One year ago today we collected Red as an emergency foster, and there began the most challenging 6 months of my life! One year on and we like to think we’ve reached our Happy Ever After with Red, but like all good fairy tales and Disney movies, the last year was not without its heartbreak, seemingly impossible challenges and a touch of magic.
Having previous experience of animal rescue and rehabilitation, I always knew that if we were to get a dog, I’d want to adopt a rescue. Red came from a house of 12 dogs and not barely left the house in his 4 years of life, he hadn’t been on walks and didn’t go in the garden.
As an emergency foster he had not been assessed and his individual behavioural needs were unknown. On top of the predicted needs of toilet training and separation anxiety, came:
- Fear of men
- Severe hyper attachment to me
- Reactivity to noises, dogs, people, and pretty much anything that moved or made a noise (plus some things that do neither, like flower pots or shadows.)
Red also had health conditions including urine infections, skin problems and had to have lots of teeth removed.
The first few months consisted of living behind baby gates as Red was not crate trained and would chase, lunge and bark at my husband at every opportunity.
Red was not food driven, which made training more of a challenge, and when something set him off, his barking was relentless. The Red Foundation were providing amazing training support, but it was slow progress. He was too reactive to go on walks beyond our drive way, so toilet training was slow and accidents frequent. He didn’t know how to play and showed no interest in toys or chews. Despite having many willing dog sitters lined up, I could barely leave the room, let alone leave the house without Red having a meltdown, and he equally hated people coming into ‘his house’ so visitors were out of the question.
I spent every evening for months sat on the floor coaxing him and building up his trust to be near my husband. Red would also wake up whining at 4am without fail, and I was fast becoming so sleep deprived that it was affecting my day job.
One trainer who helped us with Red predicted he would need at least 18 months of training to overcome his issues. We had hit rock bottom at this point, it felt pretty hopeless and I was an emotional wreck not knowing how best to help him.
Despite all this, he was becoming ever so loving with me, living up to the true ‘Velcro dog’ reputation of dachshunds and I loved him unconditionally. So we kept trying. But as the months went on we felt like my husbands safety was at risk and that Red was very unsettled around men. After long discussions with TRF and trainers, we came to the heart-breaking decision that Red would be better off in a female only home. Red remained up for adoption and I cried endlessly at the thought of having to say goodbye to him.
While we waited for his forever home, Red seemed to make small progress here and there, and we did our best to work on his training and to teach him that men were no threat.
Eventually, a home was found, and we agreed and hand over date… but fate had other ideas and things changed with his prospective home, so he remained with us for a little longer.
As if by magic, he started making really great progress. He was learning to show an interest in toys, he was almost toilet trained, the outdoors training was going well and we were managing short walks without him being a public menace, but best of all, he was starting to not only tolerate my husband’s presence but show him affection.
After a truly difficult 6 months, life with Red began to feel manageable, and more importantly, we started to feel like he could be happy here. As the weeks went on, he was greeting my husband with a waggy tail when he came home and was falling asleep against him in the evening on the sofa. He was playing, he was loving his walks, and he truly seemed happy. We knew at this point that while he still had many issues to overcome, that he was settled here, and any move would likely halt his progress for a while, and that he no longer required a female only household.
We formally adopted Red and since then he has continued every day to ‘be more dog,’ learning to play, learning to enjoy chews and wagging his tail so hard we genuinely fear he might fly off. He has become the biggest bundle of joy and has the most amazing, cheeky character.
He is a wonderfully patient and gentle boy, never stealing food but instead waiting to be offered treats and taking them so softly with his little beardy mouth. He melts our hearts with his cuteness and he makes sure to remind us of the important things in life like cuddles and belly rubs.
A few months in we didn’t believe that this happy ending was possible, but having gone through the difficulties in the early days, it feels so special to have gained his trust and the love he shows us is worth so much more. We are honoured to see him so happy in our home and we will continue to show him the patience and kindness he needs to get over his remaining issues and hope his health problems will continue to improve.