Charlie (formerly Whiskey) was a very special rescue dog. Every dog I ever fostered is special to me, ask me about any of them and I’ll tell you stories all day! But, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Charlie.
When I first met him he was living in a crate in a back garden. The crate wasn’t particularly big, just enough to lay down and stand up in. It would have been the perfect size if it were used to keep him safe and cosy for short periods but Charlie had been in this cage for 18 months! He had never been let out to pee, or eat, or go to the vet. He went in there when he was 8 weeks old and 18 months later I let him out again for the first time!
I hadn’t planned to take a new dog home that day, I already had one foster, and a dog of my own, but I couldn’t leave him like that! I’d just have to figure it out.
I completely underestimated how much of a challenge it would be to even get him home. When I let him out the crate he spun on the spot for about 10 minutes. Eventually I managed to lasso him with my lead. He stopped spinning but he looked like a drug addict on his first day in rehab. As I led him away, he panicked. He was all teeth as he struggled to cope with being on a lead. He jumped and grabbed at anything he could get hold of. My arms and clothes were bleeding and shredded but I eventually got him to the car.
I wrestled him into the boot, shut the lid and listened to him screaming and howling all the way home. When we got home I let him go free in the garden for a bit while I made a plan to introduce him to the others. He just cowered behind the BBQ.
New name, new start!
Charlie had no idea who he was. As far as he knew “Whiskey” was an angry word, so I had no hesitation in changing it!
He had no idea what it meant to be a dog either, but he quickly learned a few tricks from the others. He didn’t know how to introduce himself to other dogs, how to play, how to sniff, or explore. But, my pack knew what to do, and he soon learned to copy them.
The dog crate!
For as long as he could remember, he’d never spent a day out of the confines of his crate. To you and me, this is unimaginable cruelty, and you would never ask him to set foot in one again. For him, the bars kept him safe. It was what he was used to. He didn’t know how to cope without them. So, I had no choice but to give him his crate back.
To start with he could only cope for five or ten minutes out of it, and even then he was only just coping. Any more than that and he would get overwhelmed and start to pant, pace and cry until I closed him back in. He got used to household noises in there, and he learned our routine.
With time and patience, he learned he was safe outside the crate, but it was a long time before he would sleep anywhere without it. And when he did, he slept on Sampson instead!
The mop and bucket!
Charlie was scared of literally everything when he arrived; the microwave ding, the telly, stairs, the floor, men, cats, the car, flowers outside shops, the doorbell, blinds, grit buckets, everything. Even pizza, although Sampson was happy to help Charlie avoid that particular fear! Together we worked through each fear, one by one, but the mop and bucket proved to be our biggest challenge!
I started, as I usually do, by simplifying the problem. The empty mop bucket was set up at the end of the hall, only just in sight of his spot in the front room, and it was left there. As time went on he became less suspicious of it. No one touched it, it never moved. Soon enough he started to relax, and I placed a few treats down on the ground in front of him.
To get them he would have to move about 6 inches closer to the bucket. This was hugely challenging but eventually he dared himself to get the treats. Over time, the treats were placed closer and closer. His confidence was growing so it was time to start moving the bucket around. A couple of times a day the bucket would move and the treats would reappear.
Fast forward a couple of weeks…
He had become so much more relaxed moving around the bucket and had even started nosing around it to find more treats! It was time to fill the bucket!
We were working together in the kitchen. The mop bucket was full of hot soapy water and I had treats at the ready. As I threw treats ahead, I slowly mopped my way around him and the kitchen. His confidence was growing and so was mine. And as he sat patiently waiting for a treat, the mop slipped by completely unnoticed. This was amazing, I kept mopping, now only tossing the occasional treat as I dipped and rung out the mop. He was so chilled, until…
I had been mopping a while now, and as you can imagine, the floor was wet and slippery. Charlie didn’t worry, but as I mopped my foot found a soapy bit and I slipped. As I went down, I kicked the bucket straight at him, water went everywhere, I squealed, and Charlie hit the roof!
He never trusted that mop bucket again, and I decided I didn’t blame him. From now on, we’ll just mop when he’s not looking!
Happy Ever After
He never made peace with the mop bucket, but he did learn to cope with everything else life would throw at him.
Charlie got his happy ever after. He learned to cope with life inside and outside, and he got the freedom he deserved. I dread to think what might have become of him if I hadn’t come across him that day.
It broke my heart to eventually part with him, but other dogs needed my help, and he was ready to go on to his furever home. His new brother went with him. Sampson was also long rehabilitated, but he had been so important to Charlie that he’d stuck around longer than he needed to. They had bonded, and it didn’t feel right to separate them.
I didn’t foster many more dogs after him. But, I was always proud when I spotted him out and about, living his best life with his new family.
Do you need help with your rescue dogs behaviour?
My recue dog course talks you through how to choose and settle a rescue dog over the first few months. Check out the FREE sample video which takes you through every step of how to choose your next rescue dog. The rest of the course focusses on the phases that follow and how to meet his changing needs over the days, weeks and months that follow.
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