at the sides.

The following photos show Sandy’s wound healing until just before it healed.

And then came the day of days.

The 23rd of August. We thought it would be a usual dressing change. The wound was not closed yet. There was still a small open spot. Under normal circumstances, the doctors would have continued dressing, until the wound was completely closed. However, the actually healthy skin under the dressing was so sore and swollen, that it was decided that Sandy’s dressing would come off and she would have to continue to heal openly. The complication of the healthy skin no longer warranted a bandage.

But freedom was still far from being granted to us.

In the last two weeks of wound healing, we went through hell once again. Since Sandy’s wound was now exposed, she was allowed to move even less from now on, than she already did.

Her paw pads also looked terrible. They were covered with thick yellow scabs. In between a thick tuft of long grown foot hair, between crooked grown claws.

She was no longer allowed in the garden. No more playing. No lying on the dusty ground (which, without a kennel, we could only prevent with 24/7 presence). She had to wear her cone constantly and lie on a clean towel, which had to be changed several times a day. She was not allowed to lie on anything more than a towel.

The wound was bleeding constantly.

Even the healed skin around the open area was completely unstable. If Sandy sat on it for even a short time or crawled lightly over her bed with her leg, somewhere would tear open again. Apart from that, dirt immediately got in, even if it was just hair from the towel and dust from the air.

The last phase of healing was the most exhausting for our nerves and absolutely the most frustrating for Sandy. Theoretically, we should have been straitjacketing her to the bed. And constantly, everywhere blood. No matter how careful we were, the wound was always dirty and caked with hair.

My feeling told me, that all this wasn’t right. I decided to follow my gut, against the advice of the vet. After two days and nights of hell, I bandaged Sandy myself.

It just didn’t feel right to let the wound heal that way and get blood all over the house.

Weeks before, with the help of videos and our vets, I trained myself to apply a professional paw bandage and ordered all the necessary utensils to do so.

What I did, however, was not a full paw bandage. I spared the sore front leg and sore pads and bandaged only in the middle.

I disregarded the rule, that a bandage must always go over the first joint, because Sandy’s joint was thickly swollen from the bandages.

I really had to leave this one free.

The wound itself, however, I wanted to protect. As long as it was bleeding, I protected it day and night with a non-adherent absorbent bandage, which I placed relatively loosely around the leg and secured with bandage tape.

I changed the bandages every morning and every evening.

My feeling proved me right. Since I started bandaging it myself, everything became much more relaxed. The wound was able to heal without complications and Sandy regained some quality of life.

And eventually the day came when the crust fell off and the thing was closed.

Sandy was free. We were free. We had made it. Months of agony were behind us. Thousands of pounds later, the damn wound was finally healed.

However, -healed- did not mean, that it could not tear open again.

The scar bed was absolutely unstable. It felt like a soft sponge. A small tumble in the garden and there was again a fleshy tear in it, which visually resembled a mud hole.

Once grazed on the branch and a thick bruise developed. And one night Sandy hacked a small hole in the scar, with a claw.

So -closed up- did not mean Sandy could jump around again as she pleased. We still had to protect the wound. And so I decided to wrap two layers of adhesive bandage around her wound for every walk.

If it rained, Sandy still wore a bag around her leg, because wet bandages chafe. And if there were complications from an open area, I padded the wound with a piece of non-adherent absorbent dressing and cleaned it with coconut oil.

Sandy was incredibly energetic after these days of being strictly confined to bed and was very happy when she was finally allowed to go for a walk again.

The first walk, when she was allowed to run again, almost broke Tia’s back. The dogs chased each other over a meadow, as they used to do.

Sandy, however, had the glorious idea to crash into Tia’s already unstable backside at full speed.

We watched this moment. It was definitely not an accident, but pure intention. She unloaded her pent-up frustration on Tia. Not frontally aggressive, but through arrogance and discreet insolence.

By chance we filmed the near accident. Tia flew through the air screaming, bounced sideways on the ground and sore miserably before she finally regained her footing and stood on her four paws.

Sandy got Tia’s claw in her eye at the same time. It looked terrible. No one was insured. Sandy had to walk next to us the rest of the stroll and Tia was fed up for the time being.

When the wound closed, we had tried it once, without a bandage on the beach in Great Yarmouth. There were no problems in the sand. In the dune grass, the scar was scratched again and immediately started bleeding. Since then, Sandy only goes on big tours with adhesive bandage and I always carry spare bandage material with me.

And even today, in the fall of the year 2022, in which I am writing this text here, Sandy wears her adhesive bandage.

Not in the house. Not in the garden. Not even for a quick pee round the corner. But whenever we go for our big round. When we dash for hours through the woods and across meadows. When we dig for mice and climb up trees.

And yet, we have become more cautious. We are more worried when our dogs run through the bushes. We even forbid them to do so in places we don’t know or in places we can’t easily see in. Sometimes more often than we like. Than perhaps is healthy for us.

Our freedom has always been the highest good for me and it still is. I have always been aware, that the price of the absolute freedom of my dogs is the work on their perfect obedience.

This means, above all, that they trust me when I tell them, that they must come to me now. That they trust me when I tell them, not to eat certain things. Not to fear certain people. Not to enter certain places.

Obedience to me means above all respect and trust in a relationship characterized by deep friendship, absolute honesty and one hundred percent respect.

Sandy, but also Tia, have gone through a lot in the year of this injury. Have had to put up with a lot. Had to endure a lot. Experienced a lot of frustration. Dried some of my tears, and I theirs. Both dogs belong to the highly sensitive, very lively and eager to run individuals, who are used to jumping around freely in nature half the day.

Both dogs have mastered this difficult time just wonderfully.

Where my patience was lacking and my nerves were gone, they kept theirs. If I cried, they laughed demonstratively in my face. They never got angry. They never despaired. Not because they are constructed like this, quite the opposite, but because they felt that we, as a family, were all in the same boat and had to make the best of the situation.

Our friendship grew into the limitless through this intense time. We trust each other blindly. We are able to read each other’s smallest gestures. There are simply no more misunderstandings.

And now the time has come, when they must help me to regain the trust in freedom. Because my trauma, as a self-confessed and slightly hypersensitive anxiety patient, sits deep.

But their freedom is their greatest asset. And mine, too. They remind me of this every day, as they bounce through nature with beaming faces, urging me to shed my fear, do the same and follow them.

Below the complete wound healing at a glance, followed by a few motion pictures from these sad, deprived and somehow still eerily beautiful summer days.