'Our friend Priscilla had adopted the adorable Caramel from Cyprus and that got me thinking.
It started with me forwarding Instagram posts to my husband Richard with pleas attached. He finally gave in and the search began. I had a long chat with Eve and explained that we already had Doris, our Jack Russell who was 11 and she wasn’t keen on big bouncy dogs. I also had to explain that Richard wasn’t keen on seeing dogs’ bottoms when we were walking! It wasn’t long before we received some photos of Scruff behind bars and that was it, we signed the contract and waited for his arrival.
Luckily Richard was off work the day Scruff arrived, although I had offers from friends to accompany me. We were told to collect Scruff from the Shell station at the junction of the A12/M25 and while we were there Eve sent a message saying 'hold on tight to him, he’s very nervous'. We waited, a white van arrived, and suddenly all these people appeared carrying slip leads. We made our way to the van. Two burly men got out, it was like something out of 101 Dalmatians. One carrying a clip board said 'who’s having Scruffy? He’s first out'. They slid open the side door and there in the back, in a wall of cages were these furry faces pressed against the bars. In got the burly men, they slid closed an additional security gate to make sure none of the dogs could escape.
They took Scruff out of his cage, holding tight and passed him over to me, sweet scared little Scruff. Richard and Doris stood by, we put him straight into the back of the car with me and I managed to get a harness onto him. We drove a few mintes up the road to a ‘country park’ (it really wasn’t but it was a grassy open space). I attached his lead and we got out of the car, he tried to make an escape, bolted under the car, he was terrified. Thank goodness we had that harness, had he been on a lead and collar he would have most certainly got away and that would have been it. Fortunately he didn’t, we carried him over to the grass where Doris was, he did the longest pee and the biggest poo, that was scooped up and binned and then he was too – not binned but scooped and put into his crate in the back of the car with me. He spent the journey home pinned to the back of the crate, looking at me. I talked to him and stroked him all the way home.
It was dark by the time we reached home. We have a large garden which is completely safe, fenced in all around. I’d prepared a big bowl of chicken and rice and gave him a small bowl of that with the addition of some natural yoghurt. I slipped an Adaptil collar on him and we had an Adaptil diffuser plugged in (to help Scruff and Doris) by the dogs beds in the kitchen. After he’d eaten we took him, on his lead, for a wander round the garden with Doris. Then we let him settle down into his crate for the night.
The next couple of weeks were tricky and at times I wondered if I’d done the right thing adopting him; perhaps he would have been happier in the kennels. He was lifting his leg indoors – why wouldn’t he? He’d never known what it was to live in a house before and he’d not long been castrated so the testosterone was still in his system. He was so nervous and skittish, he would jump back on all four legs not wanting to be caught or have his lead put on. David Drew, WAHF's behaviourist, and Eve gave me some tips to help with this (and the leg lifting), the most important thing was patience. It would often take 20-30 minutes to get the lead on. When we were out walking if he saw someone in the distance he would try to bolt.
He had a cyst on his eyelid which grew over the course of a week and had to have it removed, the vet cut his nails and cleaned his teeth whilst they were at it. Then poor Scruff had 10 days wearing a bucket on his head – this didn’t seem to worry him too much and after it came off and he was given the all clear things seemed to settle down.
And Scruff settled down, no indoor accidents, no waiting to get his lead on, he’d follow Doris everywhere and mimic what she was doing. If he wasn’t following her, he’d be right by my side. Doris during all this was remarkably good, she spent most of the time ignoring him – or trying to.
One day we were walking on the beach and I attached a double-ended lead to Doris and Scruff. Doris always comes back when she’s called. Off they went together – so sweet to see them running along. A few days later, I took them to a friend’s place – they have 75 secure acres and a sweet Sprocker called Dotty. All three dogs were off the lead – a first for Scruff. He was amazing, every time I called him, he came back to me and it’s been that way ever since.
So here we are four months in. Scruff still has his skittish moments, the vacuum cleaner, the sight of a broom or mop all set him off. We put a fly curtain on the back door and that had him running off and hiding in the garden but after a little bit of patience and a few treats he was fine. We walk by the bird scarers in the fields and he doesn’t bat an eyelid, nor is he scared by thunder or lightning (unlike Doris who is terrified and hides in the pantry). Scruff is the sweetest, gentlest dog; we’ve never heard him growl. The only time he barks is when he wants to initiate play with another dog – or us. He knows how to behave meeting other dogs when we’re out on walks; no doubt this is something he had to learn on the streets of Cyprus.
And just as I’m writing this, he’s managed to wriggle and squash in to the space on the chair behind me. That’s where he’s often found right behind me or by my side, he’s become my shadow. It’s been an amazing and rewarding experience and we love him to bits – he’s part of our family. I think Doris quite likes him too. And Scruff passed Richard’s bottom test.
I’ve started sending Instagram posts to Richard … again'
- Julie Field