The Tale of a Rescue Dog

Some readers will know that I am a trustee of the Bedlington Terrier Rescue Foundation (BTRF). This came about through an emergency foster of a really super dog three years ago.

At the beginning of the lockdown period, BTRF was contacted about a young bitch in the north of England.  I’m going to call her Flora here. She had been rescued from a very difficult situation by a lovely lady who fully intended to keep her, but who discovered that Flora wasn’t happy living with her other dogs. She was also very worried about what would happen to all her dogs if she were to be affected by COVID. She sensibly contacted the charity for help and the team was mobilised.

At almost exactly the same time, a good friend of mine contacted me to say that she and her husband were ready for a dog in their lives. My friend is a university lecturer and a specialist in education. Her understanding of behaviour is exemplary both through her professional knowledge and her experience with her rescue pony, so she was well placed to support a dog with some anxieties.

After all the usual home checks and interviews, and much additional plotting of logistics and legal advice about COVID rules, Flora was transported to my friend’s home and she and her husband were instantly besotted.

I’m so proud to work with this amazing charity. They have a really excellent system for placing dogs successfully. New adopters are given detailed instructions for settling a dog into their homes and are allocated a local behaviourist for ongoing support at the charity’s expense. Even the easiest of dogs will go through a stressful time in a new environment, and this can be tough for experienced dog owners, let alone a first-time owner. As no one could work with my friend in person because of lockdown, I volunteered to support her and her husband remotely.

What a pleasure it was – my job was easy. I was contacted with a question, and by the time I had formulated an answer, my friend had answered her own question! The only thing she and her husband needed help with was translating her existing knowledge into “dog” terms rather than human or horse.

Flora was reluctant to eat at first, this isn’t at all unusual with the upheaval of a journey and a new home, and she was offered the food she previously ate. This was rejected completely. We experimented with all manner of tasty offerings, and my clever friend worked out that eating out of a bowl was more of an issue than what was offered. Thereafter, Flora was fed on a lickimat and all sorts of other “non-bowls”!  Problem solved.

Toileting was a bit of an issue. Flora didn’t know where to go or how to ask, and my poor friends were caught out a few times, but they understood, took on board the information Flora was giving, and changed routines to help her. Soon, she was toileting when asked to in the garden.

The charity director was a little alarmed that I was proposing to home a young, active Bedlington Terrier in a home with chickens in the garden, but I knew my friends would manage the situation safely. I took great pleasure in sending the director a lovely video of Flora recalling away from the chickens’ enclosure, an amazing bit of training. She was suitably impressed!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Flora flourish in her new home, and sharing the joy she brought to her new humans. She was playing, venturing out on tiny walks and learning to walk beautifully on a loose lead and ignore other dogs (instead of launching at them barking her head off, as she had done in the past). Progress was phenomenal, all thanks to my brilliant friend’s patience and understanding of the process of learning. So often, people rush to take rescue dogs out and about before they are ready. Flora was happy.

Then, I got a phone call to say that Flora had been sick. I wasn’t too worried. Like us, dogs are sometimes sick for no very alarming reason, she was bright and happy so we decided to watch and wait. Anyway, vets were only seeing emergency patients at this time to minimise the risk to their staff and clients.

All was well for a while, then Flora was sick again. This time, she was miserable, too, so we decided we must get her to the vet, even ‘though we ideally would have prepared her for the car journey (she wasn’t a fan of the car – understandable, when it represented being uprooted to a new home) and also for handling by the vet. My poor friend couldn’t even be with Flora, as to minimise risk, all vets were only allowing patients into the clinic, not their humans, just like human hospitals.

Flora had a blood sample taken, and went back home. Amazingly, she took this all in her stride and the vets and nurses said what an easy patient she was. This is a testament to how secure she was now feeling.  The blood sample showed that her liver wasn’t quite right. As Flora is a Bedlington Terrier, we were all extra worried, as we know that some have a genetic peculiarity that means they can’t process copper properly and it can “clog up” their livers. It’s called copper toxicosis or CT.

You may need a box of tissues at this point. In less than 24 hours, Flora deteriorated, was immediately admitted to the vets for intensive treatment and tragically, she died. Her poor, poor humans thankfully managed to be with her but what a devastating experience.

It turns out that Flora was indeed affected by the genetic peculiarity, and her liver was progressively clogging up with copper throughout her short life.  We were told she was only three, although this seems unlikely.

I started writing this as an example of an excellent adoption process, and I decided to continue with the story not to make your eyes leak (mine are, as I write) but because there IS a positive here. In her short life, Flora didn’t have the feeling of safety and security to “admit” that she felt ill and in her previous homes, nobody spotted any subtle clues. Dogs are incredibly stoical. In nature, it isn’t wise to let others know you are weak or compromised in any way, you are likely to be left behind or fall prey to stronger animals even of your own kind.  In the three months that this little dog was with my wonderful friends, she relaxed, she learned to play, she learned that she COULD communicate with humans.  And she felt safe enough to show that she was ill.

Run free, Flora, you have touched many hearts in your short life and will never be forgotten. And thank you, to the wonderful, generous couple who taught you what it was to be truly loved.

To support the Bedlington Terrier Rescue Charity or adopt a Bedlington, you can visit their website:

http://www.bedlingtonrescue.co.uk