VICTOR TEIXEIRA – LMDI
I’m often asked what I think about buying dogs instead of rescuing and rehoming them. My answer is always the same: as much as I dislike the thought of pets being commodities we exchange for money, it’s not much better to take a dog home from the streets or an institution without having the right conditions in place. Nearly 10 years ago we got Oscar through a work colleague; I’d never met her before but I overheard her say that her sister’s dog had just had a litter and there were a boy and a girl left. After more than 5 years looking for the right dog, we exchanged messages and photos and decided to go visit the farm where the lady lived with dogs, cats, cows and chickens. We had considered rescuing a dog from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home but we both worked shifts and spent long days away from home. We just didn’t think it would be fair to bring a (potentially) traumatised dog home only to leave it to its own devices for days on end. Not that this is right for any dog, but the truth is that some dogs are more than happy to sleep most of the day; we felt that a rescue dog should have our undivided attention and so we should take that option later on in life when one (or both) of us was retired or working from home. And just as well: Oscar came home at 2 months and was a furry ball of energy, excitement and cuteness – he really did need all of our attention; and he came without baggage or traumas. Our other issue was not having the experience of ever having had a dog in the past, which we felt was essential to deal with a rescue dog.
Five years later, just as we started looking around for a second dog, this time favouring one in need of rehoming, we came across a neighbour who was about to give his own puppy up after feeling that he couldn’t cope with it. This second bundle of joy – Ollie – also came complete with endless energy and enthusiasm, but in equal measure fears and insecurities that we couldn’t explain (nor had been explained to us) and took him almost 3 years to overcome. He was such a nervous puppy at 3 months that even raising our voices to cuddle and stroke him resulted in him having an immediate wee on the floor. This went on for what seemed an age, to the point that we had to approach him very subtly and quietly. Even then, sometimes we only had to caress his belly for him to have an accident. Today, at the age of nearly 5, he still can’t cope with loud noises. We have no idea what kind of start in life he had during those 3 months before he came to us, but whatever cards he was dealt, he is the purest and kindest dog we’ve ever met, with not an ounce of anger or aggression in him. We were very lucky, a lot of people end up rescuing very troublesome dogs, not always being able to deal with them and sometimes giving them up themselves.
In short, there isn’t always a straight answer. It’s a nice thought wanting to rescue dogs in need. But we must also have the conditions to rehome a dog that comes with baggage and will possibly need more attention than a brand new puppy. I am lucky to be told, on a very regular basis, such differing stories… Here are a few which you will struggle to stay indifferent to.
KAREN GUNN-SMITH – RUBY (3 years old)
After bringing Alfie – a lively and adorable Cockapoo – into our family aged 8 weeks and becoming a bit dog mad, I joined every Facebook group to do with Cockapoo’s and could happily while away hours looking at everyone else’s cute pets. Everyone on my Facebook page must be sick to death of my posts, usually dog-related; and if I see something about a dog going missing or a charity trying to raise funds both here and abroad, I will always share it.
I had started my own business as a Groomer, called Doodles and Friends, and was running it alongside working as Cabin Crew – best of both worlds! I had joined the group Doodles For Rehoming and followed lots of rescues, but none of them seemed near me and also I felt I couldn’t help as I was still flying. Then 2020 happened and before I knew it I was being forced out of my flying job and was grooming full-time. One day, waiting for a client running late, I was glancing at Facebook and a post had come up from Doodles For Rehoming: “Urgent help wanted for a dog in Hampshire”. The owner was threatening to put the dog on the Free Ads if nobody took her. And we all know what can happen there. Lots of people had offered help but I still posted saying that, if none of the others worked out, I’d happily foster the dog. Two days later I was driving to Portsmouth to collect a little Cockapoo called Ruby, the sweetest girl who greeted me with excitement and trepidation. She obviously wondered what was going on as I bundled all her possessions into my car. The owner had said she hated car journeys but she happily sat by me looking out of the window with interest.
She had been looked after but neglected with time and attention. Her days were long as the owners worked all day and she was left everyday with no stimulation or proper walks. How that was going to change! She was a very busy girl and she seemed to look at my large garden with disbelief that it was all hers to explore. I can’t say Alfie was too impressed but he never is with other dogs. Being used to dogs coming in all day for grooming, he is over it; and much as I wished he’d be a bit more playful with Ruby, I accepted he is how he is. And Ruby was not bothered, she relished human contact and would snuggle right in and took her place in my bed every night and would not be moved.
