Pet dog helps paralysed rugby player’s recovery

A pet Rottweiler (not pictured) has helped nurse Connor Hughes back to health. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

A pet Rottweiler (not pictured) has helped nurse Connor Hughes back to health. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A RUGBY player paralysed during a game has told how he has been aided back to health by his pet Rottweiler.

Connor Hughes, 21, could only move his eyes and mouth after suffering spinal damage and feared he’d never walk again.

But he says the dog, called Crunchie, has been his saviour during his rehabilitation.

After months in hospital, doctors fitted tiny electronic implants to his spine which have started to bring his legs back to life.

In hospital he was helped by a therapy dog, a black Labrador called Jasper – and Connor vowed to get his own pup as soon as he left.

Now he’s returned home and revealed how his one-year-old Rottweiler, Crunchie, is providing “huge support” in his rehabilitation.

Former Merchiston Castle School pupil Connor, of Kelso, said: “Crunchie’s been my saviour, especially during my first wee while at home, which was really tough. They say a dog is man’s best friend – and I couldn’t agree more!”

Determined Connor is even training Crunchie, who was bought from a breeder in Larbert, to open doors for him.

“She’s not that well trained at the minute but she’s getting better,” said Connor admitted. I’d be lost without her because she comes with me everywhere I go.”

Connor was injured in an “unlucky” tackle while playing in Dundee for Stirling University against Harris Academy FPs in September 2014.

He had just intercepted an opposition pass when he was tackled hard and heard a sickening “crack” in his neck as he thudded into the ground.

The impact badly displaced his vertebrae, and his spinal cord was so damaged he was paralysed from the shoulders down.

Connor was initially treated at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow, before a journey across the globe to receive expert treatment. Last September he went to Bangkok, Thailand, where he was fitted with 16 electronic implants along his spine.

Connor also uses an exercise bike which sends electronic signals to his legs – allowing him to pedal – at the gym he has created at home with mum Fiona, 49, and step-dad Gavin, 53.

They have been amazed by his improvement since the accident – and Connor’s progress has given him hope he may one day walk again.

He said: “Before I got the stimulator, the movement was absolutely zero. Then, after it was fitted, I could raise my knee. It was absolutely crazy.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com