A Dog Is For Life Not Just For Christmas

IMG_9932.JPG

Would there be anything better than waking up Christmas morning to the loving face and wagging tail of a puppy under the tree with a bow round its neck and lots of love and licks for it’s new owner?  Yes, dogs are cute and playful and provide such amazing companionship to both children and adults alike, but what some people seem to forget is that with them comes great responsibility.

There seems to be a preconception that dogs come ready trained and that they’ll know right from wrong, but much like a child it’s a “parents” (or owners) job to guide and train their bundle of joy.  This can mean that you have to suffer the icky hardship of toilet training your pet and the destructive chewing stage (when I had Ted I wound up sacrificing make up brushes, carpet, chair legs and more or less anything he could get his paws on – I once came home to him having a ball with a handbag he’d managed to dislodge from a table covered in red lipstick from tail to nose) and it takes a lot of hard work and a fair balance of punishment and praise to manage your dogs behaviour.

These sorts of escapades could push even the most patient of dog owners to the limits.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve looked Ted in his michevious but loving little eyes and desperately asked “why do you do this to mummy?” as I scrub away at a puddle of pee on the bedroom carpet or thrown the remnants of a £17 makeup brush in the bin, but having been raised around dogs I’m accepting that this sort of behaviour can be trained out of a dog and that perserverence is key.  For some, chewed furniture or toilet mishaps can be a make or break situation and can sadly lead to the abandonment of a much loved pet.

This lack of understanding about the responsibility and time a dog needs and being blinded by cuteness is why, following the festive season, more than 3 pets an hour are being abandoned.

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” 

Last year following an arson attack at Manchester Dogs Home more than 45 dogs were killed in the blaze with 150 being rescued and moved to their sister site of Cheshire Dogs Home.  The public outcry that followed the Manchester blaze resulted in £860,000 being raised on a JustGiving page within the space of a day and many coming forward to rehome the rescued animals.

Following the Manchester blaze I took a trip my local Dogs Home with Dan (the boyfriend, fella, ball and chain, other half – whatever you want to call him).  With his birthday on the horizon and his love of all things canine he’d mentioned his interest in having a dog and I thought “what greater gift could you give to someone than a faithful companion?”.   To give a home and a “best friends” to a dog who otherwise would spend their days locked in a kennel as prospective owners walk up and down the shelter like they’re at a doggy supermarket, only to leave empty handed.  A high majority of dogs at a dogs home are rehomed to loving families who faced strict inspections from staff to ensure that the family are equipped to provide a safe and loving environment to a pet.  However, there are a percentage of dogs who for one reason or another do not get rehomed and can spend a long period of time waiting to be adopted to no avail.  Sadly these dogs may be put down due to ill health or because of overcrowding.

IMG_0271.JPG

In September we adopted Missy.

Missy is a 3 year old (estimated) Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross.  When looking for a foster dog we needed to have my bundle of joy Ted, an 18 month old Chihuahua in mind and ensure that whichever dog we adopted would get on with him – after all, he had been ruling the roost for the last year and a half and would be a difficult transition for him to begin sharing his home with a new brother or sister.  We took Ted to the dogs home when looking at dogs in order to gage how well he reacted to other dogs and how they reacted to him.  It was a bit of a goldilocks situation to say the least, one dog was too boisterous for him, the other was too big and we despaired that we may never find a dog that was compatible with his Royal Ted-ness.

“We have a dog who’s just come in, she’s a little black and white staffie and she’s such a timid little thing” said one of the members of staff.  She brought Missy out on a lead and after some apprehensive butt sniffing and some rolling around on the floor for attention from Missy, neither of them seemed particularly bothered by the other – no growling or teeth….sold.

DSC_0427

Missy was and still is a “timid little thing”.  We’ve established through her behavioural issues that she most probably was neglected at wherever she used to call “home”.  She’s extremely submissive and very wary around new people and other dogs, even around us at times.  We suspect that she has been pupped fairly recently which may mean she was kept entirely for breeding purposes and then abandoned, but she also has rips in her ear and a small scar on her nose which may be indicative that she was used as a so called “fighting dog” of which Staffordshire Bull Terriers are common game.  Either way, learning about Missy’s trust issues once we took her home made us worry about how it would affect her relationship with Ted and how they would interact.  For the first few weeks they were really apprehensive around one another and there were a number of snappy moments where we thought that the relationship just wasn’t going to work and the whole shebang would be over faster than a Made in Chelsea romance.  After doing some research on the internet and through talking to other dog owners we realised that it can be a really transition to introduce a rescue dog into a home that already has a dog because of their behavioural problems and because of the extra love and attention they crave because of this.  We identified that the dogs needed to adopt their own “spaces” within the house rather than fight it out thunderdome style for the top spot.  This meant the introduction of new beds and toys for each of them as they would fight over the same bone or toys that Ted had previously claimed as his – their Danish Design slumber beds* from Feedem meant that they were both on an equal bed footing and Kong dog toys  provided hours of playful entertainment We would also separate them at feeding times so they didn’t become protective over their food – who doesn’t though?

IMG_0272.JPG

3 months later and luckily Ted and Missy are like BFF’s and are a rather comical pair when they go for walks together – a Chihuahua and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier make very much an “odd couple” but Missy seems to have fitted seamlessly into the home.  We still have issues with toilet training and the occasional chewed item but it can be expected and to be honest Ted is sometimes guilty of the same thing (stubborn little mite won’t go outside for the toilet when it’s raining).

Which is why I’m a big advocate of the dogs home. I whole heartedly encourage anyone who considers having a new dog to visit their local shelter to enquire about adopting one of the hundreds of animals that are abandoned or go missing from their family home on a weekly basis rather than line the pockets of breeders who use dogs as breeding machines or a source of income. There are also those who illegally import puppies in from other countries over the Christmas season to meet the doggy demand who may be harboring diseases which are not only harmful to themselves but also to other dogs.

Dogs in shelter have simply ran away or their families haven’t been able to cope due to moving house, a death in the family, the arrival of a new baby etc but some end up at the dogs home due to being left abandoned on the side of the road in empty houses because their owners can’t cope with them or because they are destructive.  To dispose of an animal like one would do an empty bottle or a packet of crisps is something that baffles me beyond belief.

“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” is a saying that very much resonates with me because of the number of animals that are abandoned during the months of December and January, but what I would say is that you’re realistically prepared for the responsibility, time and financial investment that having a dog involves then there is no greater gift than giving a home to an abandoned and unloved dog in one of the countries many dogs homes.

  • I love everything about this post! I have 2 Staffies myself and love to see great press about them, especially when other dogs are involved. The media is ruining them :(