She hadn’t been spayed even though she was 3 and the Trust wanted me to get it done before they put her up for adoption. But when I took her to the vets for a check-over they seemed to think she was about to come into season, and were not prepared to do the op til the end of February for that reason. I was thinking it wouldn’t be in Ruby’s best interest to stay with me til then. She was so settled already and I wanted the least upset for her – and we all loved her. So DFR agreed to advertise her in December even though it was against their policy (they don’t like to do it in December to avoid the ‘get a dog for Christmas brigade’). But no-one who applied was suitable. Covid had made rehoming dogs very difficult as traveling between tiers was not allowed and visits were hard to do. But then someone applied who was about 30 minutes away from me and seemed perfect. They had been looking for a rescue as a companion to their Cavapoo and were very interested in Ruby.
So we met up half-way, I really liked them and Ruby also seemed to – although she initially gave the Dad a hard time but then she barked at every man she met and anyone wearing hats caused her to go ballistic. We met again the next day, they took Ruby back to their home to see how the two dogs got along and I collected her later on. The Trust wanted one more meeting to make absolutely sure, so I set off again. And bingo, she had found her forever mummy!❤️ That’s when I had to dig deep. I had said at the start that the time wasn’t right for us to have two dogs and that it was only temporary – but knowing this girl would be leaving in a few days was hard. She never walked well on a lead as she was so excited to be out. I like to run so I bought her a running harness and we would run for miles. Alfie’s a good boy on runs but she couldn’t be let off as her recall was untested. She loved it!!
When I packed up her things once again she watched me with suspicion and I felt so guilty. Then she was gone. It’s only been a few days and we have adjusted back to one dog. I’ve had updates from her new mum and she’s doing great. She and Dolly (her new sister) have been sharing a bed together and she is fitting right in. I loved the experience, it was so rewarding and I would definitely help again if I were needed.
I have a huge Ruby-shaped hole in my heart but I’m so excited for her new future. Anyone who is considering helping a dog in need – do! You won’t regret it!
CHRISTIE & TIAGO – PIXEL (1 1/2 years old)
Pixel was one of 8 puppies of her litter, born on 10th August 2019. Her mom was Nutella, a black Labrador Retriever, and her dad a Castro de Laboreiro from Portugal.
She is our first ever pet together as a couple and the first dog I have personally ever lived with. We had talked about adopting a dog but never really knew what exactly was awaiting us by living with a puppy: we were not prepared for all the destruction, the desperation, but also the huge amount of love that comes with a dog in one’s life!
Pixel was the biggest pup of her litter (even though a female) and the last one to be given up for adoption at the age of 2 months old! When our friend called us to say we could come and pick her up we were thrilled with excitement but also very scared.
It is difficult not to fall in love with a puppy: they smell amazing, they have those sweet big eyes and are so playful and full of cuteness. The first time we saw her I was terrified by how big she was, only 2 months old and already 8 kgs! I must admit I was kind of thinking “now there is no turning back, and what if we don’t bond, and what if I lose her, what if we don’t manage to train her properly?” (Long story short, none of those questions mattered – it’s normal to be scared, they feel the same way).
We drove home with her in the car, she literally didn’t stop crying the whole 15 minutes from our friend’s house to our place and we were already in shock, as much as she was terrified by the car and the whole situation!
I will forever remember that first night as it was one of the hardest with her: we were advised several times by other dog parents not to give in to her crying as part of the training. It was extremely difficult not to go and hug the poor terrified puppy that was crying out loud all night long! And not to mention that after opening the living room door at 7am to start the day and see how she had done, there was simply poop everywhere!
The first days with her were a mix of feelings: we felt overwhelmed with her cuteness and clumsiness, exhausted by cleaning up pee and poop everywhere and every 30 minutes, reading books and watching dog training tricks and tutorials like crazy.
As a tip to new dog parents, I will mention the most remarkable sources we used during our journey of training a puppy: the book “The other end of the leash” by Patricia McConnel was GOLD! We learned so many things about human behaviour, dog behaviour and most importantly focusing on how to train ourselves rather than the puppy. I cannot recommend it enough! Another great book was “The Puppy Primer” by the same author and then endless hours of watching YouTube tutorials with Cesar Milan and other dog trainers.
I must admit there was a point when the frustration was so big that we looked at each other as if we were admitting we had made a mistake adopting a dog and there was no turning back: potty training was going back and forth, she chewed things everywhere, pencils, cards, glasses, sunglasses, glue, shoes, sofa, cellphone, headphones, postcards, anything you can imagine as chewable or not, she chewed on!
Living with Pixel has changed us in a remarkable way and also taught us a great amount of things. Here are some of the most important ones:
• Positive reinforcement is real. It works. Yelling and pointing your finger while screaming “bad, bad dog!”, doesn’t.
• Dogs do not interpret or overthink things the way we do. We have to keep it simple and learn to communicate with each other.
