In June this year my beloved Staffie cross died at age 13 years old after a short illness. He was feisty, loyal, unpredictable and had aggression issues, disliking many people and other animals in equal measure. One of several dog behaviourists we hired to help him uttered the immortal words “this dog is not a monster” this was about 30 seconds before Dylan bit him! Not his finest hour and I cried for days wondering why I had ended up with the Hannibal Lecter of the dog world. So, his passing was a mixed blessing and I had no intention of getting another dog…..
I had enough on my plate already, part of me saying we still had Ruby, a Braque Allemande cross and chasse reject, adopted from my local SPA 5 years ago, who is skittish and terrified of gunshots and then there are our two elderly cats, a rabbit and various poultry, but then the other part of me kept nagging “but there is a bit of room left at the Inn”(and clearly I am the sort who would have turned Mary and Joseph away but found a room for the donkey)!
So via the internet I found the SPA Carcassonne site, our local SPA doesn’t have one, and doesn’t extend a particularly warm welcome even to those wanting to adopt a dog and I was immediately drawn in by the warmth of the welcome and how well the site was presented, showing a lovely complicity between the staff and the dogs. I started to check the site regularly to get updates on adoptions and arrivals and shared in the triumphs and disappointments. I felt that the photos and the snapshots of the dogs characters, with a bit of the dog’s history wherever possible, was a great starting point.
And then I saw him, Pitchou, a scruffy, hairy, mutt of 8 years old, abandoned due to a divorce by people who had had him from a puppy. Boy did that story resonate with me and pulled me straight back to my childhood. When my parents divorced Imm not sure either were that keen on keeping the children so the dog stood no chance and I got home from school to a dogless house to be told that the dog had been sent to a farm! “But what does a sausage dog do on a farm we wailed”, “nips the cows heels to round them up into the sheds”, came the reply. Game Over for poor Simon and it was not the poor dogs fault!
This put me on Pitchou’s ‘side’ from the start and in the SPA write up the word SOCIABLE leapt out at me, he was good with other dogs and very laid back. This really was music to my ear and it all sounded too good to be true, but I figured that as the same family had had him for 8 years then he most likely was just that!
I made further enquiries by phone and e.mail and the lovely Moira was always on hand to answer my queries and offer good help and advice. I loved the fact that she was never pushy and just let me make decisions and ruminate at my own pace. In some ways having had Dylan I was a bit afraid of taking on a new dog and may have been trying to put obstacles in my own way! The big test however, and non negotiable, was whether Pitchou was good with cats, so Moira organised a cat test and I was assured that he was totally disinterested in any feline charms!
It was important that the whole family were on board with the adoption so the 4 of us set off together on a roasting hot July day to meet our new chum. Pitchou, despite having had a recent wash and brush up by Moira, still looked rather bedraggled but was an instant hit with my husband who wanted to rush out and get him a dog-kerchief and rename him Banjo (..err..No!) My younger daughter waxed lyrical about hairstyles, bobbles and grooming so I tried to remain objective and calm so that I would be strong enough to say ‘no’ if necessary.
We took him out of his kennel and into one of the little parks and that is when he dropped his ‘little old man act’ and showed his true colours racing around, bounding up and down, flinging his kong ball everywhere and jumping in and out of a bowl of water, he couldn’t have done more to attract attention if he had started high kicking with a cane and top hat! It was almost like he knew it was a now or never moment and the deal was done! So he was reserved and taken for all his jabs and to be snipped and he was collected in August!
Well what can I say, from day one he has been simply wonderful and has settled in beautifully. He is friendly, funny, gentle and has clearly been well trained as he knows all the basic commands, walks well on the lead, has excellent recall and has not tried to sit on the furniture. He even snores very sweetly so, what’s not to like!! He and Ruby rub along well together though her nose was put out of joint to start with and she was very ‘ice maiden’ for the first few weeks, considering herself to be Yves St Laurent to his Primark, but his steadiness of character has won her over. A real case of Lady and The Tramp!
He has been to my local vet for a meet and greet and behaved impeccably. He is lively but not demanding and loves to walk, but then I’d never thought of him as being ‘old’ at 8, because he isn’t and as the vet said “He is a flower who has just opened”…aaah…sweet!
All he needed was a bit of kindness and a second chance and we consider ourselves enormously fortunate to have found him.