Hard Work,But Worth It
1 year on......

Here you will find accounts and journals of emotional journeys and learning experiences made by adoptees and their Wiccaweys collies.
Taking on a rescued collie isn't always easy, it can be a very steep learning curve for you both.
These accounts are excellent reading for anyone considering taking on a rescue collie.
It could be hard work - however always remember - what you put into your collie in that first year - you will get back - TENFOLD.


If you have experiences with your Wiccaweys collie, 1 year on, that you would like to share with visitors to the site, please email your account and pictures to: wiccaweys@aol.com

Alternatively, snail mail them to our address which is on your adoption form.


Ruby

Ruby one year on

We had been looking for a canine companion for our border collie Mij for nearly 2 years. Problem was Mij’s fear (and aggression) towards dogs he doesn’t know, though he’s fine with the dogs he gets to know and loves nothing better than a game of racy chasey. Sarah and Paul stressed that we needed an older (2+), calm and settled dog to avoid compounding the problem Mij has around other dogs. We met a few dogs at Wiccaweys that were not right for us and, after being devastated by having to return one lovely dog to Wiccaweys because she and Mij fought, we had a break from looking seriously, though I kept an eye out on the website and whenever I was at Wiccaweys dog walking. Then, in October 2009 I spotted Mickey on the website, a rather scrumptious border collie. Knowing Mij’s particular ways with other dogs, I went along alone and spent ages with Mij and Mickey, who resolutely refused to acknowledge each other’s presence. It became obvious there was trouble brewing in the background, so I admitted defeat.

That was when Paul uttered those fateful words, “has he met Ruby?” Now, I had seen Ruby (a beautiful, but clearly wild, almost 2 year old, retriever collie cross) bouncing around in a very vocal way and she certainly didn’t seem like the sort of nice calm dog that Sarah and Paul had assured me we needed and certainly not the nice easy dog we were looking for. I wasn’t concerned though, because Ruby was exactly the sort of “in your face” dog that Mij hated on first meeting so there was absolutely no chance they’d get on.

How wrong I was. They clicked immediately and spent the rest of our time at Wiccaweys romping around together. I was still unsure, so Sarah suggested I took Ruby home for the night, given the problems we’d had previously (not something they normally allow). I would have had to return with my husband the following day anyway if we decided to adopt her. Looking back, I think Sarah knew I was hooked and that there was no way Ruby would be coming back. So I arrived back home with Ruby in the car. Mij and Ruby spent the rest of that evening and the following morning bouncing and romping around together. The only mistake Ruby made was thinking that she could persuade Mij to play at 3 in the morning, but he put her right on that one as he likes his sleep does Mij!

The following morning, we walked them together in the local country park where Ruby almost escaped out of her harness and proved to be quite the wildest dog I’ve ever walked. We had a long discussion about whether we wanted to (or would be able to) cope with a dog that would obviously be much, much harder work than we had planned for. Whilst beautiful and sweet-natured, she was clearly an escape artist, completely wild outside of the house and untrained. Despite knowing all this, later that day we returned to Wiccaweys and Ruby bounced into our lives for good.

So, how has the first year been? Well, to say that Ruby is hard work would be an understatement given that she came with fine qualities of the independence and nose of a retriever together with the chase instinct of a collie (at least where animal life is concerned) and no training.

Inside the house, Ruby is fantastic, if a bit loud, and is convinced that there is fun to be had in any situation but she is also quite happy to chill out for long periods. We took the advice of her fosterer and didn’t bother trying to confine her with our stairgate as we were told that Ruby can clear one with ease. She quickly adopted an upstairs window sill as her vantage point and will stand there for hours keeping an eye on happenings outside and lets us and our neighbours know if a cat is so bold as to walk down her street.