• You have to limit the space and take all of your valuable things away from the dog. Dogs don’t know and honestly don’t care how much your glasses cost. They don’t even know what glasses or money are. If something chewable is within their reach, they will chew on it. Dogs don’t chew on your things because they want your attention or to show you “disrespect” or “revenge”. They just chew. So be a grown adult and limit the pup’s space so that you can both be happy and safe!
• Pups poop. A lot. A LOT. Potty training requires a huge amount of effort and patience. You just have to deal with it, keep training and be very, very, very (veeeery!) patient! If you do your homework, the magical day of a clean pup will come, I promise you!
My heart was really not prepared for such a huge amount of unconditional love and loyalty from such a small and furry creature. It was not like this from day 1, not even from week 1. For some it happens sooner, for others it takes longer, but a day comes and your dog just looks in your eyes and you just melt.
Pixel is now a 1,5 year-old adult dog, well-trained, very polite, crazy playful and extremely happy! She plays like a puppy everyday, eats lots of delicious treats and receives us at the door every time in the same way, as if we’d been missing for days!
I cannot imagine my life without her and even if I do, it’s just not the same life anymore. Dogs are amazing and we don’t deserve them.
Learn to communicate with your dog. If you cannot deal with an adult dog, don’t take a puppy. Once they are in your life, they should stay there forever, if you are able to accept all of the loyalty and purity they add to your life!
SIMON JACKSON – SUGAR & BONNIE (15 and 16 years old, R.I.P.)
I was first introduced to Baladi Dogs in 2012. I wanted to adopt a dog and went to my local animal rescue centre, I was living in Bristol at the time, we had a small farm with a few acres, so we knew we could probably get 2 dogs. I fell in love with a Labrador and her mother called Bonnie, we organised the paperwork, I was told the mother had terminal cancerous tumours, but the animal sanctuary would cover the costs for treatment and just wanted somewhere nice for them to pass their days; we wanted to give them both an everlasting home. The Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary in Bristol is great! https://hollyhedge.org.uk/
Unfortunately Bonnie’s mother passed away before we got to adopt her, but what happened in the animal sanctuary was Bonnie had bonded with a Baladi dog called Sugar that had been sent over from Egypt for rehoming. Bonnie had never been on her own before, we were told she came from a puppy farm, she was a ‘fox red Labrador’ and had been abused for breeding puppies. When the owners found out about her mother’s cancer, they put them in kennels with a false name and address and just left them there, hence their being up for adoption. We fell in love even more with Bonnie and now with Sugar. Both dogs were quite old when we adopted them (around 8 years old) and they lived with us until they passed aged 15 and 16.
Sugar and Bonnie in Bristol and with Otto the cat
So over the years we learned that Sugar came from a Wadi in Dahab, Egypt, she was rescued by a British lady called Janet – see https://helpdahabdogs.com/ – and they have a great facebook site – see https://www.facebook.com/helpdahabdogs/
It’s a non-for-profit organisation who rescue street dogs from the streets of Egypt; we were told that Sugar had been poisoned, she also had no teeth as she had ground them down eating stones, so she was in a right state when we adopted her. But she was a fighter and bounced back so we had a fantastic 8 years with her and she was the most lovely and gentle dog. When she passed in 2019 we knew that we wanted to adopt another Baladi dog from Egypt. Unfortunately, in March, Janet (who ran the Wadi sanctuary) passed away, and even more unfortunate the Wadi sanctuary that she built was going to be closed down, so all the dogs were in need of rehoming. From what I understand, around 160 out of about 300 dogs were lucky enough to be rehomed; we of course put our names down as soon as we heard what was going on. We were told about the plight of a mother and daughter Baladi dogs – Maggie and Annie.
Annie was a 2-year old Baladi dog and her only surviving puppy was Maggie who was at the time 1 year old. Again we fell in love and put our names down for adoption. And then along came Covid… we couldn’t travel and the dogs couldn’t travel, it wasn’t until November 2020, after nearly a year’s planning and lots and lots of paperwork, that the dogs were released to travel; they had been inoculated for rabies, had all their jabs, were put into quarantine and then flew to Belgium where they were met by one of the friends of the “Help Dahab Dogs” team; they were checked-out by local vets, given an EU passport and then were able to travel, after another quarantine period, to Ireland where we live now. We picked them up at a port called Rosslare in East Cork to bring them home on their final journey to West Cork. We live in a small herb farm with a couple of acres so we really feel they have won the jackpot as it’s doggy heaven over here: lots of walks, lots of white sandy beaches and lots of people to meet.
Maggie and Annie, mother and daughter, in Egypt
We are only in week 2 but the dogs have really settled in amazingly well: they still find the green grass a bit of a novelty, they are re-learning quickly, they are both already toilet-trained and learning to sit for treats, we are taking them to the beach today to see the wild Atlantic Ocean so we’ll let you know how we get on.
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