The Healing Hound

Hi everyone

Now normally you would be expecting to hear from Harry in this blog. On this occasion Harry has given me kind permission or pawmission as he would say to utilise his blog.

My reason for wanting to write my own blog is I am increasingly being asked by the media how Harry got started on Twitter and how we have ended up where we are today. As I am the reason or should I say life got in the way and that is the reason for Harry’s ramblings I felt it best that it should be me who tries to explain things. So here goes I hope you enjoy this human blog.


Heather with Harry and Maggie

Firstly, my name is Heather. I am lovingly referred to as “the boss” by Harry a name that has stuck with me since he came to live with us as a tiny pup just over 4 years ago. Why the boss I hear you ask! Well maybe you didn’t ask but I will explain anyway! As all the good books on how to train your puppy will tell you there can be only one pack leader. That title defaulted to me. Now that seems straight forward but as is the way with most springers Harry would insist on trying to be the boss and I fear these days he calls me the boss as a term of endearment rather than I am actually THE Boss. So yes, whilst I am called “the boss” it is not clear as yet that I am actually in charge at all.

Moving forward two years, well to be precise the 31st March 2012 and my reason for being so precise will become clear in a moment. On the surface it was a normal day. A Saturday. A dry sunny spring morning. The dogs had been out early in the morning and I had been having a well deserved lie in after working a very long week. I had my own business which was 5 years in the making with employees and offices. It was hard work but very enjoyable and we had taken on a last minute job on the Friday which had meant a lot of driving for me and one of my team but it was work.

So at about 8:30 I dragged myself out of bed. I felt a bit heavy headed but thought nothing of it just assumed too much sleep. Who would have ever thought it was possible to have too much sleep! Anyway, I went downstairs to the kitchen with crazy bed head and heard the patter of 8 paws heading my way as Harry and Maggie ran to greet me with their normal bounce. But they stopped dead before they reached me. Not only that they sat down and stared at me. Blimey I thought I am not that scary looking! I know I probably looked a bit rough but surely not enough to stop two lively dogs in their tracks. “What’s up with the dogs?” I shouted. “Nothing” came the response. As the kettle was boiling I went into the hall and looked at myself in the mirror as you do just to make sure you look as rough as you feel! Harry and Maggie sat and stared. They did not move they did not take their eyes of me they stared. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “not a great look” but then I noticed something. On the right Side of my neck there were small purple blue marks. Like bruises or a friction rash. I looked at it and thought must have scratched myself in the night.

I went back into the kitchen and finished making the tea. I took it into the sitting room and Harry and Maggie followed. Maggie sat down next to me and Harry stood and stared. “What on earth is wrong with the dogs?” I said. “Nothing they have been running around all morning” replied my then partner. I was starting to feel uneasy by their behaviour at this point. Neither had greeted me. Neither had run up to me and smothered me with licks. Yvonne tried to call them away but Maggie refused to budge. I sat down and said “oh I have a bruise on my neck” Yvonne looked and said that’s strange. “Do you feel ok?” I said I had a terrible heavy head. With that Maggie came and sat directly in front of me. She sat and stared. Yvonne went to the kitchen and came back with a glass. She made me stand up and put the glass against my neck. I told her not to be silly it was not meningitis just a bruise.

We had breakfast and then I said I would take the dogs on the field next to our house. However, the dogs would not let me walk more than a few steps and then would sit in front of me and block my way. I was starting to get cross with them at this point. I was scared if the truth be known.

The bruising had spread by now and Yvonne told me to call my mum who lived 10 minutes away. I also called NHS direct and the on call GP. Mum arrived whilst we were on hold and looked at me. The strange bruise rash had spread to my ears and hairline. NHS direct came on the phone and said go to hospital to be on safe side. The on call GP said it was nothing to worry about. We listened to NHS direct and my mum took me to A&E. Yvonne had stayed behind to look after Harry and Maggie.

