The boy’s got issues

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For the first two weeks Dexter was still officially the responsibility of The Dogs Trust, so we had to keep him muzzled when out and on lead at all times.

We were told he was a lurcher but they had no idea what flavour. What we did know was that he was born on July 1st 2010 and brought over from Ireland as part of a litter. He was adopted by a family pretty quickly but 18 months later was brought back after apparently biting one of the children. This probably sealed his fate for the next 18 months as no one wanted to deal with that kind of behaviour.

As it happens, lurchers (and some other dogs) tend to ‘mouth’ the arms and hands of their owners as a sign of affection, their way of stroking you back. We suspect this is probably what happened but it’s understandable that parents don’t want to take that kind of risk.

We were also told that Dexter had a fear aggression issue, which meant he could not really be around other dogs. After being attacked by a brown Labrador type bitch whilst at Dogs Trust, he developed a bit of a hate towards this kind of breed. To this day, if not distracted with a treat, he will make himself very big and scary looking at the sight of any large, dark coloured dog. It’s his way of getting in first, a warning to them to keep away from him.

Deep down, he really is the biggest wuss though and would run a mile at the sign of any actual threat.

Because of his breed, he has a really strong prey drive too. Sighthounds are amazing at spotting movement, whether it be a fly (he’s great at catching blue bottles in the house), squirrels, pheasants, rabbits, cats, little dogs, a leaf blowing in the wind, whatever. If it moves and if it moves fast, he wants it. This was another reason we were told to be super careful when out and always need to be very mindful where and when we let him off for a run.

To add to the list of issues that left him increasingly hard to find a home for, he was nervous of new people, loud noises and terrified of fireworks. But despite the challenges, one of the Trust’s employees, Angela spent countless hours working with him, teaching him basic commands and building a strong bond.

Her work and the support she subsequently gave us was invaluable. We have the utmost respect for her and all the other people who work tirelessly with rescue animals of all kinds.

Which is why, if you’re thinking of getting a dog, I urge you to consider giving a home to a dog that really needs it. The staff at most rescue centres are trained to place the right dog with the right people. No one’s getting rich off the back of it and the feeling you get from giving one of these animals a better life was an added and unexpected bonus for me personally.

I knew within hours of Dexter being at home that this was no “two week trial”. As far as I was concerned, he would never spend another minute in a kennel.

 

 

 

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Getting the weight on

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October 2013

Within 5 minutes of arriving Dexter had reached the top of the stairs in 2 bounds and claimed a sofa I was about to get rid of as his own. 5 years on, we still have this sofa.

He was 22kg at this stage, about 3kg underweight and although the Dogs Trust provided us with a tried and tested brand of food it wasn’t doing the job. He often had us up at 2am crying to go out and it seemed whatever we gave him wasn’t staying in him long enough to give him any benefit.

I had never owned a dog before and have to admit, a scoop of dried pellets made of god knows what just didn’t seem like much fun to me. I was skeptical of the claims on the packaging and even more skeptical that the most expensive would be the best for our beast. Ultimately though, it was just totally obvious that these convenient kibble meals were not doing him any good.

Aside from the weight/runs issue, Dexter had a flatulence problem that was on a par with mustard gas, moments of super crazy hyperactivity inside the house, brown teeth and bad breath. At this point, we didn’t realise that a change to his diet would solve all of these problems, overnight.

After some research, we decided to try him on a diet of raw chicken wings, lamb bones, vegetables and fruit (you can easily find lists of what you can and can’t give them online). And before you point out that chicken bones are bad for dogs, let me just clarify, cooked chicken bones splinter and can cause real problems but raw bones do no harm and in fact contain many of the vitamins and minerals a dog needs. When do you ever hear of a fox choking in the hen house? You only need to watch how much he enjoys crunching those bones up and how easily they go down. Not to mention the 2-3 firm bowel movements a day he now has.

Other unexpected benefits include, no need for any anal gland emptying – his body now does this on it’s own (got to be a bonus!) and a much cheaper dog food bill.

Dexter now weighs between 25 and 26kg, has a glossy coat and bright eyes. In 5 years his only vet visits have been for flea or toenail issues.

I don’t need any more convincing.

 

 

 

Sticky dawg

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September 2013

When we saw this face peering reluctantly from the back of a Kennel at Dogs Trust Darlington, we couldn’t ignore it.

Dexter was known to the staff as a ‘sticky dog’, one that had been overlooked by potential adopters for too long; in his case, 18 months. He was stressed, a few kilo underweight, had battle scars after not getting along with any of his kennel mates and a checkered history that made him a real challenge to re-home. Needless to say, he wasn’t a particularly happy boy.

When the member of staff who was interviewing us discovered we had no kids and no other dogs, she became quite enthusiastic for us to meet him. Once we heard of his story, we immediately agreed to him coming home for a two week trial to see how he would get on.

It was clear to me if we were going to adopt a rescue dog, it had to be one that really really needed a home. We weren’t there for the prettiest or easiest, we wanted to do the right thing. Dexter provided that opportunity and started his trial one week after we met.