Growing Old Gracefully

This appeared in my feed today and I found it quite moving. The process of aging in dogs happens so quickly compared to humans, especially in the larger breeds. And obviously older dogs are often harder to rehome when they end up in rescue. So, grab a coffee and take five minutes to appreciate the dignity of older dogs:

http://brightside.me/article/how-dogs-get-older-a-fascinating-and-deeply-touching-photography-project-11005/

And if you prefer younger dogs, this is Ms Willow catching up on her beauty sleep:

Asleep

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27 Reasons To Never Have A Staffordshire Bull Terrier As A Pet

I have always admitted to having a huge soft spot for Staffordshire Bull Terriers, even now I only have to see one and it makes me smile. From what we saw when we were looking at rescue centres, about 75% of rescue dogs at the time were Staffies or Staffie crosses and I always assumed that would be what we ended up with. Instead we ended up with this little bundle of joy:

Willow on rug

But my soft spot is still there so, as you can imagine, I had a big smile on my face when I found this webpage:

27 Reasons To Never Have A Staffordshire Bull Terrier As A Pet

Enjoy!

And smile 😀

The Human Walking Programme

I love inventive campaigns that actually work to get rescue dogs adopted, as I said in the post-script to this post.  So here’s another one that I think is fantastic from Australia:

The Human Walking Programme

Before dogs can be rehomed they have to be rescued and I confess to watching a few YouTube videos from Eldad Hagar’s Hope for Paws channel. These show you the other end of the story, in this case rescuing abandoned dogs, often in a pitiful state, from the streets of Los Angeles.

Huge kudos to all those individuals and organisations who work towards helping stray and unwanted dogs (and other animals) find new, loving homes. And from our family particular thanks to Friends of the Animals RCT without whom we wouldn’t have filled our dog-shaped hole.

 

Willow

As I said in my previous post, Willow is a cross between a Cairn Terrier and a Pomeranian; she has the body and coat of a terrier, with a Pom’s tail and a face that’s somewhere between the two.

Dog on rug

It’s fairly obvious that she has not been properly socialised as a puppy as she jumps at any strange noise. We brought her home from the fosterers late afternoon on Saturday and she spent a good half hour or so exploring the ground floor of the house, going back and forward through the rooms smelling everything. Unfortunately she soon learned that the kitchen is a source of lots of strange noises – the washing machine, tumble drier, the click of the microwave door, the kettle… and promptly decided that the safest place to be with all these noises was behind the Christmas tree in the living room, wedged into a corner. She stayed there for quite some time and wouldn’t be tempted out until Daughter budged in behind her and gradually ‘budged’ her out. To be fair Willow has adapted really quickly and yesterday decided she could be next to the Christmas tree when she was worried and not behind it.

In the meantime we’d put the blanket that we’d brought from her foster home into her crate and covered the crate with another blanket so it smelt familiar. She soon decided that was an alternative safe place to be. She has gone into the crate overnight both nights and apart from some quiet whimpering for about a minute on the first night she has been really good. This morning when I let her out of the crate I was met with a very energetic ball of fluff who danced all around me and whose tail was going nineteen to the dozen trying to tell me how pleased she was to see me.

The one thing she doesn’t appear to be scared of is people coming into the house. She’s been quite happy to go up and greet the two visitors we have had with a wag of the tail, which is reassuring.

She seems to be quite an intelligent dog. Although she was allowed on the furniture at her foster home she has only tried it a couple of times here and has soon picked up on the fact that she’s not allowed on the sofa. If she wants a fuss one of us will sit on the floor and fuss her, but she’s not allowed up for a fuss. Cat, however, is allowed on the sofa, a fact that Willow is not happy about. She and Cat seem to have reached an uneasy truce. They’ve touched noses a few times and had a good smell of each other; Cat has thumped her once for some impertinent sniffing and Willow has chased Cat once when Cat was daft enough to run away. Willow isn’t allowed upstairs but Cat is so that she’s got a safe zone to retreat to. Everything is fine until someone makes a fuss of Cat, especially if they’re sitting on the floor doing it. Willow may be happy to be bottom dog at least for the time being, but I’m not sure she likes being bottom cat. I’m making sure we keep an eye on them as much as possible but it does seem positive so far and I hope given time they will become much more tolerant of each other.

So that brings the tale up to date. Today both offspring were at school and Husband was out at a meeting. I was working from home and Willow spent the time that I was working curled up in a basket next to my feet, very well behaved. It has been a pretty positive start to Willow’s rehoming but it is still very early days.

A Tale of Two Home Visits

Or should that be a tail… no, let’s not start on the puns.

When we decided to start our hunt for a rescue dog we decided to start at Battersea Old Windsor as it was fairly local, had quite a large number of dogs and a good reputation. We paid a visit, filled in the required forms, had a quick chat with a re-homer and then had a look through the kennels.

There were about five dogs I would have taken home there and then. All Staffies.

The procedure at Battersea is that you fill in the forms to adopt a dog and then you get a general home visit to check that your home and garden is suitable before you start really thinking about which dog you would like. Consequently the home check is not specific and effectively covers any and all breed of dog. About 5 days after we’d been to Old Windsor I had a call from one of their home inspectors and we set a date for the following week for her to come and see us.