We arrived at Addenbrooks hospital and prepared ourselves for a long Saturday wait. Thinking that there would be the usual DIY injuries or footballers. At the entrance was the triage nurse. The rash was noticeable now and the nurse took one look and me pointed at some chairs away from everyone else and said book in and wait there” I remember thinking how precise she had been. No sooner had my bum hit the chair than I was asked to follow another nurse and was put in a private room with my mum. A few minutes later another nurse came in told me to get on the bed and she put a line in my arm. Then another nurse came in and took bloods. Scared? I was terrified. After taking my blood pressure there were lots of bruises left. A Dr came in and asked me some questions about how I felt etc. I felt a bit poorly with a heavy head but nothing more than that. The Dr said she would be back when the bloods came back. Mum said she would go and get a paper and a sandwich as was lunchtime.

About 40 minutes later a very worried Dr came back. I have never seen a worried Dr but this lady was positively panicking. She said they needed to run my bloods again as they thought the results must be wrong. She said my platelets were 12000 they should be 250000. I did not know what she was going on about but then it hit me. Leukemia. They took more blood but I was bruising everywhere at this stage. About 30 mins later I was really not very well. I was losing concentration not entirely all there if honest. The Dr came back with a nurse. “We are admitting you immediately, we need to take you for a brain scan and chest x-Ray now “I looked at mum and said “go get Yvonne”

The next few hours are a blur but I got taken for an MRI scan and then x-Ray and then to a ward. The oncology ward. I was still fully clothed. My body was covered in bruises. Deep dark purple bruises. They did not hurt. There was a flurry of activity. It was dark outside and they hooked me up to a bag of platelets to try and stabilise me. My platelets went up to 13000 but within 30 minutes had plummeted to 2000 as my body continued to attack itself. I had started bleeding from my nose too and I could hear the nurse outside on phone to blood bank saying get blood here she is bleeding out. I knew it was me. The fact was I was dying. I was undressed and put in clean pyjamas while they tried to make me comfortable. My left eye had also haemorrhaged at this point. I guess I looked a mess! Two Drs came to see me and said the bruising was my body haemorrhaging my body was attacking itself they did not know why. They wanted to take bone marrow and whilst there was a great risk in me bleeding they thought was worth the risk. The pressure in my head was unbelievable and I was really at the mercy of what needed to be done. They tried for 2 hours to get bone marrow. I went into shock and they stopped. I had sung throughout the procedure first was “I am forever blowing bubbles” and then I had sung “oh happy day”. I have no idea why they popped into my head. One of the Drs talked about my beloved Harry as I had mentioned him earlier. As I lay there I could see his beautiful face.

After the unsuccessful bone marrow attempts mum and Yvonne came back in. They looked tired, worried, scared but I felt calm. If this was my time to go then so be it. They had called in the out of hours eye Dr as I was bleeding from my left eye. I could not see but still I made a decision. I asked mum and Yvonne to go home get some rest. I asked Yvonne to kiss the dogs for me and tell them that I loved them. I gave my ring to Yvonne and my watch to my mum. I told them to look after them and give them back when I was better. Despite protests they left. A quick trip in wheelchair to see the eye Dr and then back to the ward. I lay there my life in the balance. Not being given much chances of living but not knowing that at the time. I was checked every 15 minutes. I lay there until a nurse stuck her head around the door and said it was April fools day. That made me smile and I remember saying is this all a joke then. She came over stroked my hair and said “unfortunately not sweetheart” I will never forget her kindness.

I watched the sun rise hooked up to drips and machines. Whilst I could not see out of my left eye I was in awe of the sunrise and grateful for being given the good fortune to see it again. To this day I do not sleep with curtains closed for I am grateful for each day I wake and see the glorious sunrise or rain. The Dr came to see me and said she had not expected to have seen me still here. She said I had them all very worried. They still did not have a reason for why I was so ill but they believed I had something called ITP. My body was basically killing itself and my immune system was seeing my blood and platelets as foreign. Basically my autoimmune system was playing space invaders with my body. They did not rule out another attempt at bone marrow something which causes me fear to this day. I was far from out of the woods but the fact I was alive was a step forward. They needed to suppress my immune system so I was started on 60mg of steroids as well as tablets to stop me bleeding and pain killers I was on 18 tablets a day.

