Meet Hector - the Norwich Beagle who gets about using his own special wheelchair
- Credit: Archant
With three legs, and two wheels, pet dog Hector is already a bit of a celebrity in his neighbourhood.
Now the five-year-old beagle is ready to lap up even more attention as the hero of a new book.
Hector was born with disabled front legs and his future was not looking good – until the Haddon family of Unthank Road, Norwich, heard about him.
It was the beginning of adventures for Hector and the Haddons, ranging from river and rail rescues to being thanked for bringing happiness into people's lives.
'There have been some near-death experiences, but he's a survivor,' said Victoria Haddon. 'He literally stops the traffic when we go out, so many people come up to us and ask about his story.'
She first heard about the tiny disabled beagle puppy when a friend went to get a new puppy. One of the litter had been born with no bones in one front leg, and problems with other, and desperately needed a home.
Mrs Haddon, husband James and their children, Ellie, Max and Freddie, already had one beagle – but were soon convinced that beagle Reggie needed a little beagle brother.
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'We weren't looking for another dog but once the image of this poor little puppy was in our heads,' said Mrs Haddon.
At 12 weeks old they brought Hector (named for Hector of Troy, 'the bravest of the brave') home.
At first they carried him around, and he could also propel himself using his three remaining legs, but as he grew heavier and wanted to go further, Mrs Haddon began researching solutions.
A lot of Googling led her to an American company which specialises in making exactly the kind of wheelchair Hector needed, supporting his body, and with all-terrain wheels at the front. They sent very precise measurements across the Atlantic – and received a custom made canine wheelchair in return.
There were a few difficult weeks, and eventually a breakthrough involving the temptation of a trail of sausages, before Hector could be persuaded to work the wheelchair.
Today there is, sometimes literally, no stopping him. He races around parks, gardens, woodland and fields, as well as winning friends and admirers as he rolls along city pavements.
And then there are the adventures.
'A lot of the mishaps have been Hector trying to follow Reggie on an adventure and not taking his wheels into account,' said Mrs Haddon. 'We have had so many adventures, escapades and near-disasters that I decided to write a book about them.'
Hector's Wheels tells the story of how the beautiful beagle joined the family – and the impact he has had. It is dedicated: 'To the dog-walkers of Norwich, without whom Hector almost certainly would have met an unhappy end.'
'It's all completely true and involves quite a few Norwich dog walkers, all of whom know Hector, and many of whom have helped to save Hector,' Mrs Haddon said, recounting tales of the wheels becoming detached from dog, of Hector, with wheels, looking longingly at the nearby skate park, of Hector falling into rivers and chasing cats.
Mrs Haddon, who works from home, promoting the wine trade, added: 'I've absolutely loved writing the book, but I hope not to be able to write a second book in a way, because I'm not sure we can cope with many more adventures!'
Hector's Wheels, the adventures of a remarkable beagle, is aimed at children from around nine years old, but is likely to be loved by Hector's many adult admirers too. It includes a series of charming pictures of Hector and Reggie, painted by Sophia Fletcher of Norwich.
From a tiny disabled puppy who might never have found a family, Hector has become a dog on wheels who makes dozens of friends and strangers smile every day, and the hero of his own book.
Hector's Wheels, by Victoria Haddon, illustrated by Sophia Fletcher, is published by Matador, price £7.99, and available from local bookshops.