Tails of a Dog Therapist – Episode Thirteen

I had been a qualified behaviourist for 5 years when I took on my first Romanian rescue dog.

I had taken several terriers into my home through the years, most had come with behavioural problems and all had ended up permanently living with us. I was starting to get a name for myself as the lady that rehomes terriers. Even my grandad was talking to someone in the park one day and a woman told him she needed to rehome her dog and was going to pop to Pets at Home because she’d heard that there was a girl there that took terriers in. He told her there and then that I was his grandaughter and that I wasn’t taking any more dogs.

See my problem was that I enjoyed working with problem dogs and giving them a chance at life but I didn’t have the means to then rehome any of them afterwards. So my little brain said why don’t you foster for a rescue, you can take the dogs in, rehabilitate them and then the rescue can rehome them (it didn’t quite happen like this because I’m actually a crazy dog lady but that’s another story)

I contacted several rescues but none of them would allow me to foster for them because I worked full time and already had 10 dogs at home. I wasn’t classed as a suitable foster home regardless of my experience. Then one day I saw a post from a rescue on Facebook begging for foster homes for their dogs. They were based in the UK but rescued dogs from Romania. I applied and after checking my home they snapped me up.

I took on several dogs for them and slowly got involved with a second Romanian  rescue as well and it was while I was helping this second rescue that I came across Brian. He was actually called Gabby at the time and he was in their makeshift kennels on a horse yard in Essex.

He came across from Romania at around 9 months old and was absolutely terrified. He couldn’t be touched and just sat, bolt upright and frozen at the back of the indoor stable when I went in to clean him out and feed him. The only part of him that moved were his eyes as he followed me round the stable unless i got too close to him and then he would run for his life. I spoke to Kev about him and he agreed that he had a better chance of improving if he was in a home with people 24/7, so I loaded him in the van and bought him home. That in itself was an experience but I won’t go into that right now.

He had a large yellow plastic tag in his ear from where he’d been in a kill shelter in Romania, he wasn’t neutered and after a few days it was clear that he had issues with his skin as well. He needed a full health check but there was no way I was going to get him to the vet because I couldn’t get anywhere near him. After several weeks and a lot of talks with the vet we had worked out a solid plan to get him to the them.

I had to get him in a crate and feed him ACP tablets to sedate him, the crate then had to be carried to my van.  When we got to the vets they came out and helped me carry the crate into the building, still with Brian inside and then when they got him in they were sure they’d be able to deal with him. The idea was to anaesthetise him and while he was under they could get the tag out of his ear, neuter him, check his skin and give him a full health check.

But when we got to the vets his adrenaline kicked in and pretty much rendered the sedatives useless. Brian went crazy through fear, he was running around the consult room in a blind panic, running into everything and pretty much bouncing off of the walls.

I was bitten trying to catch him but in the end I managed to throw a vet bed over him and tackle him to the floor while the vet injected him to knock him out. By the time we’d finished there was urine and poo everywhere because the fear had just caused him to let everything flow.

The vet took him through and the nurses started cleaning up the room, I didn’t envy them having to do that job but the vets were situated inside the store that I worked in and thanks to Brian’s antics I was already late for my shift so I had to leave them to it.

A little while later the vet came and found me and said that Brian had a severe skin condition and needed to have regular medicated baths. He asked me if I wanted to go up and give him his first one while he was sedated. He stunk of urine, poo and anal glands so I think they also wanted him done because he was stinking the place out.

I grabbed one of my friends and a dryer out of the in house groomers and we headed up to bath him. One of the nurses stayed with us and kept an eye on his vitals while we washed him. We’d left the shampoo on for 10 mins and washed it off and were half way through drying him when she suddenly shouted that we had to wake him up now. Apparently when they’re under anaesthetic their temperature drops and with us bathing him as well he’d got too cold and his vitals had reached dangerous levels.

The vet bought him straight round and we sat back in the consult room with the heater on and him wrapped in beds and towels as he woke up. As soon as he saw us he went crazy again and yet again there was poo and urine everywhere. We managed to get him back in his crate and we left the dryer on him and the heater on and let him calm down. The poor nurses then had yet another clean up operation on their hands.

I received updates on him for the rest of the day and remember the vet telling me that he really didn’t know what I was going to do with him. He said there was no way this dog was ever going to be a loving pet and he felt that the kindest thing to do was to put him to sleep now and not put him through the stress of trying to work with him. He said he was concerned for my welfare and believed that Brian would eventually turn on me and do me some damage. There was no way I would ever have given up on him like that, I promised to give him a chance and that was what I was going to do.

I bought him home the same way that I had taken him there, by lifting his crate in and out of the van and back into the house. He hid away for days and only came out to eat, drink and toilet. I had to bath him several more times as part of his treatment for his skin and each time it would take 2 of us. We would have to throw a king size quilt over him and then lay on him while I found his mouth under the quilt and put a muzzle on him. We then had to carry him to the bath and pin him down while we washed him and waited 10 minutes for the shampoo. Each time he would urinate, poo and empty his anal glands. It was never a pleasant experience and I have to say I was relieved when it was over and I didn’t have to do it anymore.

I think Brian has been my most traumatised dog to date. It took forever for him to start trusting us and the idea of sending him to a new home and him having to learn to trust someone new was heartbreaking. So it was no surprise really that we ended up adopting him. Regular training techniques would never have worked on Brian because we couldn’t even touch him for the first 6 months of his life with us let alone train him. What he needed was the time and patience so they he couldn’t learn to trust us and a shit load of therapy!