My story starts in September last year when Broxie, our Lhasa Apso (aged 11) found life too difficult to continue and with his quality of life starting to fail, that fateful decision where you have to overcome any selfishness and do what is best for your pet had to be made and it didn't come easy. Walking back alone from the vets with just a lead and a collar in my coat pocket was something I can[ rarely come to terms with having been there 30 and 15 years earlier as my previous dogs all succumbed to the ravages of old age, it's a task that doesn't get any easier the more times you do it.
Two months later, I was still in the doldrums - life was too quiet, but taking on another pet was quite a commitment for someone coasting into retirement. I had visited the local animal shelter and discovered I was a highly suitable candidate- no children, big garden and time to share with a new friend. I was shown pictures of 14 dogs that might be suitable candidates, but as we delved deeper into their background each had issues, ranging from neglect to various anxieties. When I explained I could offer a loving home, but was concerned I might not cope with the special needs they required, I was told that 'normal' dogs were rehomed almost instantly, and to look back later. It was heartbreaking to leave, but I was convinced I would know the dog I wanted when I saw it.
14th November was an important date, but I hadn't realised it at the time. Picking up a copy of The Times, there was an article by Kate Morris entitled 'How a rescue dog saved our family', describing how they got their rescue dog, and introducing the Wild At Heart Foundation, which I had not heard of previously. The more I thought about it, and looking at their 'Adopt-a-Dog' pages, and the 'Reserved' flags appearing on many candidates I felt I could offer at least one a happy home.
I was taken with one who looked quite enchanting, so I filled out the forms and emailed WHF. I didn't have to wait long before Faith responded and explained the process. My selected dog was a chihuahua cross, aged seven who was currently in a rescue centre on the Greek island of Lesvos, just off the coast of Turkey. The paper formalities were completed but Christmas was looming - I could hardly wait, but the festive shutdown affects Greece too, and because Coco (that was her name) was on an island, she would need to fit in with the trips of the courier company that specialises in bringing these dogs to the UK. The next trip to Greece was not scheduled until early February so it was with much angst (on my part) I spent a very quiet Christmas, and I filled in the time by emailing Vassilia, who was currently looking after Coco (and her companion Maisy) after both dogs had been given up by their original owners on the island. The financial downturn in Greece had resulted in a lot of animals being abandoned, but things did not look good for elderly dogs as not many potential owners were prepared to commit to them, perhaps due to ageism or reduced life-expectancy. As I wasn't looking for a puppy (too much work) and with Coco being a genteel lady of relatively mature years, all the signs were still looking good.
By more good luck than fortune, I came across a Twitter feed from AnimalCouriers UK who explained how they shipped animals across Europe, not rescue dogs, but when owners relocate and cannot travel with their pets. A quick message confirmed that Coco would be travelling with them - by ferry to mainland Greece, and then by road in their specially adapted van all the way back to the UK.
In preparation for her journey, Coco had to be issued with a Pet Passport, have a range of inoculations and be microchipped ready for her trip of a lifetime. Courier Akis made a special excursion from Athens to Lesvos to collect four dogs, all rescues; Benji & Cindy were going to Kent, George would also go to Kent and of course, Coco, who would come up to Scotland, where we would meet for the first time. Once back on the Greek mainland, their journey by van back to the UK commenced. The best laid plans etc, took a serious knock when bad weather in the mountains of northern Italy close to the border with Switzerland meant horizontal snow and blizzards slowed their progress towards the Channel.
Scotland on the other hand was benefitting from extremely mild weather, so I resolved to try to make Coco's last leg slightly more personal by bringing her home by train. My granddaughter felt she could offer valuable logistical assistance (something to do with dog treats) so she came along for some moral support and we caught the train south to London.
Coco's handover was arranged by courier Richard, who met us next to the Euston Lost Property office at Platform 16. With all the noise it was little wonder poor Coco was bewildered, but soon we were on to the platform for the 1657 Virgin West Coast service to Glasgow which was ready to depart.
Snuggling into her seat (on Yvonne's lap) the miles sped by, crossing the border into Scotland we arrived in Glasgow just over four hours later, and a short taxi ride home. Coco's 2,500 mile journey from Greece was at an end.
I had already prepared Coco's bed in a quiet corner of the lounge, and her food and water bowls were filled and ready in the kitchen. After a quick sniff round the house, it was time to head for bed, but she was having none of it. Ears were scratched, tummy tickled and a goodnight cuddle were all very well but she was in no mood to be left on her own, as the whines were getting louder the longer she was left. Her bed was moved upstairs to a corner in the bedroom, where she settled down immediately and promptly fell asleep.
I was greeted in the morning with a wagging tail and an earnest look that I took to mean she wanted out in the garden. This was accomplished, and she returned to clear her food bowl in one sitting. There were no ill effects following her extended journey, although it took 2 days before she would venture anywhere on a lead, no doubt feeling she'd be off again to somewhere new if she left the house. She also made sure that if I couldn't be seen, she would find out, then sit somewhere she could make sure she wasn't going to be abandoned.
One week on, and she has completely adjusted to life in Scotland, not too keen at going out when the rain is heaving down, and barks at the postman for having the temerity to put anything through our letterbox. We're firm friends, and her demeanour is one of 'we're a team' and as such she is included in all the things I do, wherever possible. It took a lot of people to get this wonderful dog to me, and for that I'll be eternally grateful, so to Faith, Eve and Alicia at the Wild at Heart Foundation, Vassilia at the Lesvos Rescue Centre, not forgetting Natalie, Julia, Martin and Richard at AnimalCouriers of Plaistow, thank you all - and Coco sends a big HighFive also!