I bought Roxy with my Dad when she was 8 weeks old. She was bred from the best dog (Westmead Hawk) and best bitch (Roxholme Girl) I had ever seen.
The stupidly large sum of money we paid for her gave us 18 months of excitement that she was going to be a world beater. What we had actually bought was the best companion a girl could ever wish for…and a racer who could barely put one foot in front of the other.
I think Dad and I knew our fate when she tried to climb the railings to get to us whilst on parade for a trial at Wimbledon. Needless to say she didn’t make the grading time there but it didn’t matter, we already loved her anyway.
I couldn’t bring Roxy home immediately because I was so busy working as a freelance reporter and assistant producer for Sky Sports and was away a lot. Luckily, her trainer, Norah McEllistrim, had also fallen in love with her and she became Norah’s ‘office’ dog.
I’d have her for a few days here and there when I could – the first time I took her out of kennels we went on a road trip to the Great Greyhound Gathering in Nottingham, an annual fundraiser run by the Greyhound Trust.
I’d booked a dog-friendly hotel and ended up with a four-poster bed! Straight from kennels onto a four-poster! After a nice walk along the river Roxy slept on it like the cat that got the cream whilst I went for dinner in the hotel bar. That was the thing with Roxy…she never ever put a paw wrong in her whole life.
We did lots of things together in the year before she officially came home full-time, including loads of river walks and pub lunch outings and I loved it when she could come home overnight.
We went up to the Sky studios and were on Sky News together with Eamonn Holmes to publicise the ‘Greyhound Girls’ calendar I’d made to raise money for the Retired Greyhound Trust but, more importantly, to raise awareness about how good greyhounds are as pets.
Eamonn and fellow presenter Charlotte Hawkins loved Roxy and, as a result, I met them both at a greyhound homing centre near Esher called Hersham Hounds and they ended up sponsoring a dog there.
Roxy and I also went to Uri Geller’s house to do a Sky feature on his love of greyhounds. He said greyhounds are the most intuitive breed and I think he is right – they look at you with their big eyes and big heart and it’s like they can see into your soul. I’m not sure how impressed Roxy was by Uri’s fork bending though…
Wherever I went with Roxy and whatever I was doing I absolutely loved having her with me. She loved being with me too. In fact when I took her back to Norah’s once, her kennelhand Tim said to me that whenever I took Roxy back she was depressed for a few days after. It killed me to know that she missed me as much as I missed her.
Then, in January 2013, I lost the job I loved when Sky Sports decided to cut the greyhound racing and all their freelance staff. SIS did pick up the greyhound racing coverage but didn’t take me with them at first.
I was devastated and very depressed. I was 31, jobless, single and my best friend had just moved to Australia. So I decided to go and get Roxy and bring her home permanently.
My parents begged me not to because they thought I’d get another job and they’d end up looking after her quite a bit. Of course they were right…a few months later I got a job presenting a programme called Racing Post Greyhound TV and SIS asked me to re-join the Sky team.
But Mum and Dad loved her as much as I did and I also took her to work with me whenever I could, be it in the studio, on shoots or days when I was in an edit suite. She was always as good as gold.
People used to ask me all the time if she was a rescue dog – she wasn’t – she rescued me. I can’t emphasize enough the impact she had on my mental health. She saved me.
My world from then on revolved around Roxy. And I loved it. She regularly came to the pub with my friends and I at weekends, often that meant getting the train into London, but she didn’t bat an eyelid. As long as she was with me she was happy and the feeling was mutual.
I was naughty in that I let her sit on sofas and benches in the pub and so she would sit with her head on the table like she was one of us. One year I had nobody to go to Winter Wonderland with so off we went to Hyde Park! Whilst I drank mulled wine and ate hot dogs, Roxy was eyeing up the squirrels.
We also went to London for the ‘Show of Passion’, a demonstration to try to save Wimbledon dog track. The great and the good of greyhound racing gathered in the pub after and, off the lead, Roxy wandered round greeting everyone then we got a late night tube home!
Some of my best memories are from our little holidays; enjoying log fires in the Cotswolds, walking the beach at Broadstairs, meeting the wild ponies in the New Forest and our many wonderful trips to Bournemouth.
