If I had to sum up Why Rescue Dogs are Special it would be this: they never take your love for granted.
That was our experience with Frankie for the 13 years we had her in our lives. Taken into a police station by the family that had her as a pup, given up because 'she wanted to go for a walk every day' she was just 9 months old and clearly the novelty of having a bouncy lurcher puppy around had worn off once the true commitment had been realised.
She had been left all day on her own and came to us with some serious separation anxiety issues, even being with Bruno did not calm her, she howled the house down, every time she was left. She hated the kitchen, cardboard boxes, loud noises and would only go to the loo in the garden! She had never been allowed to run free off lead. Recall was non existant! She didn't know she could play with toys and as we found out very early on, she had a massive prey drive - we blamed the Saluki part of her for that!
A few months ago I decided to explore the subject of rescue dogs on my Facebook page and I was more than a little overwhelmed by the response. In comparison to many Frankie's story was not a sad one. The thing that touched me the most is how people who have welcomed rescue dogs into their lives have turned the lives of the dogs around - every time. Shown love and care they do learn to trust but like Frankie they never take your love for granted. Unlike puppies who have only ever known to love and trust humans. A good example would be this scenario - Bruno when parked on the couch would give me the look to say 'yes, I am sitting here, find somewhere else' but Frankie's response would be ' oh, is it okay for me to sit here?'
So, what did I learn from the stories that you shared with me? I learned that as the owner of a very special blind whippet called Scout said 'every dog has a different story to tell and each one has been on a unique and individual journey but what a privilege it is to be part of that journey' Scout is now a Pets as Therapy Dog as Frankie was, they just seem to know who needs a little love at the right time.
Something else that comes across is that a rescue dog is NOT the easy route. It requires time, love, patience and dedication. They come with fears that they don't forget and these often have to be managed. Some never overcome them all.
I am struck by the sad stories I was told. A one year old Italian Greyhound who had been left in a garage to starve with no bedding on a concrete floor and little water once rescued blossomed into a healthy, fun loving dog giving her owners great joy for a very brief time. This dear little dog was killed in a car accident just one year later, but the owner told me 'she passed knowing much love' and went on to rescue another little Iggy.
I asked people why they decided to rescue and not to buy a dog. Many said they had always had rescues and just wouldn't consider any other way. One such owner, rescued Lottie who had been tied to a gate close beside a motorway, found with perhaps just one day to live. She slept for 4 days solid in the rescue centre, fed hourly, tiny bits, shut down and afraid of everything. If you could see the photos of how Lottie is now you would not believe the transformation. Her lovely owner went on to tell me how, even though she was scared of so many things she was also eager to please and has thrived in a loving home. Her reward is summed up by 'the total unconditional love she repays you with'.
Some told me that it took no time for their dogs to settle in, for others it took longer. One lady told me that when her 'nervous and frightened' greyhound saw her couch he jumped up and was in the full roach position in no time! Frankie did settle at home, but took some settling into our routine, and being very unfit when we first had her we had to restrict the amount of off lead walks to avoid a heart attack! She also hated the car, whilst many others jumped happily into their new owners cars as if they knew their life was going to get better from that day on.
There were stories of ex racing greyhounds, of puppy farm neglected boys and girls, many injured dogs and some who's owners had died. The one thing they all have in common is that with the love of their new owners they do recover from even the most appalling abuse, and they do learn to trust again.
Some have gone on to help others, humans and dogs, some become therapy dogs, Scout inspired a book and Elsie inspired fundraising for the Galgo's in Spain. Some came from dog pounds, some found on the streets, Beetle had had 6 homes in his first 5 months - I just don't get how someone could give up on a puppy so readily. Luckily he now has a stable and loving home with an owner who gets his quirky ways!
Choosing to rescue a dog is not the easy route. It takes time and dedication. We had to get the help of a behaviorist with Frankie, she had fear issues when on the lead - she had never been shown how to greet on the lead and always felt happier off when able to run. We chose to get a puppy when Frankie and Bruno left us last year, mainly because George is my brothers dogs nephew and without that family connection I would not have known where to start finding the next dog to share our lives with.
14 years ago I was laughed at when I started looking for a rescue whippet - look how many there are now. And that isn't even mentioning the ones offered on such websites as Gumtree 'free to a good owner'. Luckily there are the most amazing rescue charities out there doing great work for unwanted dogs.
We work long hours and didn't feel that the time was right to take on another rescue, but I know that one day we will. I think we might dip our toe in the water by offering our home for fosters - place your bets now - will I be a failed foster and keep the first one? Only time will tell!
It has now been 6 months since we lost Frankie. Our special girl who we loved without condition, was loved by all who met her and who NEVER took our love for granted.
Here's to all the special love given by rescue rascals all around the World - if we could bottle it and share it out I feel sure that the World would be a much better place.