When Anthony heard that a friend's two French Bulldogs had parented a litter of five pups, he jumped at the chance to take one. French Bulldogs are an unusual breed in Ireland, and they have a cheeky, cheerful appeal. Anthony knew both parents of the pups to be healthy, good-natured individuals.
He realised that the pups would have an excellent genetic heritage. Anthony's friends live on a rural smallholding, so he also knew that the pups would be well-socialised while young, which is the best start in life that a dog can have. They would be mixing with a busy household of humans, as well as meeting the pigs, chickens, cats, rabbits and working Collies that share their living space.
Anthony went to collect Frankie when he was 10 weeks old: the pup had been weaned from his mother for over a month, and was ready to leave the family home. He settled in well with Anthony, and after just a few days, he was almost fully house trained. Anthony brought him to see me for three reasons: a breed question, a medical issue, and a practical problem. The breed question was simplest: could I confirm that Frankie's short stumpy tail was natural, and not due to being docked?
My answer was simple: tail docking is illegal in Ireland but Anthony had nothing to worry about. French Bulldogs are born with naturally short tails that just happen to look as if they have been cut off (docked).
The medical issue was also something that affected the appearance of Frankie's rear end: he had a large bald patch, the size of a teacup, on the left side of his rump. Some of the other pups in the litter had developed circular bald patches on their heads, and the breeder had asked their vet to have a look.
The reason for the bald areas was simple: the pups had ringworm. This is a fungal skin infection that's rare in city dogs, but in the country, it's easy for dogs to pick it up from farm animals. If a cow has ringworm, infectious spores can be left on fence posts and feeding troughs: if another animal comes along and rubs off the same area, the spores are passed on at the point of contact, and a ringworm infection develops.
In the worst cases, animals can end up completely bald, but the good news is that ringworm can be treated effectively. In the pups' case, they were given a special shampoo once daily: almost immediately, their fur started to grow back. In more severe cases, expensive oral medication is needed.
Frankie is on the mend now, and Anthony doesn't need to give any more baths, but it will take another six weeks until the fur over the bald area has grown to the same length as the surrounding fur. Until then, Frankie's coat will continue to look patchy.
There was a final, practical reason for Anthony to bring Frankie to see me: he wanted to have him microchipped. Rare breeds like French Bulldogs can be valuable, and dog theft is increasingly common. Anthony keeps a close eye on his new pup, never letting him out in the garden on his own, but even so, dognapping is a real risk.
If dogs are microchipped, there's a permanent link to their owner, so that if they go missing - or are stolen - there's a higher chance that they'll be returned home.
Frankie barely noticed as I injected the microchip under his skin, and he's now permanently identifiable as Anthony's pet.
Owner: Anthony Murtagh from Bray
Animal: Frankie, his ten week old French Bulldog puppy
Problem: Frankie has a stumpy tail and a bald patch on his rump