VICTOR TEIXEIRA – LMDI

Last month we wrote about how bringing home new puppies or rescue dogs had saved so many of us during lockdown. We got so many stories and photos that we had to split the issue into two parts for the first time since the start of this DogBlog. This month we continue with two happy tales which restore our faith in the human nature. But they also leave us wondering how many dogs out there still need rescuing.

Four years ago, thinking that Oscar was too old at 5 years old to introduce a puppy into his life, we still took the leap and brought home little Ollie (4 months), literally hours before he was dropped off at Battersea Cats & Dogs Home. We’re not going to lie, the first few months were a bit tricky with the pup wanting to expend his huge levels of energy and the big brother wanting to assert himself as boss. There were growls and nips and sad puppy eyes. We had to leave them to it and not interfere too much. Within a couple of months Oscar came into the living room, where young Ollie was comfortably asleep and, having scanned the entirety of the lounge, decided to lie down right next to his baby brother on the sofa – we couldn’t believe our eyes but once again we didn’t make a fuss.

Since then, they have fought and growled a lot more but all in a brotherly way. They’ve also got into trouble together. The temptation is always there to try to introduce a new dog to the family, especially during lockdown when we are both at home the whole time, but we have to take into account what’s best for Oscar and Ollie. And for now this is a perfect setting!

Others have had other ideas… laughing

Welcome to July’s DogBlog (Covid – Part 2):

Kimberley Perry – with Cookie (2 years old)

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Dogs

As I sit to type this I have one dog curled up in a ball on the floor next to me and one in the hall behind a kiddie gate, whose tail wags as soon as I even pass by. She looks at me as if to apologise, desperate to come and spread out on the floor with me.

The one in the hall is Cookie, AKA Lulu, a dog who crossed our path by way of our friend and dog walker/behaviourist Danielle. Cookie was in a foster home in Essex but had been spotted by Danielle as she trawled rescue charities’ pages in search of a calm dog to lift the spirits of our bereaved dog Banjo, the one who faithfully lies next to me now.

Cookie and Banjo are now on a journey together, with us carefully overseeing. They will now share a home, two humans, two gardens and countryside walks. Yet their backgrounds could not be more different.

Some may say that Banjo has had a life of privilege. He is a pure bred Tibetan Terrier from Liphook, Hants. He has always been warm, sleeps on one of a selection of beds (normally the human one!). He dreams of recycling day, squirrels, food and love by the way he happily twitches in his sleep. He is my velcro dog, my soul within another soul. He cannot be without me and cries as soon as I dare to sneak out of the house. He’s a neurotic but hard-wearing pup.

We accidentally brought two of the same litter home when I foolishly felt sorry for the one who wasn’t yet earmarked – his brother Merlin. It’s something I don’t recommend you ever try! From day one Banjo and Merlin were a duo, a pack, a whirlwind of wild puppy energy. Tibetan Terriers were familiar to us, our friends had their sister Crumble and she was playful, attentive and clever. Banjo and Merlin learned quickly too but sadly not in all the magic of the world alone. They experienced the fears of other dogs at an early stage when our neighbour’s dog attacked them and we were launched into the unknown territory of owning two 4 month old littermate males with anxiety. We had to adapt to deliberately walking away from other dogs rather than introducing more to their uneasy world. 

We did all we could to ease the suffering, walking through fields and parks only when deserted (6am is great near us but you can forget 10am!). We took on advice from a behaviourist, friends, dog walkers and vets. After several years of adaptation we had two bouncy dogs who could be left at home to snooze and guard the house and who actually enjoyed being walked with a multipack of breeds by our expert Danielle. Banjo and Merlin were healthy, relatively sociable and we could work, socialise and anticipate their behaviour. ‘The Boys’ were there for us when we lost fathers, friends, jobs, homes and when our family wept or cheered… Merlin in particular had eyes that would see straight into your soul. They were adored by family and were always along for the ride – even up to the top of a mountain in Switzerland one Christmas.

