This boy. This gorgeous troubled lad. I wouldn’t change him for the world. He is mine, he is damaged, but he is mine. I am fiercely protective of him. He is one of us, he is part of me and that will never change. Trust me when I say I understand how you feel.
Today marks that special anniversary of us bringing him home to our family.
As we wandered along the kennels at the RSPCA, a little cheeky face appeared at one of the kennel doors - a cheeky face that was about to change our lives forever. At that time, we had not even gone looking for a dog; we had gone to re-home another cat after both of our much loved cats had passed away. He appeared just at that very moment when we needed him most; I knew he would be coming home with us. He was mesmerised by Annabel. She knelt down at his kennel door and spoke to him gently and he bobbed his head from side to side. Mummy she asked “why is he here, he needs a warm house”? That question had the tears rolling down my face. We could have got an 8 week old puppy. We could have started at the beginning and had a blank canvas through those critical formative months - but I could not leave this boy here. We left the centre and I called my husband - who was traveling abroad at the time - and simply said “something has happened, we will be getting a new family member” and his name is Pippin!
I was told Pippin would not be available for adoption until the next coming Saturday as he had been moved around and needed time to settle. The poor thing had already been moved from two other centres where no one had come forward to adopt him. Very little was known about him other than he had been found on the streets and was very malnourished. He had just been moved to Surrey in another attempt to find him a loving home. So as the Saturday came around, I turned up at the rehoming centre gates as they opened at 8am. I knew they did not officially open to the public until 11.30am, but the kind staff had told me that they could register me as the first arrival on their sheet when I arrived at the centre. They kindly made me a cup of tea and I went to the car to start my long wait!
Finally 11.30am came around; I was rather cold and stiff but it was certainly worth it when I was able to meet him outside of his kennel - oh lord his cuddles were amazing! He put his paws round my legs and cuddled into me. He still does this now! At this point, the staff asked if my husband and children could come such that they could be introduced to him. They arrived very quickly and we headed off to the field for a play. I remember he was so happy to be free, playing with the children and we very quickly realised that a tennis ball was his most favourite toy!
Fast forward a week or two; and after all our home checks were complete he arrived home with us. He did a tour of the house and garden. He did a wee on my foot, ate like he hadn’t eaten for a month and then he flopped. The photos of him on the sofa show how exhausted he was. He slept so soundly and content. This was it, he was a part of our family and we vowed he would never leave, however tough it got.
And tough it did get. He needed time, time to de-stress, settle and adapt. As time went by he was happy and contented at home. He loved to be with the family, but as we started to introduce short walks - this is where we started to notice his worries and anxieties.
Walking in the area around our house became stressful and embarrassing. Other dog walkers did not seek to hide their tuts and the whispers as we walked past. Pip would routinely growl, lung and bark on the end of the lead. I quickly became a master at dodging other walkers, going on walks at strange times of the day when it was quieter and I developed a thick skin to the stares and comments. As things stood, there was no way he could be off the lead and many of our actions to this point had only really sought to mask and avoid the root of the problem. We had to find a way to first of all let him destress a little; then find things that we could do to help him and ensure he could enjoy his life outside as much as he did in the security of his home.
If all of this strikes a chord with you, as I said at the very beginning of this blog..... trust me when I say I understand how you feel. In my next blog, I will discuss what we can do to help support reactive dogs, why it is not their fault and why we sometimes need to muzzle for their own benefit.
Rescuing Pippin is still one of my most rewarding and life changing decisions. I will continue to share my experiences through this blog as to how we overcame these challenges to provide him with the life he deserves.