It was March 2017 and my husband and I had finally decided to adopt a Romanian rescue dog f. I found this beautiful little spaniel type dog called Bandit who was currently fostered in South Shields in Tyne and Wear with a rescue who were based in Norfolk call Safe Rescue for Dogs.
I really liked the look of this rescue. They fostered all their dogs in people’s homes to settle in, assess and ensure they were lead trained before putting them up for adoption. They also have a really clear home check process which I found reassuring. Having subsequently seen the perils of dogs going straight into unprepared homes straight from the transport from abroad (dogs unable to walk on lead, terrified and lashing out when being put in homes with kids, even a dog escaping and ending up on the runway of Manchester Airport) I know that if you’re thinking of adopting a dog from abroad, ensuring that the rescue you get them from foster and assess FIRST is an absolute essential.
Anyway, I digress.
Bandit was a popular pup and had loads of enquiries and we were one of six families who wanted him and had passed the home check. So I was on tenterhooks waiting to hear from Zoe at Safe Rescue to see if we had been picked to be his forever family.
The reason? We have cats. Now, although Bandit’s previous owner (who had returned him) said he was ok with cats, she also said that she wouldn’t leave him alone with cats so Zoe didn’t want to stress our cats out. So I had a decision – I could either get shirty with her (as so many do who are rejected when trying to adopt a dog), or I could completely respect her decision as it was made with the best possible motivation and actually feel really reassured that I was dealing with an amazing rescue who put the needs of the dogs first. I chose the latter!
So Zoe and I chatted about which dogs would be suitable, and after discussing with the family, we chose Hattie. Here she is in one of the first photos we took when she came home!
Hattie was one of over 200 dogs rescued over one weekend from a shelter in Mizil in Romania which was to be closed and all the dogs put to sleep. The people in Romania who carried out this were totally heroic and Kelly at Safe Rescue made it her mission to bring all the dogs over to the UK and as many as possible would be found amazing homes. She achieved this last year!!!!!
This is Hattie in the shelter before rescue – it’s no wonder she was so scared when she got here.
So I went to pick up a scared little dog who looked a bit like a bat x gremlin.
She was scared of everything. She wouldn’t go for a walk – I wish I’d known then what I know now and not even attempted a walk for the first couple of weeks. I took her to a dog training class after 3 weeks – in retrospect I should have waited longer but I was reassured by the trainer it would be fine. And sure enough, she was perfect in the class – but no behaviour was mistaken for good behaviour. This is really common with scared rescues, people think they have an amazing perfect dog but what they have is a frightened dog trying to find their feet.
Anyway, she did really well in class but this did not transfer outside the training hall – I’m sure that so many of you have had this experience! She was also scared of men and people coming into the house, she was scared of other dogs (this was not helped by some of the free-for-all running around which was allowed at the training class) and she barked at me all the time when I was in the living room with her.
So I went on the look out for a different type of training. That’s when I found Absolute Dogs and started training with them. It changed EVERYTHING! I learned that putting a dog in a position where they feel comfortable and shoving treats in their mouth wasn’t the solution. What was, was growing skills in a dog in a comfortable environment then transferring these to increasingly challenging environments slowly and carefully was.
So now she’s my super demo dog. She’s getting on a bit now and has some evidence of cognitive decline – but that’s just a new training challenge for us, and Hattie loves training.
I recently got her DNA tested – top 2 breeds were chihuahua and german shepherd – weird but so spot on!
Hattie has taught me so much and I am so grateful for having her. She is the dog that started me on my journey to becoming a dog trainer and who inspired me to seek out the most up to date, scientifically based methods to help people with their dog training struggles.