She sleeps in her own bed in our bedroom, has never again suggested to Mij that he play in the middle of the night, and comes up on our bed with Mij in the morning for her cuddles. She loves the garden and, though she could certainly get over our fences if she wanted to, seems to have decided to stay put. When she’s not keeping an eye on the neighbourhood, she’s trying to get Mij to play with her – she’s always on the go - and her favourite game is trying to steal our socks while we are trying to put them on our feet. She’s also extremely cheeky and cannot resist a sly lick of any plate left within reach as she just happens to wander past, though she knows she’s not allowed to. She gives me the most lovely greeting nibbles and ear wash when I get home from work.

She’s nervous of some things. Loud thumps worry her and she’s not too keen on fireworks. She went through a phase where the crack as the plastic of the TV casing expanded and contracted caused her to suddenly leap backwards so we ended up with 18Kg of dog landing in our laps.
Recently this same reaction has been in response to car doors slamming in the street outside. She has clearly been kicked in the past as, if one of us even lightly touches her with a foot when she’s lying under the sofa at our feet, she leaps up as if she’d been violently kicked. And, as I discovered when I used the magazine I happened to have in my hand to shoo her off our bed, she must have been trained by being hit with a rolled-up newspaper as her reaction was extreme.

Generally Ruby and Mij are the best of friends. They have no issues at all over food and will happily eat out of the same bowl, but toys have had to be restricted because they fight over them and there have been a (very) few serious disagreements between them. We also have to be careful when out walking because when Mij gets upset over seeing a strange dog, for some reason, Ruby sees red and attacks him. Mij is learning that quietness is the best policy if he doesn’t want to be eaten!

There were also three occasions early on where I forgot I had an escape artist dog and she slipped past me out of the front door, or jerked the lead out of my hand, followed by much hunting for the dog and hoping she wouldn’t be mown down in the road. One of these occasions led to a new acquaintance with a neighbour in the next street who found Ruby and took her in with her 3 dogs until she was able to contact us.

Outside on walks is another matter altogether as Ruby seems to go into sensory overload as soon as she goes out of the front door.

Walks were initially very difficult. We quickly realised that we needed both of us to walk the two dogs as Ruby was unmanageable with Mij if we were walking anywhere we were likely to meet other dogs, as one of us couldn’t keep an eye on Mij when he was off-lead and handle Ruby’s antics on the end of the lead or long line. Our extremely capable dog walker manages them both, though neither is ever off-lead with her.

Ruby had learned with a previous owner how to back out of a harness and then run off and this she tried to do whenever she wanted to go in a direction we didn’t, which was all the time. We had to resort to attaching her harness to her collar so that if she got out of the harness, she was still attached to the lead or long line. She was unable to walk in a straight line, dodging right and left, spinning endlessly to check what was happening around her and darting forwards or backwards as it suited. This was despite wearing both a harness and head collar. Every garden wall or hedge had to be jumped on or over to check what was on the other side. None of this was due to fear but simply because there was so much going on that she didn’t know where to look or be. If all that wasn’t enough, if she saw a cat, squirrel or rabbit she went completely bonkers (she can jump 6 foot up a fence or tree after a squirrel) accompanied by a high-pitched yapping and squealing that could be heard across the city.

When we walked her on a long line, she continually ran at full pelt to the end of the line to be brought up with a shoulder wrenching jerk as 18Kg of dog going at high speed was brought up short. Her alternative was to body charge either us or Mij if we didn’t get out of the way fast enough. We had no form of recall with her. In the house she was wary of a verbal recall as if she had experience of being hit for coming back, outside she may as well have been completely deaf because we just didn’t exist for her. Although food and toy motivated in the house, she had no interest in either when outside as there was just too much other stuff going on.

She quickly took to a clicker and picked up new commands very quickly and I started to use hand signals alone to make her focus on me more when training and we introduced a whistle for recalls. We started obedience classes once she’d “settled in” for a few weeks, where she continued to be vocal, but mainly did as she was asked. However, this only applied when we were working inside. Outside the same problems persisted as we generally ceased to exist. We attempted our Good Citizens bronze test in June, but Ruby decided to go and visit the agility dogs instead of doing her recall. Tests are obviously not her thing!

