The true tale of a dog with no tail
Last week was ‘National Dog Day’ – not quite sure where the national applies to as this is apparently a day dedicated to all dogs around the globe, but presumably it started somewhere and hats off to the kind soul who decided that every dog should have its day.
Personally, I’d rather we called it ‘Happy Dog Day’ as surely every dog has a right to be happy? And let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much to make a dog ecstatic – but that, unfortunately, would be distorting the facts. There are a zillion dogs around the world suffering from a loveless existence of homelessness, hunger and, in some cases, abuse.
This blog is in no way intended to distract from the horrific plights suffered by millions of people at the mercy of terrorists, fanatics, mass corruption, natural disasters and other unimaginable circumstances beyond their control. It’s simply a shout out in the wake of ‘National Dog Day’ on behalf of rescue dogs who would adore a forever home if anyone is even remotely considering the idea of adding a canine member to their family.
Our dog, Jeffrey, was found wandering the streets of Dublin in February 2007. We found him on the net, advertised by a Swedish rescue organisation who had whisked him from the jaws of euthanasia in Ireland and was trying to find him a home here in Sweden.
His Swedish foster family told us he was a jaunty dog, and he was certainly happy enough to hop into our car without so much as a backward glance, so we were surprised when he barked all the way home. Literally. For an hour. At everything and everyone we travelled by.
And we were even more startled when he promptly lunged at our rabbit hutch in a frantic attempt to grab a snack. Yep, he was that serious. We promptly built a fence around the hutch and closed the door to the room housing the guinea pig.
But who could blame him? Even after two weeks of regular meals with a foster family, he was still horribly thin and bony. His fur was dull and he had just a stump of a tail, which he wagged furiously. According to the rescue organisation, the vet could not decide whether he was born that way, whether his tail had been amputated, or whether it had been bitten clean off. The rest of him looked like a small border collie, although his stump may be indicative of Australian Shepherd genes. He’ll never tell.
Our new foundling was as distrusting as he was hungry. He ate his first meals by snatching a mouthful and rushing to a place he considered safe from ambush before wolfing it down. Then scurried back to his bowl for another mouthful. It was heart breaking.
He had clearly lived in fear. His catalogue of potential hazards was thick: towels, small spaces, staircases that curved, multi-story car parks, tall guys, guys dressed in dark clothing, big dogs, black dogs. Walking past a white poodle without barring teeth was a breakthrough. I was so proud.
He knew his name, and ‘left’ and ‘right’ in English, so clearly someone had loved him at some point. Was he lost or abandoned? Impossible to know.
He was smart. Could steal a skewer of meatballs and cucumber, and neatly pick off the meatballs without touching the cucumber. Steal a baguette in the twinkling of an eye.
He loved liver pâté, ham and cheese. And started to believe his food bowl would be refilled several times a day with quality dog food to build him up. Not surprisingly, he gained weight. His fur fluffed up and we needed to trim his ears.
We took him for walks on a long rope that gave him freedom to mooch but gave us the possibility of putting a foot on the rope to stop him when we spied another dog in the distance, our eyes scanning the landscape like radar. He learned to come when we called him, stop at the curb rather than charging across the road. To sit and allow other dogs to pass by without launching himself at them. To say hello. To sniff their butts. To be loved.
And he wanted to be loved. Desperately. His survival instinct made him steal and fight, but gradually he began to sleep through the night rather than patter about as if checking he, and we, were all still there. Then he slept on our bed – snuggled in and safe. He started to snore.
He made friends with the rabbits and the guinea pig. They could all play out together, under supervision. All in all, it took about a year to settle him into becoming a wonderful, loving, loyal and charming family dog, who plays with our one remaining rabbit and our two new badass cats.
We’ve had him seven years now. We’re hoping for another seven. And then there will be a time to mourn and eventually a realisation that another trip to a rescue centre is in order.
Because Jeffrey was this close to being euthanised at just a year old.