Our stability completely ruptured in January when Merlin was struggling to pee on his walks. We wondered if it was a urinary tract infection, the vet was convinced it was a prostate issue as he was 10 years old and displayed all the traits. After a scan to check, we returned to the vet. As she stood saying the words I still cannot contemplate, I immediately went into resourceful mode. Merlin had a tumour in his urethra, a place that was inaccessible, a cancer that was untreatable. We had a weekend to decide to send him to Fitzpatrick Referrals (who was in our region but beyond our financial limits) or for our own vet to tentatively try doing a biopsy. Either way there would be no improvement in his quality of life, just an extension. I desperately phoned around for 3 expert opinions on the prognosis – all concurred that he would suffer.

On 13th January we took our beloved dog to be put to sleep after one final walk with him obliviously chasing squirrels, knowing it was the best outcome for him. Coming home to just one dog in torrential rain felt like the greatest loss our hearts could have. The void in our home and family could have been a canyon it hurt so much. All the loss of the past, which had been soothed by our empathetic, wise dog Merlin, boiled to the surface. 

 

We returned to work after a week of mourning and Banjo, after a week of elation at being centre of attention, fell apart. Having never truly been alone he scratched at windows, peed on beds and howled for us to come home. We managed 4 days of hell, watching him distressed on cameras and then he started going to work with my husband. It was a sticking plaster of a solution but it enabled us to work. As lockdown began, we knew Banjo was ready to share his home with another canine soul. As humans we can give animals so much but there are certain aspects of life that only the same species can understand and bestow upon one another. We finally had a dog we could walk off the lead, delicately and cautiously sniffing other stranger dogs who we could take to the pub and to friends’ homes but he was lonely. He was bored.

 

For 8 weeks we searched rehoming sites and charities. We wanted another lost dog to have a second chance at a happy life so we had ruled out a puppy. We put numerous feelers out for a calm, mature female dog to complement Banjo and nothing came back. Most dogs that ticked the boxes were in Wales and we were restricted to our neighbourhood. I totally lost hope – every time I saw a dog that could be right I made a space for her in my mind and then lost her again.

 

Out of the blue, when we’d resigned to being a solo dog home, Danielle sent a photo of a dog she’d seen on the Animal Adoption International Facebook page. It was of a black dog with a white stripe down its face and belly, sitting on concrete with huge brown eyes like Merlin’s. She wondered if she was too big for us as we’d really thought a small dog like Banjo would be easier but from the moment I saw the next photo – of her lying in a cage, sad and lost, she was in my heart. Animal Adoption International had rescued her from the Pallady shelter in Romania, where her days were numbered, and placed her into foster care in Essex. From that day I dreamt of Lulu (as she’d been named) in that stark, industrial, loveless place. It was like she was already connected to me, it was meant that she would be with us. I saw the wisdom and love in her eyes and desperately wanted for her to feel what Banjo has always had – love, safety and joy. 

After speaking to Niz Khan, who runs the charity that connects dogs from the worst situations imaginable with forever humans, I learned that Lulu was calm, considerate and gentle with the fosterer’s other 7 dogs. She had managed to get to the UK against all odds, as borders started to close in February thanks to Niz and her team and basic fundraising money. The lovely and knowledgeable Judy had then taken her into her home so that she could experience home life. We don’t know where Lulu, now called Cookie for her Oreo cookie colouring, lived before. She may have been a pet at some point and been abandoned, got lost or stolen. Her life would have been on streets, in gutters and without much touch or continued kindness other than from occasional strangers or shelter staff. I didn’t sleep for a week once we said we’d take her in, my mind running through every possible outcome – would she attack Banjo? What if she is too scared to open up to us? Will I ever be able to leave them alone together, the ending we desperately need in order to live our lives? Do I know enough about dogs to take this on? 