Some things have changed.

These days, Ruby is much less mouthy and recalls to a whistle quite well from around the house and the garden. She seldom tries to back out of her harness, is learning not to pull on the lead and sometimes even walks to heel or behind when asked. She doesn’t spin on the lead as much as she did, mainly stays on the pavement, rather than bouncing over walls and hedges and we can walk quietly past a cat as long as it’s not moving. As I’m even more stubborn than she is, she’s finally learnt that if she doesn’t sit at kerbs then she doesn’t go anywhere – learning that one made some of our walks very time-consuming indeed. She is learning not to run at full pelt to the end of the long line, though that only applies if no animals are in sight, and she has discovered swimming.

She has bonded to us sufficiently that we are reasonably confident that she will come back past us eventually so, in the summer, we started letting her trail her long-line at the start of her morning walk in the park, which is fairly enclosed. We still have virtually no recall outside, but just pick up the line when we’re ready to move on. She cannot yet be off-lead in any other situation apart from at agility which is fully enclosed. Some days in the park I can run through her obedience with her and she’ll even recall from the end of the long-line for her treats, though there are still days when I might as well not exist – usually when she can see (or has seen) squirrels. She still cannot be trusted around wildlife or livestock.

She is still very vocal in a way that can be heard across the city and, according to other dog-walkers, is hated by a particular man who walks through the park on his way to work because of the racket she makes. Who can blame him when his quiet walk is ruined at 7am every morning.
I had intended to wait until the recall was sorted to start agility but gave up on that idea and Ruby started agility training in the summer in the hope of providing her with some focus whilst outside. After several months of her running off after scents or to visit the other dogs, and with the help of a few sessions of 1:1 training, we have got to the point where agility is, sometimes, more exciting than other distractions. Despite her need to be on the go at all times, her contacts on the dog-walk and A-frame are excellent, she can weave well if in the mood and loves the table because that’s where treats can be found! Although she still wanders off at times, she’s starting to come back when called, if everyone else ignores her, and get on with the agility.

She’s been on two holidays with us, to Northumberland and Scotland which were a success, despite her extreme reaction to sheep, we’ve survived the beach and she has managed not to escape from my mother and mother-in-law’s gardens, both of which are definitely not Ruby-proof. We’re hoping that one day she will be hotel compatible as well when we find a way to stop the constant yapping.

We’ve also discovered a few new doggy sports since Ruby arrived. There’s tree climbing (in pursuit of squirrels), squirrel slaying (once only and not something we’re encouraging), hedgehog hurling (of the rather large hedgehog that, rather foolishly, kept coming into our garden this summer - also actively discouraged), sock tug of war and bedroom chases (as she pursues me around the bedroom every morning trying to lick off my moisturising cream).

We’ve got a long way to go with her still. I had originally estimated a year until she was a tamed trained but now whenever anyone asks it is still always a year! The main thing is that we are progressing and she is content. Despite her wildness she is always making us laugh with her endless enthusiasm for life and all things fun.

We are both grateful to whoever rescued Ruby in Ireland and arranged for her to come to Wiccaweys and also to Sarah and Paul for entrusting Ruby to us. However, we would like to know what happened to the quiet and calm collie that we went to Wiccaweys for?

Angela, Tim, Mij and Ruby


Midge

Midge one year on.

It is now a year since Midge came into our lives, so I thought I had let you all know how he has been doing. In Sept 2004 our old cat Moll finally gave up and went to pastures new – aged 18. The house felt empty and I had already been promised I could have a dog when Moll died. I am sure the cat knew this from day 1 by the way she looked at me!

I ummed and ahhed about what I should do. A rescued dog was a cert. I looked on the web at Staffys and plain mongrel, then found Wiccaweys. I took to looking at it nightly trying to be brave enough to take the plunge. Then one day I did it!