Because my body was in crises it became increasingly difficult for them to take blood. They ended up taking blood from very strange and painful places but even then they were running out of options having started to look for veins on my feet. They could not even change the line in my arm for fear of them not being able to stop the bleeding. As bruises formed patterns in my legs I did wonder if I joined the dogs would I get the winning lottery numbers! I was weak, tired and pretty beat up but one thing I sat and stared at was a picture of my beloved Harry and Maggie. There was to be a further cruel twist in my illness. My lips turned black and my mouth filled with blood blisters. I could not eat or drink hot drinks. The nurses made me ice chocolate smoothies and the tea lady made me tea and left it to go cool before bringing to me. To say I was well looked after was an understatement. My mum would sit with me during the day as I drifted in and out of consciousness and she would tell me about Harry and Maggie.

At night it was lonely. I would watch the staff working and on a couple of occasions I would watch them wheel out a trolley heading for the mortuary as another cancer patient had lost their battle. I remember thinking I would never leave the hospital alive. After a couple of days in hospital a PAT dog was brought into the ward. That visit from a canine lifted my spirits. I cannot even begin to describe the joy I felt seeing a pooch. What an amazing thing these dogs do for people. After a week in hospital and a few bags of platelets pumped into me I was allowed home. I left in a wheelchair and sobbed my thank you sniffles to the staff. I could not believe I was leaving alive still ill but alive. My life had changed forever.

I arrived home and Harry and Maggie had been contained in the boot room. I desperately wanted to see them but I knew that I could not afford to cut or injure myself. I walked in the kitchen, well more of a shuffle if honest, and saw them they looked beautiful. Harry drooped his ears and had such a soft face and Maggie wagged her tail furiously. They were calm and gentle and loving and I cried into Harry’s fur and thanked them both for protecting me and alerting us to the fact I was seriously ill. They had both sensed how ill I was and whilst it was confusing and annoying at the time, those two amazing dogs had tried their best to stop me coming into harms way by shepherding me around the house and protecting me things.

Over the weeks of recovery my moods were not good. The tablets had bad side effects and I would frequently go between good moods and being furious and angry. Yet through this and despite me shouting at the dogs they came and sat with me and Harry would snuggle up to me on the sofa with a face saying “it’s ok boss I am here” our bond deepened we became inseparable.

One day I thought to myself “I wonder how many dogs are on twitter” I had a twitter account for my business already with a couple of thousand followers but the idea of Harry tweeting intrigued me. I checked and was amazed at how many there were. I set about getting Harry tweeting and soon he made friends with lots of amazing dogs, cats and people. Some of who are friends to this very day yet do not know the journey I have been on. I always laugh with people and say it was my drug induced state that lead us to twitter and in a way that is absolutely true. On my road to recovery we decided to write a blog and then a book and all the while Harry’s popularity grew. In my mind I wanted to celebrate this beautiful dog and his sisfur who had given me so much love and hope in my darkest times. I wanted to show the world this beautiful animal who had saved my life not medically but spiritually. He was there with me always no matter what mood I was in.

However, Harry had developed a limp on his back leg. He had torn his cruciate ligament. In May 2012 he underwent an op. It was my turn to care for him even though I was still ill myself. I stayed up with him and helped him recover. Together we helped each other heal. It was another chance for us to bond. We simply had an understanding. In September 2012 I was forced to realise that I was not going to be the same Heather with the same energy as I once had so we decided that we would shut up the company and move to Devon. It broke my heart but I knew it was for the best. We set our date to move, November 2012.

In October 2012 my platelets were good and I was withdrawn from the steroids. Again though I noticed Harry limping. I would joke that he had come out in sympathy with me. Unfortunately Harry had ruptured his other cruciate ligament and a week before we moved to Devon he was operated on.

Life has trundled along for us the last year. I am still under the hospital, I have new problems and am currently undergoing hospital tests. I had a further MRI recently and one of my best friends Mandi @bellisimobella1 mum made me cry with laughter saying that the hospital may get confused as my brain is half dog. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that I intend to live everyday with positivity.

This brings me up to Woofstock UK. A lot of people think I am crazy to set up a festival but it is my opportunity to give back to say thank you to everyone for all the love and joy we have felt over the last two years even though you may not realise it. It is mine and Harry’s opportunity to do something good, something barking mad something that we can say “we did that” who knows what tomorrow may bring. I very nearly did not have a tomorrow.

