By David Brasch
VETERAN dog man Brian Francis admits as he stood near the finish line at Capalaba a few weeks ago, cold shivers went through him.
They were shivers of joy for what he had achieved just to get a dog he calls Dennis (as in Dennis The Menace) to the racetrack let alone win first-up in that maiden heat.
And, in the process, land what 85-year-old Brian says was ‘a nice go at the dog on the punt’.
Dennis is better know now as Hesperus, a son of Barcia Bale and Hesperides an El Grand Senor-Audacious Miss bitch Brian had won seven races with and which he bred.
Yes, the canine Hesperus is named after Longfellow\’s famous poem ‘The Wreck Of The Hesperus’ which tells the story of tragic circumstances around an ill-fated ship voyage.
Hesperus, the greyhound, has certainly been a wreck having smashed his hock in only his second education trial after breaking in. Vet Greg Sternberg took one look at the damage done by the youngster and advised Brian there was little hope he would get him to the track.
But no one reckoned on Brian Francis and his wife Pat and their devotion to their greyhounds.
And, no one reckoned on the healing powers of some old time remedies Brian would bring out in a bid to get Dennis to the races.
\”John Collins broke him in for us and he came home with a huge report,\” said Brian of Dennis, so named because he really was a menace as a pup.
\”John said we really had something here.\”
Hesperus went to Ipswich for a slip from the back straight and promptly clocked 16.60, a time few get close to at their first slip at Ipswich as a pup.
\”But, he broke his hock in his second trial,\” said Brian.
Greg Sternberg and Brian Francis agreed the best way forward was to cast the leg and see what happened.
The cast stayed on for two months and then Brian and his remedies took over.
\”I put his leg in a magneto pulse boot every day for a couple of months, then I decided to try an old remedy I had used with success before,\” he said.
It meant bringing washing soda to the heat in water, soaking a small towel in the mixture and then wrapping it around Dennis\’ leg for 15 minutes every day.
\”I\’d sit with him to keep him calm, but would also wrap another wet towel around the first one with the washing soda,\” he said. \”I did it every day for seven months.\”
Even today Brian continues with the magneto pulse boot.
\”Eventually, when he was feeling so good in himself, I had to throw caution to the wind and decided to put him in one of my competition runs and have another dog in one of the others,\” he said.
\”He worked up and down without any trouble. So, we kept on going.\”
Brian took Dennis back to Greg Sternberg after he had been worked up the straight and Greg was even uncertain which hock it was the dog had broken such was the healing process Brian had achieved.
\”I\’ve used that washing soda remedy for ages and always had success with it,\” said Brian.
\”No, there was never any thought of giving up on the dog. He trialled around Golden View and it is such a tight track, if ever there was going to be a problem with his hock, it would show up then.
\”But, he stood up and we kept going.\”
Which led to his first-up betting plunge win at Capalaba and the following week when Hesperus ran a slick 19.94 winning the maiden final.
\”When he won first up, I admit, I had cold shivers run down me,\” said Brian.
\”And it was a particularly pleasing win for my wife Pat as well, who just adores this dog.\”
With such constant attention, Dennis has mended his ‘menace’ ways and Brian now says he is just a wonderful dog with the most beautiful nature.
\”He still gets put up on the table to have the boot on his leg and I sit with him and watch a bit of TV while it\’s all happening,\” said Brian.
With Brian turning 85 ‘very soon’, his wife Pat has demanded he stop breeding litters of greyhound pups.
\”So I went out and bought a couple of new pups,\” said Brian. \”Pat never said I couldn\’t buy pups, she just didn\’t want me to breed any more litters.\”
Brian has been in greyhound racing as long as he can remember and always has a handy dog in the kennel, a kennel that has been known to land a betting plunge often.
\”I don\’t know what I\’d do if I didn\’t have a greyhound,\” he said.
Hesperus, ‘The Wreck’, is living and winning proof Brian Francis knows just about everything there is to get a ‘broken’ dog back to the track … and winning.