I spoke to Paul on Friday and before I knew it they were at the house on Sunday with this mad loony of a youngster. He ran into the garden, ran around three or four times, fell in the pond, ran around a few times more, went mad in the kitchen chewing and leaping around. He they lay down in the kitchen while we talked with Paul and Sarah and fell asleep with his head on my foot. That was it – I was hooked!

By Tuesday 12th April we were the owner of a Wiccaweys Collie.

Sarah warned me “You have 7 month old dog that has the mind and development of a 7 week old puppy”.
She was right and the first few months were very difficult.

This is what he looked like a few days after we got him – note those devil eyes!

For a while we thought he was deaf – he responded to no commands, no amount of calling would get his attention, he just ran up and down until he had worn a trench in the lawn. He would run until he was exhausted and fell to sleep. Walks were very difficult. He was scared of the outside world, he kept his face to the wall when out of the garden and was afraid if there was no fence or wall in front of him – he had rarely ever been out before! Gradually this improved and after about 2 weeks he looked forward to his walks. He was also lead shy and hated to see the lead; he was scared of it. My wife ( who knows about these things) said his behaviour was similar to autistic children – unable to make relationships, no eye contact, had obsessive routines, had to keep doing things over and over for stimulation.

House training took some time with many accidents not helped by what we later found was inflammatory bowel disorder – he would pooh 6 or 7 times each day and could not put on weight. Coming down to a pooh covered dog lying in his crate was not nice.

The first thing we changed was his name; Nemo had to go. We tried many names over the first few weeks then one day I said “Midge” and he looked at me for the first time as if to say “So you finally got it right!” From then on things were much easier.

He gradually calmed down over about two months but was still mad when off his lead – running up and down, up and down until he worked himself into a frenzy; we even had to keep him on a lead in the garden. Taking him for long walks helped a little, but he still carried on running up and down until he dropped when he got home.

We found that keeping his mind active worked better – once he started paying attention he could run through the obedience tricks in a book from the library with ease, sit, stay, come, go, lie down, dead, roll-over, fetch, find toys under plant-pots, no matter if instructions were given close by or at a distance they were easy – we ran out of tricks to test him on in about 3 months.

After about 6 weeks from getting him he could be let off to chase his ball or to do obedience tricks outside as long as there were no dogs or people around. He was a problem near other people especially children (and still is to an extent) he LOVES them and desperately wants to be fussed.

In June he discovered swimming by falling into a nearby lake – he got out, to my relief – and then got straight in again and now swims whenever there is water deep enough regardless of the weather.

At about 10 months old his collie genes came out. He would dash, lie flat watching me intently and dash to another place and do the same. I followed this up with instructions to dash right or left, come in or go away and; hey presto! a new game started which is still his favourite. He follows his instructions up to 200 – 300 metres away by whistle or voice commands.

I have included a video of him doing this. Of course when I went out in the sun – the camera batteries were dead. In the wind and rain they worked. File is compressed to shorten download, so not good quality.

The commands are just ones Midge and I use - not One Man And His Dog commands.
“Go on” = run straight away from me
“away” = run away in a long arc
“Over” or a high pitched whistle means run to my right
“this way” or low pitched whistle is my left
“Hup” is jump over what ever is in front, right or left of you – eg “over hup”
“come in” (two high pitched whistles) is crawl forwards, down (one long whistle blast) is obvious
“hup down” is jump on whatever is there and lie down,
“come round” is come in a long arc towards me.
There are others, but you get the gist. This is not agility or obedience - just me and Midge having fun.

Midge movie 1

Midge movie 2

Midge movie 3

Sorry about the camera shake - freezing day and tiny camera.

When doing this nothing breaks his concentration. Other dogs try to play with him, but he won’t play while “working”. I really think he should have been a sheepdog - he would have been so happy but I wanted him!

The local farmers who saw him were impressed and I got a few offers for him as a working sheepdog. Problem (or not) is Midge ignores sheep entirely now – they are not interesting to him because from an early stage I walked him off the lead through the flocks of sheep and he had to ignore them - now to him, they don't exist.

