I have always had a thing for crazy terriers – I grew up with several Jack Russell crosses and adore their energy. After my last Jack Russell died, I was honestly so devastated that I vowed I could never rescue another dog. Milo was the first dog of my very own – not a family dog, but a dog that I adopted into my first ever home. He went everywhere with me and kept me company through my early adulthood. I was heartbroken when he died aged 15. I said to my mom ‘I can never adopt another dog, because I can’t go through that again! Needless to say, I have a new dog adoption story.
Rescuing Blake, Our Dog Adoption Story
But you know how the story goes – a house without a dog is never a home for any dog lover. And if you deny yourself the heartache that follows dog ownership you also deny yourself the great deal of love and happiness that comes with owning a dog. Two and a half years after losing my Milo and just 6 months after my wedding, I was ready to let a new dog into my heart.
My new husband Simon was about to officially become a dog dad! We had a home of our own, dog experience and no kids. We felt that we were the perfect family to adopt and rehabilitate a mistreated rescue. After all, buying puppies means that you are encouraging breeders to breed more, many of which end up in rescue centres particularly with misunderstood breeds.
It was my sister who fell in love with Blake the cute Patterdale Terrier on the RSPCA website. I sent her a few links to various Jack Russells and whippets. ‘You have to get this one!’ she said pointing to Blake, ‘he’s got the sweetest face’. Oh, and he completely did! On the picture he was looking at the camera with his gorgeous brown eyes and little brown drop ears with a ‘pick me’ smile.
Blake’s history was that he came from a background of domestic abuse. This combined with being a high energy breed meant that it was not going to be easy and they specified that he was only suitable for an experienced and training minded household. That was us!
Blake had been in the RSPCA for a month since being removed from his abusive first home. He also struggled with his diet a little. In fact, I rang every day for a week to see if his poop was solid, because he could not be adopted until it was!
We were told that Blake could potentially fear strange men, but when we went to meet him on the very first day he went up for adoption, he loved Simon immediately! We could see that he was intelligent because he used his paw to scrape at a water bowl behind some kennel bars! He was a great size; a terrier breed we loved and took to us well. We signed up for him there and then with a £40 deposit!
The RSPCA were excellent in making sure that we were a good fit for the dog that we were adopting. They asked us questions about previous dog ownership, and I talked about training my last rescue JRT. We also took him on a walk around their fields. He pulled a lot, but we decided it was not too much for us to handle. Our adoption of Blake was then pending home check.
The home check was from an RSPCA volunteer who lived nearby. She came round the very next day on Sunday and could see that we were dog lovers and had a yard for him. We were also asked about work patterns and finances. We both work from home which was perfect. We picked up Blake our rescue Patterdale the very same day.
When Blake came home with us, he was quite a good boy at home. No biting or snapping at us, but he was barky and did seem scared of fast movements such as raising hands to reach for something or coming down the stairs quickly. This calmed slowly but surely as his trust in us grew.
He developed a bond with us and after just 3 days knew where to go to the loo! Within a couple of weeks, he had learnt how to play and ask us for things that he needed.
However, he was still snappy with strange men. This is the thing with rescues from abused backgrounds – they need to learn how to trust all humans again. We had to do a lot of positive reinforcement and clicker training.
Blake wanted to play with other dogs but didn’t seem to know how to calm down around them. He would get so worked up that he would cause a scene! He started off with 1-2-1 training and after around 6 months with us he was ready to go into classes.
We’ve had our lovely Blakey boy for 18 months now and although he still can be a little reactive, we know that he is improving all the time. In August, this year he will be going into the lead manners class with his trainers Dawn and April at Pawsitively does it.
We have recently been able to start letting Blake off the lead in quiet areas. He has good recall when there is nothing around but struggles to come back immediately when there are distractions – particularly other dogs. So now we are going to build his confidence around good dogs. When he meets the same dogs regularly, we think that it will help him to build trust in them. It is possible that he was never properly socialized as a pup.
Let’s not beat around the bush – rescuing is a challenge. When you get a dog from a pup you can socialize it with people and other dogs as much as you like minimizing reactive behavior. I understand that some people would rather get a dog from a young puppy, especially if there are children in the household. However, I think that if you have the time and resources to invest in adoption you always should.
The best advice that I can give on adoption is do your research on the breed that you are adopting beforehand. The last thing that you want is to end up with a dog you cannot cope with who has to go back to the shelter. Be willing to be patient and invest in training and your dog will flourish.
With the challenge of dog adoption comes fantastic rewards. Blake loves us unconditionally and we would not change him for the world!
Author Bio – Amy Green
Amy has experience owning four terriers previously, two of them have been rescues. She has a passion for training and rehabilitating Jack Russells and Patterdale terriers and writes for the website www.patterdaleterriers.co.uk. Amy lives in Liverpool with her husband Simon and Blake the rescue Patterdale.
You can follow @PatTerriers on Twitter.