Happy Endings

February 2, 2013


Harry – One Year On…

2nd February 2013.
Dear Sue, Wendy and all at K9 Crusaders,

Today we are celebrating Harry’s first adoption day anniversary! And we want to share a little of our journey together with you, as I am sure you remember the little man very well and have wondered how he is getting on.

This time last year in the late afternoon, we collected Harry from Sue at K9 Crusaders. He was small, frightened and very drowsy having just come back from the vet’s following castration. He then had to endure a 45 minute car journey to a strange house, with strange people, strange smells and strange new noises. Harry was not toilet trained and not really used to space, so we kept him in a crate at first, which became his safe space and where he stayed most of the time. We had to coax him out to his bowl for a drink and something to eat. We swiftly realised that Little Harry was a terribly nervous little soul. He shook visibly at the prospect of going outside, shook at everyday kitchen noises, shook at the sound of the sea and the gulls, at a flushing toilet. He hated any electrical item, especially the kitchen blender. It took us over a month to tempt him down our quiet cul-de-sac. His little pads had never walked on roads and pavements before and were very soft and tender. Finally one day I carried him shaking violently in my arms across the road and up a quiet country lane opposite and let him walk back home, which he managed to do, but only just!
Looking back on those first months, it is amazing how far Harry has come. We have achieved a very great deal together and he grows in confidence all the time, but it has not been easy and we continue to struggle with a few areas where he remains particularly vulnerable (but a little more on that following our successes!).

Today, Harry is a different little dog!.

He is house trained. He has put on weight and muscle, now weighing in at 7.4 kilos and now looks more like an adult Terrier with little stocky hind quarters. His coat shines and he loves being combed. His little bald nose has grown back and he is regularly told how handsome he is by passers-by. His favourite pass time is gleefully barking and chasing seagulls and rooks, annoying the neighbours! He absolutely loves his walks now and spins around on the spot with excitement as soon as I put on my walking gear.
He particularly enjoys the beaches round here, meeting other dogs both big and small and now has quite a collection of little friends. We have recently purchased a ball thrower and, with the help of treats, have successfully achieved some good retrieving!(For a long time he didn’t know how to play with balls outside – the world was too big and scary to relax in) But his favourite way to spend a day on the beach is sniffing at anything that creates a big enough mound to pee against (to my horror this has included beach bags and surf boards!!) He is actually very good at coming back when we call and is getting extremely brave in exploring quite a distance from us. He has been attending classes and so now sits at roads junctions on command, does really good “downs”, rolypoly-overs, and we are just starting basic agility. In comparison with the other young dogs, he remains a slow learner and at the bottom of the class, but that is all down to getting a little overwhelmed at times, so he zones out a bit.
There is definite evidence of his traumatic past, in that he will cower if one moves to fast, or there is a loud noise or the other dogs get too boisterous. We still need to take things very carefully at times, but he is holding his own well. He hates motorbikes, big stompy men in boots, angle-grinders – to name but a few things. Poor Harry has had a lot to contend with as we have had a whole years worth of construction next door, with JCB earth movers, generators, drills …you name it !Having said all that, the other day we had a great day out to Falmouth on the train, which he seemed perfectly relaxed about…another success!

There are only two areas which require a little more attention. First, Harry gets very car sick. We can now manage short trips and so we are going to build on that. I think it’s a combination of anxiety and motion sickness, so with practice hopefully will reduce over time. His main vulnerability is separation anxiety. Thankfully Harry does not self harm, or destroy things in the house, but he does become incontinent and barks continually with panic and distress when he is left alone. We are lucky in many ways that he does not have to spend long periods alone, but life necessitates the odd few hours here and there and he still finds this really hard. We have been taking advice from our trainer about this and we are following a helpful training regime from a book called “Please don’t leave me”. There have been times when Harry’s distress has become very difficult for us to bear, as we hate to know he is unhappy.

He has taught us a great deal about how stressful it can be, taking on a rescue dog that has suffered unknown trauma in its past and naturally we have had to greatly curtail our own lives in order to accommodate this little member of our family. I have repeated to myself, Wendy’s wise words from when she did our initial assessment, and that is to focus on what we have achieved rather than what we have not!
At the end of the day, there is nothing that gives us greater pleasure than to curl up together on the sofa. I have always wanted a little dog who likes a cuddle and that is something that the little man enjoys most of all!

With our regards and best wishes to you all and thanks once again for bringing us Harry.
Kerry and Kristina, St Ives

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