Bournemouth was my go-to holiday with Roxy – she loved it there running along the beach when the tide was out and stopping along the numerous beach restaurants to have a rest and be made a fuss of. On one occasion I accidentally booked a single room in a dog-friendly hotel – needless to say Roxy hogged the bed and I hardly got any sleep!
I mentioned Roxy’s Dad was Westmead Hawk, the dual derby winning champion. I was very lucky that before he passed away he was back at his trainer, Nick Savva’s, for a short amount of time when he was poorly and I got to take Roxy to meet her Daddy. They were like two peas in a pod and he followed her around the field like he was keeping an eye on his little girl. It was a lovely sight. It’s always a privilege to be in the company of dogs as good as he was but that was an extra-special day.
For our first few years together we lived in my flat. Then, when I bought a house 20 seconds from Nonsuch Park in Cheam, Roxy used to pull me left out of my front door to go there every day.
I loved our days in the park. Roxy was never on a lead, she was so good with all other breeds of dogs and she loved to play. The only time she would ever bark was if she found a dog that wasn’t interested in playing, she would try to make them chase her. She loved to be chased or be the one doing the chasing and she could twist and turn so quickly. She was fabulous with small children too.
In December 2017, Roxy wasn’t herself. I couldn’t tell you why, but I just knew. Her vet thought she had a problem with her neck and prescribed painkillers and muscle-relaxants to take over Christmas and New Year.
They did the trick and between Christmas and New Year my fiancé and I took her to a spa hotel we had found in Winchester and she was in amazing form.
She enjoyed her woodland walks, chilling in the bar, sleeping on the kingsize bed and getting really spoiled with leftover turkey and ham. One of the times we got back to the room after a swim and she greeted us happily, jumping on the bed which she had already raked up (she liked to make a nest out of a bed) and spinning round and round like a puppy. That’s a memory I really cherish now.
When the painkillers stopped she went downhill again so we went back to the vet to get an x-ray on her neck. The vet checked her over first and was concerned that her respiration didn’t sound right.
I crouched on the floor with her as she had her temperature taken and Roxy looked straight into my eyes without blinking. I now think this was her saying goodbye but I never realised it at the time.
The x-rays showed she had a tumour the shape of a sausage in her chest cavity between her lungs. My world fell apart as the vet told me the best thing for her was to not bring her round from the sedation and that even if I did, it would only buy days and that they would be very painful for her.
I didn’t have a choice really…I had to do the best thing by her. I never got to say a proper goodbye. I held her so tightly and told her how much I loved her as she slipped away at 12.30pm on January 8th 2018 – the worst day of my life.
Roxy did so much for the greyhound breed. It was because she came everywhere with me that she met so many people who were amazed to learn what wonderful pets greyhounds were.
I had many messages from people saying how much they enjoyed following our story on social media and others told me how they had homed a greyhound because of Roxy.
It was my love for her that also inspired me to raise over £250,000 for the Greyhound Trust by organising a huge sky diving event, a huge ball in London and various other bits and pieces. Every single greyhound, racing and retired, deserves a loving home.
To me they are all ‘Roxy’s’ ready for adventures of their own after life on the track and we must do more to make sure that happens. I know I will continue to do what I can and I intend to do some sort of fundraiser in Roxy’s name. I’m determined her legacy will live on.
God I miss her. I knew it would be bad when I lost her but I never expected that to be so soon or to feel as bad as I do. She would have been 11 in April and I was planning a little birthday party in the park for her to raise money for Hersham Hounds. It had never crossed my mind that she might not be around.
It’s the little things I miss the most…the way we rode around in my convertible with her in the backseat and her head on my shoulder, the way we played together in the park and she would be ducking and diving around me showing off. The way she would violently nudge me with her nose when she wanted more strokes, the way she’d poke her head round the top of the landing when I got home to see if I was someone actually worth coming down the stairs for, the way she loved to chase squirrels, her snoring, the way she came to me to have her face wiped clean after her dinner, the way she would sing to me on demand (honestly), the smell of her breath (yes I know I am weird) – I just loved her so so much and I will never ever forget my darling baby girl. My absolute dog of a lifetime.
And if just one person who reads this considers a greyhound as their next pet then our work continues.