Ann Marie adopted Cleo from the DSPCA as a young adult dog and she settled well into the family household: she’s a gentle, good-natured animal, getting on well with everyone.

Whippets are like small versions of greyhounds, and Cleo loves trotting off the leash beside Anne Marie. She’s fast and nimble, dashing around like a little gazelle. When Ann Marie was walking with some friends on the Cliff Walk between Bray and Greystones, she took Cleo along. For the start of the walk, she kept her on her lead, but when they reached the midpoint of the walk, it seemed like a safe place to let her off the leash. There were no farm animals, very few people, and it was a bright clear day, with excellent visibility.  Cleo trotted happily beside Anne Marie, moving ahead sometimes and falling back at other times. She just loves running, like a trotting horse, and she never goes far from Anne Marie’s side.


There was a four-foot-high stone wall on the right of the footpath, and Cleo’s athletic instincts must have got the better of her common sense. As Anne Marie watched, for no particular reason, Cleo smoothly and gracefully leapt over the wall, like a racehorse jumping over a hurdle. Cleo must have assumed that there was solid ground on the other side of the wall, but Anne Marie realised that it was a sheer drop down to the railway below. To her horror, she heard the far-off sound of a dog yelping loudly.  Anne Marie couldn’t bring herself to peer over the wall: she was afraid that she’d see the maimed body of her beloved pet. She had to ask her friends to look for her, and she was relieved when they reported that they could see Cleo, still alive, at the foot of the cliff, fifty feet below. She was standing on three legs, right beside the railway tracks.

Now there was another danger: a DART train could come by at any moment. Cleo was in shock and wouldn’t know to move out of the way, and obviously the DART wouldn’t be able to stop in time to avoid hitting her. Anne Marie had to get to Cleo as rapidly as possible, but there was no obvious way down: there was a sheer cliff between her and her dog. Luckily, a local woman was also out walking her dog, and she’d seen what had happened. She knew about a switchback footpath that led down to the railway, so Ann Marie followed her. After ten minutes that seemed to take forever, they emerged beside the railway. Cleo was lying close to the tracks, trembling, still in shock after her fall. Ann Marie picked her up, hugging her but being careful not to hurt her. She carried her back up the hill, then along the cliff walk to her car, before driving on to our vet clinic.


When I heard the saga, I was afraid that Cleo would have serious internal injuries, but she was lucky: she must have extended her right forepaw as she landed, and this had taken the pressure. She has a badly dislocated wrist which will need to be repaired with an orthopaedic metal plate. But otherwise, she remains unscathed, with no broken bones nor internal bleeding.

Cleo’s leg will be repaired next week, once she has recovered from the shock and bruising of her tumble. Ann Marie is hoping that she has learned a lesson: never jump over a wall if you don’t know what’s on the other side.


  • Dogs don’t have a “natural” understanding about hazards
  • When walking dogs in unfamiliar areas, it’s safest to keep them close to your side
  • If in doubt, dogs should be kept on a long leash