By Sheila Thomas
Lucy Beagle came to us in March this year (2010) after several moves between various foster homes and what were supposed to be permanent homes.
I had followed her story for some time on a well know doggy internet forum where the rescue organisation who took her in advertise their dogs for rehoming. I felt so sorry for Lucy as she had so many changes in her life and I eventually made enquiries about adopting her. I felt enough was enough for her and I couldn't bear the thought of more trauma going on in her life.
Lucy originally came from a puppy farm in Wales where she had been used for breeding so that people could purchase cheap pups. For some reason at the age of four years old she was no longer of use to them and when the rescue were made aware of this they kindly took responsibility for her.
She went into a foster home where her lovely, understanding foster 'mum' gave her a lot of love and kindness which she very much needed. She was in the foster home for about three months.
Lucy went into what was supposed to be a permanent home but it didn't work out. She was only there a short time and when she came back she was very thin and not happy.
She went back into foster and then another home came along where she was for several weeks but that didn't work out either.
I just think that the people who adopted her probably expected too much too soon from Lucy, also, in her second home she was badly attacked by the family's Labrador bitch and I suspect the relationship between the two went downhill from thereon.
The fight actually started when the family started throwing toys around trying to get Lucy and the Labrador to play but unfortunately the existing dog was toy possessive and didn't want to share. It was also said that she couldn't be toilet trained but I believe she was having to wait twelve plus hours overnight before she was let out!
I came to realise in time that Lucy wasn't interested in toys at all which I know is quite common with Beagles. I discovered this when I gave her a teddy bear and the one and only time she had a 'set to' with one of the others (Digger) was when he showed interest in her teddy bear. She got quite cross with him and flew at him. I then realised that due to her background she was treating the teddy as one of her pups and was trying to protect it. I quietly took it away and have never re introduced it as I think that was a very stressful situation for her.
When Lucy went back into the last foster home she went back with issues that she didn't have before- food and toy aggression, very nervous and very hand shy.
We were told that she was a bad traveller and on the way home after collecting her she was very sick and wet her bed quite a lot. It was a journey of around 70 miles and we had to consider that she hadn't met us before, was put in a strange vehicle and taken away yet again. This was all too much for her to cope with at once.
We got her home and let her find her way around but she was very confused. We have three other dogs and one in particular is not good with new situations and could appear to be quite 'anti' other dogs so we knew we would have to do our introductions carefully and slowly and bearing in mind that Lucy may be very defensive through fear and we didn't want to get off to a bad start. We are fortunate in being able to keep any dogs separate if need be as we have a few rooms in the house!
We did things steadily each day and it has all worked out fine. We did a separate walk each day with Lucy and with Halli, our rescued Foxhound. I would walk Lucy and Mike, my partner, would walk Halli. Although Halli was no problem we still wanted to do things carefully.
With Digger, our 'anti' dog I would walk him out on a lead along with Sam who couldn't care less and Mike would walk Lucy. The first day was a little difficult as Digger did not want to be friends at all with Lucy but we went out walking at a safe distance apart and each day that went by Digger's stress levels went right down. On the fifth day they were sharing smells as they walked out and I knew Digger had accepted Lucy. There was no tension at all between them by then.
The next day we did our usual walk but when we got home we turned Lucy out in the back garden and then one at a time, we let the others out, the most passive one out first (Sam), then Halli and finally Digger. We made sure we kept out of the way whilst all this was happening and just watched at a distance and let them sort themselves out. There was lots of body posturing, sniffing and strutting about and all was well. Digger would give his life for Lucy now! I do think a lot of the time people tend to rush introductions with some dogs and when it all goes wrong it can take a lot of time and trouble to sort it out.
With her difficulty travelling I took her to my van each day, opened the side door and encouraged her to jump in using food treats and lots of praise. I did that a couple of times each day for a couple of days and then I encouraged her to jump into the dog crate, again using treats. I did that for a couple of days. I then put Sam and Digger in the crate next to her to reassure her. Next step was to put her in the crate, shut the van doors, start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. I sat in the driver's seat as if ready to drive away. All was going well and I kept talking to her to let her know that everything was ok. After a few days of introducing her to the van I took her for a drive around the block which is a distance of around two miles. It was all going very well and I slowly built the distance up each day for around a week. There was no vomiting or apprehension at all so I knew she had got her confidence travelling. Lucy travels all over the place with me now.
Regarding the toilet training I didn't find that much of a problem at all and I think the problem she had before in her previous home was that she had to wait so long to be let out. She only had a couple of 'accidents' in the house and that was because she got anxious about something and on occasions she would do a small wee in her bed but I just felt it was a marking thing which stopped when she felt more settled here. The most noticeable thing was that if I took her out to toilet in the garden she would not do anything for me however long I was out there with her but if Mike took her out she would do it immediately. She just wasn't comfortable with me being out there with her. I really feel that she had been punished by a female in her past regarding her toilet 'problem'. She is fine now.
She goes to training classes and has done so for the last few months. We didn't rush her into training as we felt she needed confidence in us first. She goes to obedience classes doing her Kennel Club Good Citizen training which is coming along steadily though I don't put any pressure on her at all. I know that Beagles do things in their time not necessarily in ours! As she is such a sensitive little dog I feel it would set her back so we just go at Lucy's pace. We are lucky as the class we go to understand that and they happily take Beagles in for training where I do know that some classes say as a breed they are a waste of time and energy which I think is nonsense!
|She goes to Dog Games classes and absolutely loves it. It has been so beneficial to her and has really built her confidence and she has such fun taking part. There is no pressure whatsoever on her and she knows it. She can go at her pace and that is what she finds enjoyable. She is allowed to be herself and that is good for Lucy. Apart from confidence building the one really important thing with the Dog Games concept is the good recall she has now and this is invaluable with Beagles because their recall generally is not too good! Lucy has very strong hunting instincts in comparison to our two other Beagles and her recall is amazing. This has been helped by her Dog Games exercises.|
I know a lot of people are put off adopting rescued ex puppy farm dogs and one day I would love to think that such places do not exist but until then there are a lot of dogs out there waiting to be loved and to be able to live there lives out without fear and deprivation. I have to say though that 'love' is not enough. The most important thing you can give to them, in my experience is, time, understanding, and to have patience with them. It is so rewarding to see them develop and progress and I so wish more people would give them the chance. We were prepared for anything with Lucy as we have always had rescued dogs from various backgrounds and we knew whatever happened we would never give up on her but I can honestly say that she has been just about the easiest dog we have ever taken on.
She is loving, intelligent, funny, sociable with people, dogs, cats etc. Considering that she lived in a shed for four years and didn't even have a name I think she is incredible!
2010 Copyright: Sheila Thomas
About the author of this article -
"I have always been around animals particularly dogs. I grew up with GSD's but since having my first two rescued Beagles over 20 years ago I have developed a special affinity with the breed but have been involved with other types of scent hound, mainly Bloodhounds, Foxhounds and have also lived with a Basset Hound.
My first Bloodhound came to me 30 years ago. I have also been involved with a working pack of Bloodhounds.
I have been very involved in rescue work and always try to encourage people to consider adopting a rescue dog where possible.
I have seen first hand the cruelty and neglect that happens to 'Man's Best Friend' and it is so satisfying to see a rescued dog go in to a loving, caring home and to see them develop in to a confident, happy companion."