We had been thinking about getting another dog, as we thought it would be great for our border terrier, Barney. I learned about the Wild at Heart Foundation via Instagram and had a look at their website, as well as rehoming dogs, I also really liked their education and neutering plan which is gathering pace around the world.

I spotted Sandy (was Scarlet), a one year old terrier cross in Cyprus, with the prettiest face you have ever seen (OK, I am biased). I thought that she would have been re-homed already, but contacted the WaHF office, to learn some more of Sandy’s situation and found out that she was still available. So we started the process and it didn’t take long before we had a date for Sandy’s arrival at Gatwick Airport.

It was a beautiful sunny evening, on Sunday 8 May 2016, we were both very nervous and we waited a long time at the collection area for Sandy to come through customs. Having been in her crate for around 8 hours, with a long journey from Cyprus, she was extremely scared, she didn’t want to come out of the crate. When we managed to get her out and over to a grassy area, she would have run away, had we not had a slip lead with us (as recommended by WaHF), I’m not sure I have ever experienced such a scared dog before, it was heartbreaking to see her shaking in fear of everything and everyone and our nerves were soon forgotten. Our main concern was Sandy and helping her settle.

Everything scared her, noise of any kind, people of any kind, sudden movement, traffic, even my husband! As time went on she started to settle in our home, she found her ‘safe’ spots which she would retreat to whenever she was scared, we transitioned her over to a raw diet and watched her fill out, she learnt to sleep at night in her crate and happily go in it. We all got into a new routine. Sandy is a clever girl and quickly picked up ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘drop it’ and ‘wait’, and around the house, she started to become more confident. After about 3 months she started to initiate play with Barney, who up to this point had just let Sandy find her place and feel more settled. It was, and still is, a real joy to see them play together, this is exactly what we had hoped for when we decided to get another dog.

Being a rescue dog, we had totally expected that Sandy would be nervous and she still is terribly anxious around any new people, or traffic and noise but, strangely, not bothered by fireworks at all! It has taken a lot of trial and error having tried lots of things to help Sandy, we sought advice and searched the internet to help with her nervousness and anxiety. The ones that we still use, and I believe have really helped Sandy, are the Dorwest herbal treatments, thundershirt, calming music, and of course, time. Time for Sandy to start to feel safe, to start to trust us and to feel loved.

Around October, our dog walker started the process of gaining Sandy’s trust, and in January of this year, I took her on her first walk from our house, rather than driving to a local park, since then we have watched her confidence grow and grow. Sandy now goes out for walks with our dog walker without me being there and this makes me realise that for Sandy it will take consistency and time to trust people, so unfortunately when people come to stay for a few days, they don’t really see our funny girl’s real personality, but we know that Sandy can learn to trust new people. We had our first weekend away in March without the dogs, they stayed with the dog walker. Sandy’s recall is great, unless there are squirrels or rabbits about, but she does return to us eventually! She now goes up to my husband and takes treats without backing away immediately and she is becoming more confident around other dogs, these are all huge steps for Sandy.

Her lead walking is improving all the time, now she will walk past people, or sit and wait for them to pass. She is still nervous of prams, trolley cases, buses and small children however we will  continue to work with her on this.

Did I ever think we had made a big mistake? Did I ever think we had taken on too much and we couldn’t help Sandy? Did I ever think that we should return Sandy to WaHF? The answer is yes, I did, on several occasions, but I knew we couldn’t give up on her.

Just because she wasn’t the ‘perfect’ dog.

I believe that returning her to WaHF to find another family would set her back tremendously, I couldn’t do that to Sandy (the thought of it makes me upset) and I was convinced that, over time, Sandy would get there, we would all get there, together.

So when Sandy first came and snuggled next to me, voluntarily, my heart melted, when she first ran up to me with her tail wagging so happy to see me, my heart melted, when Sandy and Barney decided they wanted to sleep in the same crate together, my heart melted. Seeing Sandy dozing next to my husband on the sofa and when she jumps up in the morning and literally hugs me, my heart melts, every time.

A rescue dog might not be the easy option to owning a dog (and it really isn’t sometimes), and saving one dog will not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will change forever (not my quote, but so apt).

She loves her tummy being rubbed, she will paw you to make sure you give her some attention, she loves being outdoors; mountain biking, or chasing squirrels; she has learnt to play and chews toys to pieces (haha); she loves human food, especially chocolate! They say that time is the greatest healer, and it is, alongside love and we couldn’t love Sandy any more, she is a beautiful soul with a kooky personality. Seeing her grow in confidence makes it all worthwhile and I am so very proud of our girl. 

– Michelle Burgess

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