Here she is now, in our house, a foreigner to our dog but already a housemate and maybe soon a friend. Having possibly never been bathed in her 2+ years, she had 4 shampoos from Danielle, who carefully picked the dead hair from her coat and trimmed the fluff from her overgrown paws. She smelled of stale pee and now she smells of dog and warmth. Her coat is not only black and white but dark brown, with flashes of red and hints of different breeds. She’s probably had a litter of puppies at least once… she has tales and experiences of which I will never learn but she lives in this moment – this moment in our home with Banjo. With a fluffy bed and a sofa, a collar with a tag, a harness, her own garden. Yesterday she got so excited with it all she went for Banjo when he came to join our cuddle, her 25kg body and deep voice firing at him. I suddenly wondered what I’d done, feeling frightened as I put myself between them. ‘Have you been fawning on her?’ Niz asked. I had. I had welcomed her in too much, too soon. Banjo was in the firing line and being knocked off his perch at the top. Isolation for Cookie was the only way. We went to bed, ignoring her, rejecting her actions. We couldn’t risk Banjo being made to feel afraid. Oddly, in spite of the threats and excitement (Cookie likes to run the length of the house and then the back garden like a juggernaut!) Banjo’s tail has been up rather than down and he’s sleeping like a newborn again. Who knew the old man needed this energy in the house? 

Cookie spent her 6th night with us pooping all over the lounge after the stress of the move and the diet changes amongst any number of things. We know this is to be expected when you compare her life before to now. She still sniffs Banjo all too eagerly, still barks loudly at the neighbours’ dogs as they taunt her from afar. She needs constant supervision and no attention until she learns she can’t be top dog. Yet, as I finish typing this another day of torrential rain has given way to vibrant colour and sunshine. Cookie sleeps soundly on the rug, twitching, as if she’s always been here not there, 1600 miles away. Banjo is in a ball on his stinky old bed next to me. There is so much hope for them both, two brokenhearted pups healing and learning together about all that is good in this world.

Please support small charities such as Animal Adoption International and save lives all over the world. https://www.facebook.com/animaladoptioni/

Isaac Eamer-Bontes – with Ludo (5 months old)

 

 

 

Eight years. This is the amount of time it took me to convince my husband we needed to get a dog. This is slightly a lie, as we previously fostered a dog from Thailand that ended up being diagnosed with a phobia of men. A perfect situation for two gay males. We gave it four months before the rescue agency removed the dog from our home. It was an emotionally devastating experience. In the end we know Riley ended up in the right place. Acreage on Vancouver Island where she’s become best friends with a deer.

Two years later my husband surprised me with an early birthday present. A puppy we have named Ludo. Yes, a reference to one of my family’s favourite childhood films, Labyrinth. Heck, I even have a tattoo of an owl to represent my love of David Bowie and the film. But enough about that. My husband found a local breeder through facebook back in January and we put down a deposit. We were lucky enough to make first contact, so we had first choice from the litter. The breeders had intended to breed purebred Golden Retrievers. What happened of course was an accident. The twenty-something year old couple each owned a dog. One Golden Retriever, the other a Bernese Mountain Dog. So with this happy accident we ended up with a Golden Mountain.

We got to experience our honeymoon at the end of January, after putting it on hold for a year and a half due to work related issues. We got home on Valentine’s Day. Ludo was born the day before we arrived home from the Philippines. A bit of happy news before what was about to transpire into a complete global pandemic. To be fair, coming home had its own challenges with cancelled flights due to connections through China. But we made it home and eagerly awaited the arrival of our new puppy.

I should state that I am a Flight Attendant for a major Canadian airline and what I didn’t realize was that Ludo was about to become one of my saving graces. Working for an airline through a pandemic has been its own ordeal. Fighting for basic human rights as a front line worker, just to have the company supply employees with proper safety equipment such as masks took months. Even now being unemployed the fight for my colleagues is ongoing. The amount of my co-workers who were on flights with infected passengers with no protection is ridiculous. The fact that it took the company nearly two weeks to notify these employees is even more problematic. I have discovered I suffer from anxiety. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low. Having panic attacks and breakdowns multiple times a month. My husband has shown me more support and patience than I would have ever expected from anyone. Then it happened. She was finally ready to come home.

My life changed. Her sweet kisses, forced cuddles (see Olivia from Tiny Toons) and plenty of misbehaviours helped put those feelings of anxiety somewhere different. Where I at one point feared leaving the apartment, she gave me a reason to get out, go for walks, get fresh air. She helped clear my mind. Don’t get me wrong, she was a biter. I have never bled so much. I will probably never end up with more scars on my body. But every one of them is worth it. She is now five months old and as I write this she has just crawled up on the couch to sleep next to me. She needs me just as much as I need her. She has changed my life forever and is the best gift the man of my dreams could ever give. She is love.

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