With a video his owner, Mariah Pequegnat posted to TikTok garnering more than four million views, Winston has become a celebrity known for his issues with a syndrome known as ‘Happy Tail,’ which isn’t happy at all
When Mariah Pequegnat’s 11-year-old greyhound, Winston, needed to have a medical procedure, she was very nervous.
She might help to film the journey that she and Winston were decided about to take, the amputation of his tail due to a syndrome called “Happy Tail.” As she was practicing with the social media site for work, she thought she might upload it to TikTok.
More than four million hits later, Winston has become a celebrity.
Not only is he being sent treats from companies hoping he’ll review them, but he is a local celebrity now, too.
“I put #Sudbury in my description so I knew that it was going to be shown to at least some people here,” said Pequegnat. “But then I took him to the farmer’s market, and a couple of people asked ‘is that the dog from TikTok? Is that Winston?’ Somebody even asked for a picture with him, and I was like, no way, this is so bizarre.”
She said he is certainly recognizable for his distinctive breed, she said there are not many greyhounds in Sudbury that she knows of, but also that he is, well, “funny looking.”
“He’s a very unique looking dog, especially up here.”
How does Winston feel about the attention?
“it’s definitely gone to his head,” said Pequegnat with a laugh. “No doubt about it, his ego is massive.”
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Pequegnat first met Winston in 2015, when he was about four years old. A retired racing dog, Winston was looking for a place he could be what she said greyhounds are known for: “being 45-mile-an-hour couch potatoes.”
She hadn’t really thought of getting a greyhound, but her partner at the time was obsessed with the breed, and she agreed to meet some rescues. “We ended up going to this organization that gets retired greyhounds from the United States and adopts them out,” Pequegnat said. “I saw them all and I just fell in love, it was love at first sight. He’s the best man in my life.”
Winston and Pequegnat have been devoted to each other ever since, and that’s why his issue with Happy Tail has been so difficult.
Though humans use it as a way to understand a dog’s feelings, the tail is not just to express emotion, it’s actually an extension of the spine. The bones of the tail (vertebrae) are bigger at the base and get smaller toward the tip, with soft discs cushioning the spaces between the vertebrae, allowing flexibility. Sadly, this complex structure of bone, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels can easily be injured, which is the case with Happy Tail. A not-so-happy experience, to be sure.
Certain breeds of dogs wag their tails constantly, hitting them repeatedly against solid objects like coffee tables, trees, or walls, causing injury. Happy tails often develop bleeding ulcers that will not heal because the wagging will not stop. In fact, most owners would dislike it immensely.
“Going outside should be like a happy thing, taking him on a walk should be happy, but instead it was this dislike, I would rush trying to get him at the door as fast as possible so he doesn’t wag his tail; it got super stressful, especially as he gets older.”
That, and when he would injure his tail, which happened frequently, there would be a wound, and often, blood splatter on walls and floors. And while it would take an impact to injure the tail at first, even just moving it while it was cut would cause it to reopen. It would cause Winston physical pain, and it would cause Pequegnat emotional pain.
She tried everything to help him, even scouring the internet until she found a ‘sling’ that might help: a ring of plastic set halfway up his tail with strings attached to a belt around his waist, essentially holding his tail permanently between his legs. It was no life for her beloved pup, said Pequegnat.
In severe, chronic cases like Winston’s, where the wagging will not stop and the injury will not heal, the best solution is surgical shortening of the tail. Although this changes the dog’s appearance, a shorter wagging tail is less likely to cause injury.
When Winston required dental work in late June and needed to be put under anesthesia, it was a chance to ease his troubles.
It was a tough decision, but one that she is grateful she made. When she documented her journey, she said it was really about easing her anxiety.
“I posted it that evening. And I didn’t think anything of it,” said Pequegnat. “I woke up the next morning, and it had 300,000 views. I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, what?’
She said she had friends messaging her with the rising numbers all day, and after three or four days of the video’s run, it was at four million. It now sits at 4.2 million views.
Since then, Pequegnat has also added an explainer video about the syndrome, a breakdown of the cost, and a look at how his healing is going.
“So many people looked at my little dog and watched every video, thank you,” she said.
After a momentary issue with swelling that caused some concern, Winston is on the mend. His stitches of him are out, and his “nub” of him is a different kind of happy tail; the one that wags with joy, and the sound of a cheese wrapper.