‘It’s 11pm on a Thursday in October and we are on our way to Clackett Lane services wondering what the hell we have got ourselves into. Having followed WAHF on instagram for almost a year, and played with renaming the dogs that needed adoption, at the beginning of September a scruffy little fluff bag called Finch had come up on the feed. I immediately sent her to my boyfriend who replied with the words, ‘That’s our dog’.
In a flurry of excitement I sent the adoption forms back and emailed the team, who confirmed within an hour that Finch was on hold for us. I asked to have until the next day so we could discuss it properly but seeing the title on her photo change to ‘RESERVED FOR ADOPTION’ and knowing it was for us gave me an instant attachment to her.
I had huge reservations about getting a puppy, the biggest being that we wouldn’t get to meet her before she arrived in the UK, and so we talked seriously about whether this was the right decision for us. Eventually we agreed that we had the time, energy and commitment to give it a go.
After that, things happened incredibly quickly. We sent over our deposit, had our home check over Skype, and not long after received the confirmation of the date and time of Finch’s arrival. She would be arriving in the UK in less than two weeks.
And so here we were on our way to pick up a puppy we had never met. WAHF had been brilliant; texting us throughout the evening to confirm pick-up times and let us know exactly where the van would be but still my anxiety and excitement levels were through the roof. What would her journey have been like? Would she be nervous or aggressive with us? Had this all been an elaborate scam? We pulled into the carpark and saw another couple receiving a dog from two men with a professional looking dog van. We gave them our names and the slip lead we had brought with us and the man disappeared into the van to collect Finch. We could hear yelps and barks from different dogs inside the van and we waited anxiously to see what he would bring out. Eventually, he stepped out of the van with the dog behind him. I craned to see the dog standing in the shadows. Then this ball of white fluff bounded over to us, licking our faces and rolling on her back for a tummy rub and just like that, we were in love.
It was an eventful first night. Finch immediately bounced right over all of the puppy gates we had put in place and so she received a new name, ‘Bunny’.
The first few months were a huge learning curve for all of us. Neither of us had had a dog before, and although Bunny was still a puppy, she had missed out on the training and socialisation younger puppies would have had if they were born in a home with humans. She was house trained quickly, apart from a few accidents on carpets and beds which were just too exciting for her! She went to puppy classes and came into work with me and was excited to meet every person who came her way, offering her signature belly rub pose until she had received enough attention. She loved other dogs and would chase round and round with a huge doggy smile on her face. She looks the most beautiful when she runs. We worked on her recall (terrible) and her hysterical reaction to squirrels and she slowly learned not to chew everything in sight.
We seemed to be on the right track. Then New Year came and Bunny entered her second fear period. This is a common period in puppies, which coincides with the time in the wild when they would be becoming more independent and more aware of potential threats. They can become hypersensitive to noise and display aggression or anxiety as they work out how to behave in this new adult world. Like teenagers they also challenge the boundaries you have placed on them to see how much they can get away with! Suddenly our sweet and happy dog was barking at everything, scared of new people coming to the house and even worse off the lead. This was entirely unexpected for us as we had no idea what was going on, and eventually sought help from our dog trainer. She told us this period can be even more pronounced in rescue dogs as they may have missed vital socialisation stages or have had unpleasant experiences as puppies, and for the first time we really thought about what Bunny’s life might have been like if she hadn’t been rescued. We were given exercises to help Bunny readjust and we are slowly working through her anxiety.
Bunny has now been with us for nine months and has changed our lives completely. Re-socialising an anxious dog is a slow process and has been frustrating, upsetting and embarrassing at times but we wouldn’t wish for another dog. We understand that Bunny has certain limitations at the moment, and have learnt how to keep her feeling safe by building her trust in us. The bond that has grown between us as a result is incredibly gratifying. To see her choose to lie with her head on your foot while watching TV, or to dash up to you in the morning to say hello makes all the hard work worth it. She is an incredibly sweet natured, happy girl most of the time and we hope that as she matures some of her anxious behaviours will slowly slip away.
We cannot thank WAHF enough for bringing her into our lives and cannot imagine what life would be like without her.’
– Hattie Windsor