‘After years of wanting one, I’d decided this would be the year I’d finally get dog. Because it would be my first, I wanted one young enough to be responsive to training and ideally without any significant issues, because I wouldn’t have the experience to deal with them confidently. I looked at some of the London shelters but didn’t find a dog that felt like ‘mine’, and then a friend said they’d heard good things about Wild At Heart Foundation.

The descriptions of the dogs on the website were so thorough that I felt like WAHF really knew the dogs, which made me feel more confident when choosing. When I spotted Max I immediately felt like this dog would be mine. He was described as “the kindest dog in the world” and that’s proved true.

Everyone at Wild At Heart Foundation was so helpful and friendly at every step. I asked tons of questions, because I wanted to make sure Max and I were suited, and they were all answered quickly and knowledgeably. I was wary about adopting a dog I wouldn’t meet until he arrived, but lots of videos and photos of Max really helped me feel like I had an idea of who was coming.

Max was very nervous when he arrived, whining in the car all the way home from the airport. Then the second he was let out of his crate he came over to say hello and wanted to be stroked. He’s been affectionate from day one, but the change in his personality over ten weeks has been amazing to watch. In his first few days he had no idea how to react around other dogs, scuttling away if any came too near in the park. He didn’t know how to play. A thrown ball was just a discarded ball. Then every day he’d get a bit more confident, sniffing up to other dogs, then running with them. We’re really lucky to have a big park nearby and lots of lovely dog owners who were really understanding with Max around their dogs. He now loves nothing more than bounding around the park with his favourite dog friends. A ball is now something to chase until I get too tired to throw it any longer. He’s become so confident around people that the only problem we have is trying to get through the park without stopping for him to say hello to absolutely everyone!

Not everything with Max has been easy. From day one he didn’t like being left alone. For the first couple of days he couldn’t be on his own for a minute without panicking. After a couple of weeks I started to feel overwhelmed by it. I couldn’t leave the house to even take the bins out without Max and didn’t know how to help him, so I spoke to the Foundation. They put me in touch with their behaviourist, who gave me lots of helpful tips, but more than anything they all just listened. It was so reassuring just to be able to talk to them about it without feeling silly. WAHF will always be there for you if you have any worries after adopting.

We’re still working on Max’s alone time, but using their tips and taking things at Max’s pace he can now happily be on his own for nearly an hour and is improving every time. He’s grown to trust friends who dog-sit him (there’s a big queue to sit him because he’s such friendly company). All these things seemed impossible in the first week.

There were days when I was scared of the responsibility I’d taken on, but every day Max and I know each other better and every breakthrough feels wonderful. The first time he sat on command. The first time he was let off the lead in the park and came bouncing back with a ball I threw for him. The first time he responded to his own name. The first time I left him alone, stood at the end of the road with a stopwatch, then came back to find him not standing in a panic by the door but in the living room, merrily chewing a Kong (you’ll quickly get to know what a Kong is when you get a dog). It’s so rewarding to have him.

We’re still barely two months into Max’s life with me and he feels absolutely part of the family. He’s a happy face to have around and makes people smile everywhere he goes. He still has his little problems to overcome, but they’re dwarfed by the advances he’s made. I have to stop writing now because he’s come over to plop his head on my lap and let me know it’s been far too long since I last cuddled him. I’m very glad he’s here.’

– Olly Richards

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