I do not know what my future holds or how long my future is, but this I do know I want to leave this world saying I lived life. As for Harry, he is my rock. People who do not have animals will probably not “get” this blog. For those of you who do, hug your animals a little tighter, tell them you love them for they are miracles I certainly will cherish harry, Maggie and now Honey for as long as I am privileged to have them as part of my life.

So come and join us to celebrate on 5th August 2017 for our 3rd year. Come and celebrate life, your animals and the joy they give you. We look forward to seeing you there so be sure to come and find me and Harry. For now I will pass back to Harry as he is far better at all this than me!

Woofstock UK 2017 Poster 2


Heather xx

24 thoughts on “The Healing Hound

  1. Hi Heather, I’m @themilliedog’s mum and she’s cross with me now for giving her a big hug after reading your blog. You and I met at a business exhibition (I think it was at Wood Green Animal Shelter) not long before you became ill. I knew you had moved to Devon and had been unwell but had no idea what a rough time you’d had. Your comments about the sunrise from the oncology ward at Addenbrookes brought back thoughts of my beloved husband. Last June he spent a night there and told me the next morning how pleased he was to have a bed by the window as the sunrise had been spectacular. The following morning I opened the curtains and sat with his body so I could watch that sunrise with him. Cherish every sunrise Heather. Love from me (@jacquiburkefp) and of course @themilliedog xx

  2. Bless you. My Mum had ITP over 30 years ago. It was a very scary time for her and all of us too. Back then they did have all the treatments we have now and she was in hospital for months. She did recover and lived many more happy years in good health. Stay strong, stay well and remember you have a host of friends and supporters who are all rooting for you and Harry in his time of need. Best wishes Andrew & Dawn (Daisy & Elgar’s mum and dad)

  3. Dearest Heather,
    There is not much I can add to the beautiful comments already posted here. I am so grateful for your kindness and friendship. Lots of love to you, Yvonne, Harry, and family. Hugs from Abby and Mamma (MA-USA)

  4. This is an incredible story. I’m so pleased to read it & also to have met you this weekend & to have had the immense pleasure in attending Woofstock.UK #1. You’re an amazing woman & this festival was extraordinary. I will b attending next year. I love your relationship with Harry. I’ve read his book & it’s great. Continue the fight. As a dog lover and owner I know how much love & comfort they give us. I received the same from my Winston & Abby & surfer having had great cancer & a complete shoulder replacement this past January. There is nothing else like loving a dog. See you next year. Love & hugs Jo-An & Winnie

  5. Hi Heather, your post made me cry. Not only because you are battling a disease that ravaged my family (I am lucky to be spared), but I share with you the utmost love and commitment to dogs. I am a caretaker of 5 rescued, beautiful fur babies, and eventhough it’s tough at times, I would never have it any other way.
    I hope that you’re given a longer extension of your life and may you continue to be as alive and filled with gratitude every single day for you and your spirit is a rarity. Love, peace and healing to you and your family. Big hug.

  6. Oh my now our mum as stopped cryin we can leave a comment. Wat a wundaful doggie yoo are Harry. Wifout yoo it dusnt bear finkin bout wat mite av appened. Yoo an yor “boss” are an inspiration we are so pleased to av bin able to read yor story

  7. Heather

    I read this with tears streaming down my face. Your bravery, tenacity and the love of Harry, Maggie & family is truly inspiring and so special.

    I wish you every best wish for your future, as you say whatever it may be, i also send you healing and loving hugs for sharing this with us and I always knew Harry was a very spechual spanna.

    I will meet you all at Woofstock in September and look forward to it.

    Keep fighting, stay well and see you in September

    Love, healing love and blessings

    Aunty Maggs ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

  8. Crying my eyes out reading this. Wow what a rollercoaster. I have MS and struggle both physically and mentally but reading this has made me think you are so right. We must appreciate every day and enjoy the small things and especially those small things on 4 legs. I will give Tango an extra squeeze now. Seeing Harry on twitter always makes me smile even when feeling really low with pain. Thank you for bringing him into our lives. Keep strong. X (@tangomango and @spybear007). Carrie

  9. Spaniels can be the besties – the rescue here, has alerted to danger twice, at home and in the neighbourhood. Learned to heed him now …

    First time was when out walking. He balked (heavily) on the path and just would not budge, even with some lead-tugging from his human. Seconds later, her feet shot out from under her – (black ice) with her whole being slamming flat onto her back, and head hitting the pavement. Worried spaniel sniffed his owner’s face as she lay on the ground. She was mobile, but needed to see a doctor for a check-up.

