About a year ago, I was in a bad way. I was in the process of leaving my job working as doctor, counsellor, bodyworker, in a clinic for street kids with addiction and abuse issues. I didn't really know how I could manage without a wage, but I was totally worn out, and so tired, sometimes I couldn't even speak to my kids when I got home. One rainy, dark Friday night, I went to pick up my daughter from a riding lesson. She begged me to get out of the car, because she wanted to show me something.

Inside a large feed-barrel was a puppy, unlike anything I had ever seen. My entire body reacted with joy. It was her eyes that got me ... looking in them was like feeling the stillness of the desert. I knew I wanted an animal like this. I had no idea she was a dingo. It wouldn't have made any difference. I knew nothing about dingoes anyway; I had gown up in Africa, not Australia.

Two days' later, early on a Sunday, having had no reply to several phone calls (turns out I had the wrong number), I went with my daughter to try and find 'the man who had the pups'. (I didn't have an exact address). That's how I met Nic; and how I came to be guardian of Ru, a seven-week old pure alpine dingo.

It's lucky I had no idea what I was beginning ... I guess all love is like this!

Ru had to join the rest of the household: a rabbit, two cats, two mice, two fish and a three year old sterilised whippet-cross, who believes she is super-nanny. I was home much of the time and the early days went fairly smoothly. Ru's den was a large cupboard under the stairs and she slept in a cosy, cat-carrier with an army surplus blanket, a ticking clock, and a lavender heat-bag. She was tiny and didn't realise there was territory up the stairs, beyond the wooden-galloping-horse-picture barricade.

She accepted the whippet as a sort of mother, and tried to suckle from her. This earned her some nasty bites on her most sensitive nose, and we would hear tragic crying 'hoo hoo hoo'. When Ru was hurting, she always wanted to hide away. We insisted on comforting her, kissing the sore bits, and explaining that, after all, the world is safe.

From the beginning Ru's front legs were much bigger than her back ones, and she had very little muscle development around both hips. I started noticing (having worked with children) that when she sat, her knees turned inwards. She looked very cute, but I worried about the significance.

As time went by, she developed ways of getting on/off the couch mostly using her front legs. Her left side was worse. She was always full of energy, ran helter-skelter with the whippet, and ate well.

When she was 5 months' old, she got at some heavily-wrapped, high-up rat poison. In fact she hadn't ingested any, but the vet worried about her left hip because she cried when he held it, to insert rectal thermometer.

X-rays showed bilateral dysplasia (her leg bones were not placed in the hip joint sockets properly). The left side was so bad there was really no acetabular socket for the femoral head. He suggested "salvage surgery" to remove the femoral head and fill the gap with a muscle flap. I accepted this advice when he assured me she would be able to run without difficulty.  

Regrettably, she reacted badly to every thing: pulled out a tooth escaping from the specially designed vet cage; and later, when "confined", sedated and on my bed, she somehow got distressed and tore both cruciate ligaments in her left knee; then had severe dysphoria to opiates. I wanted nothing more to do with modern medicine, but felt there was no option except further surgery. By now she was a very sad little animal, which broke my heart. She was in pain and not eating.  

At surgery, they found both patellae were dislocated, and apparently, Ru's bony anatomy was unusual, so the vet had to modify the cruciate repair. She didn't recover well and was on daily anti-inflammatory drugs, with her left leg in a cast.

The vet suggested getting a second opinion from a specialist. His advice (to me) was that repeat surgery was the best option. (New x-rays showed her femur jutting against her pelvis and the left patella misplaced on the side of the leg.) However, he told my vet that Ru should probably be put down.  

I was shocked. I did not go near the surgery. My sister gave me $2000 toward the bills. I stopped the drugs, and started taking her swimming in the river. I discovered a hydropool for dogs about an hour's drive away. We went every weekend. I fattened her up with ghee and lamb mince/ chicken carcasses, and massaged her hips and legs several times a day and we kissed her LOTS.  

When she was 11 months' old, she was healthy and seemed to have come to terms with her disabilities. She was wicked like other curious, intelligent creatures. She could almost beat the whippet running and they played violent physical games inside and outside. She could take flying leaps over plants and stairs. She never took weight on her left leg when she was standing (of course it was shorter) but she could run like the free spirit she was.