Garden and plantsThe home inspector was very helpful, she came up with lots of suggestions about settling a new dog in, especially with Cat. She outlined how Battersea check to see if a dog is likely to be able to live with a cat and we discussed feeding and training and everything involved in looking after a dog. However, she wasn’t happy with our garden, specifically the fences. We have a relatively small garden surrounded mostly by 6’ fences. There was one area of 3’ tatty mesh fence which really did need replacing and I couldn’t disagree with her on this. However, as we have a 4’ high bunker next to a 5’ shed against the 6’ fence, she was concerned that a dog could jump up onto these and then jump over the fence and break a leg falling the 6’ on the other side, despite the fact that our neighbour has shrubs growing against the fence at this point. She wanted us to raise the height of the fence in this area to prevent a dog jumping over it, and suggested putting trellis along the top of the fence. The bottom line was that until we had done the work and she had come back to inspect then we couldn’t go any further with adopting a dog from them.

So, that was pretty disappointing. Husband and I had a chat about the work that needed doing and determined that putting in trellis was not going to be particularly easy. Husband started applying his not inconsiderable DIY skills to thinking about the problem and ten days later the 3’ fence was a 6’ fence, which only left the trellis.

In the meantime, however, I had found a dog being offered for adoption by a much smaller animal charity who looked ideal so I filled in an application form and a call from the adoption co-ordinator followed fairly swiftly. She thought that we would be an ideal home for this particular dog, currently being fostered about an hour’s drive away from us, and set things in motion. A phone chat with the dog’s fosterer followed which only served to convince me that this could be the perfect dog for us, so a home visit was arranged.

I wasn’t aware but the smaller rescue charities tend to help each other out in terms of fostering and home checks. Consequently, this morning we had a home check from a local lady who fosters for another animal charity. The difference this time was that she had the details of the dog we were interested in and checked the garden for that particular dog. She saw the new 6’ fence and the existing fence (no trellis) and the small hole in the gate that we had temporarily blocked. She came inside and chatted to all four of us, asked about our routines, our holiday plans, our thoughts on training. She also recommended a particularly good dog training class locally.

Then she told us she was more than satisfied that we were a suitable home and that she would report back to the adoption co-ordinator to that effect as soon as she got home. Home check passed with flying colours! (And no more garden DIY required from Husband!)

Why a rescue dog?

For us it went without saying that when we got a dog, it would have to be a rescue dog. There are lots of reasons, some big, some small but Husband summed it up when he said, ‘I would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem.’

Now, this is only my personal opinion but I just don’t understand the concept of breeding dogs (or cats) for financial gain. OK, I do understand the concept of doing it for financial gain but it just feels wrong to me – if you have a pet, it’s a pet, it’s a member of the family, not a business opportunity. A responsible pet owner has their pet neutered as early as possible to make sure accidents don’t happen and they don’t add to the number of dogs needing to find a good home.

StaffieYou only have to look at animal rescue sites to see how many dogs there are looking for new homes. Battersea currently have 145 dogs listed on their website and there are many more in their kennels who are not shown on the site; Blue Cross currently list eighty dogs; the Dogs Trust has 19 centres across the UK, the RSPCA have numerous centres and there are also many smaller charities such as Many Tears, Friends of the Animals RCT and even our local independent rescue centre, DBARC, where Lizzie came from, has 17 dogs shown.  A lot of these dogs come to rescue from puppy farms when they remain unsold.

Puppy farms – if you really want to see what they’re about just run a Google image search. This is pure profiteering at the cost of the health of the breeding animals. Brood bitches are bred repeatedly with little care for their welfare, often in squalid conditions. The puppies are separated from the mothers very early in order to make space for the next litter and sold on to pet shops. Many farmed puppies develop health problems and in some cases may die or have to be put down.

Obviously there are some very responsible breeders out there who try and make sure that the animals they breed go to a good home. There are also sensible guidelines laid out for anyone thinking of buying a puppy from a breeder to make sure that you are getting a well-cared for animal. I realise that often people will want a particular breed as a pet and/or will want a puppy and the easiest solution is to go to a breeder. Personally, I don’t really do baby animals – they’re cute but way too much work. Cat was seven months old when she arrived in the household and she’s been the youngest adoptee so far. However, without the demand for pedigree dogs there wouldn’t be a market for puppy farms to cash in on.

There are also plenty of breed-specific rescue centres out there, so if you are interested in a particular breed then find the rescue charity that deals with that breed and have a look. It’s always worth making contact, even if you particularly want a puppy.

The other current sad trend in terms of dogs looking for a new home is that of Staffordshire Bull Terriers. If you look at Battersea’s site in particular about 75% of their dogs are Staffies, or Staffie cross-breeds. These have a reputation for being tough and looking ‘hard’, or at least making their owners look hard. Unfortunately the type of person who thinks owing a Staffie will add to their street cred are not the sort to be responsible dog owners and so many of the dogs end up in rescue. As RSPCA chief vet Mark Evans said: “If people think that Staffies have problems, they’re looking at the wrong end of the dog lead!”. Staffies are, in fact, gentle intelligent dogs who love to please and who make excellent family pets if properly treated and trained. Battersea are currently running a campaign called Staffies. They’re softer than you think. Go and have a look, it might change your mind.

POSTSCRIPT:

I forgot whilst I was actually writing this blog post that there was a wonderful advertising campaign run in Costa Rica to find homes for mixed breed dogs. And when I say mixed breed, I mean REALLY mixed! It was hugely successful probably because it plays on people’s desire to own something unique:

Unique Breeds Video

 

Photo credit: Fleshpiston via photopin cc