    Second time, the same spaniel was at the back door of the house, chest-deep in snow after a 10pm walk following a 2010 blizzard. He stubbornly stalled at the step and would not go into the kitchen. “Silly eejit”, his owner said, as she tried to entice him indoors. When she felt water dripping onto her head in the kitchen, the lightbulb came on – literally. Water from the (burst) attic tank was mixing with the fuse-box, and activating lights around the house. Story short, spaniel and owner had to exit the house and call an emergency plumber. All was OK eventually, after a major mess.

    MORAL: If your dog’s obstructing or balking, ask yourself why. He might be right!

  10. Hi what an inspirational story and thank you for sharing with doggy and human friends…..Riley and I are coming to Woofstock….he cant wait to meet Harry!!!!!!xx

  11. Awwwww Heather ….. Me and mum so moved by this xxxx with much love to you all

  12. You might see this twice and nasty phone lost first letter back to you. Loved you and Harry even before I read this brave blog. G-d bless you and be well and see you at Woodstock 2014!!

  13. Ur story made me cry. Just emotional at what uve been through and the wonderful relationship we form with our animals. Fantastic support from harry & maggie. Good luck heather x

  14. Thank you so much Heather for sharing your incredible blog, I wish you well and hope sincerely I get to meet you one day. I know how much Louie has helped me since Barrie and Mollie passed away. I didn’t save Louie he saved me, god bless you and your beloved pets luv and hugs Kay xox.

  15. What a heartwarming story, Heather. It’s lovely to chat to you as well as to dear Harry. I know I’m not alone in being VERY pleased that you made it through, and that I got a chance to get to know you, and of course your barmy spaniel too. Wishing you lots of happiness and good health, and all the very best for your test results. Your friend, Scotty xxx

  16. As a lifelong spiritualist I am always amazed by the power of what is unseen by so many but very clear to others especially our animals they have such healing powers.Yours has been a long journey but you have so much compassion for others & the animal kingdom you are an inspiration to us all. Looking forward to woofstock & meeting so many friends that I have made on Twitter. A book you may enjoy which shows animal compassion at its best is Making The Rounds With Oscar by Dr David Dosa.well worth a read! Sending love ,healing & every good wish your way. Love & blessings Lynn x x x

  17. I never knew all this Heather. It’s amazing how Harry and Maggie knew you were so poorly (pawly).
    Funnily enough, me and Rog came to twitter in Jan 2012 when I was recovering from various things and housebound. We met some fabulous people and anipals – Harry (Hawwee) included.
    Wishing you much love, health & happiness
    Rachel & Rog xxxxx

  18. I always knew that Harry is very special but he and Maggie are even more special than I realised – and so are you Boss! I have had and have some very special animals in my life and you’re right, those who have never allowed an animal to be part of their lives won’t get this blog but those of us who have absolutely do! 13 September is in the diary and Cocoa and I can’t wait to meet Harry and it’ll be lovely to see you again and maybe have some more time to chat. Sending huge hugs to the whole family xxxx

  19. Heather, this is a truly moving story, I am sorry this has happened to you, but, your strength and the love of your family, human and furry obviously guided you and it will continue to, with whatever you do and whatever the future holds.
    I am proud to know you and your family, I am proud to be a part of Woofstockuk and most proudly of all, to be able to say you are my ‘family,’ and, I love you all very much and me and Boo are here for you, forever, to the moon and back, oh yes, Mandie is a hoot xxxxx

  20. I always knew you were a very special lady little knowing how SPECIAL! You Yvonne Harry Maggie Honey & all your family have become extended family & I hope you know WE are always here for you ALL! Love you to the moon & back!! And 3 times around!!:) xxxxxxxxx Massive hugs! Xxxxx

  21. I letting mummy mandie borrow da iPawd fur a lickle bit cos she wants to say.

    Well done Heather for telling your story and sharing with us what an amazing bond you all have.

    Proud to call you my friend we love you all and I’m looking forward to Woofstockuk
    *bella pushes mandie off* pffft wot is it wif these humums n leaky eyes , got any bacon sticks Hawwy?

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