The game has expanded into being directed around fields, onto bales, over ditches and stiles and over horse jumps (we have an eventing course nearby and we sneak down to use it). His ability to learn new tricks has been impressive – usually about 3 goes are needed until he has it depending on how complex it is. I think he can also count - at least to 6. He goes for his walk at 6 each morning and as soon as the church clock strikes 6 he give a little howl to make sure I am awake, never at 4 or 5 or any other time regardless of how light it is – and even putting the clocks back did not change him.

He now walks off the lead at heel really well most of the time. He still likes people but will only go and see then if given “permission” and then he is well behaved.

Problems; he has a few.
His bowels are sensitive so we have to watch what he eats, he gets unpredictably scared of some very innocuous things for no apparent reason (moving the roller blind in the kitchen or seeing you reach onto the top of cupboards) and then is not scared of that but now has become scared of something else – this week it was wine bottles being opened – a bit of a problem in this house- next week this will be OK and it will be something new. He HATES travelling in the car - sulks for the entire journey. He sometimes tries to round up my wife by nipping her on the bum or ankles – he knows this is wrong (honest!). He sometimes panics if he can’t see me when out walking. I thought hide and seek was a good game until I had to chase after a panicking collie, who thought he had lost me, for half a mile until he heard me shouting him.

He has been everywhere with us on holiday – which he loves if only he did not have to travel in the car to get there. He is an excellent camping companion – he snores and farts much less than my Mountaineering Club friends (not hard). We did put him in the local kennels once – and that was once enough. The kennels have a good reputation, but Midge was too distressed and simply ran up and down barking 24hrs a day and lost about 2 kilos in weight in a few days. When I went to pick him up he crawled towards me on his belly – he obviously thought he had done something wrong to be deserted. So no more kennels!

Regrets? Only one – I wish we could have had him as a puppy and enjoyed him as a youngster as well.

He is great fun, extremely faithful – always wants to be by me, I nickname him Velcro dog - he sticks close by. He is by my feet as I write this. I must admit I have put the time into getting to know Midge, keeping him interested and making him think. If you do that with a collie you will get a great dog, if not you will get the loony that came to us over a year ago.

I have learned that collies are not easy dogs, they need time and attention to get the best from both of you.
My wife was definitely not a dog person and did not really like dogs; she thought them messy and smelly. To see her hugging and fussing Midge you would not think she was the same person.

So—I am glad I made the call to Paul that day and thankful to Paul and Sarah for letting us have Midge.
I am even thankful that his previous owners did not want him – it is a shame they never really got to know him. I look forward to spending years of our time together. He is a great dog despite those huge ears and massive feet. Here he is looking all grown up and sensible (rare event)

TO THOSE WITHOUT A WICCAWEYS DOG
If you are just browsing this site, please consider donating money or adopting one of the great dogs here.

Best Wishes
Paul & Midge


Tigger

Tigger - 365 Days Later

The ‘phone call came unexpectedly from Paul. “We think we’ve found a dog for you ……..”
Seeing as I was expecting a call about two dogs, and not for a few weeks, this was indeed unexpected.
“He’s lovely, friendly, come over from Ireland, a real cuddle monster …..” I can’t remember quite what other phrases were used about him, but knew there was a “but”.

The “but” was somewhat unexpected, and resulted in so many 'phone calls to Wiccaweys and questions over the next few days, that their 'phone number has been committed to memory forever.

Eventually the questions came to an end, except for one. “Can we meet him .....?”
That was a on a Saturday morning, and with a move to foster in Oxford due the next day, we asked if we could go to Leicestershire to meet him that afternoon.

Off we went to meet Trigger – and let's not forget Paul and Sarah either – with my first impression of Paul being of a guy hanging out of the window of Flossie the Collie Ambulance, waving furiously as Sarah guided us to Wiccaweys.



Trigger – well, what can I say – one very shy boy, sable and white, with a dry, brown nose, who was so nervous of people that he took some persuading that we were worth meeting. An Irish boy who’d been found as a stray, and been kept in a yard for many months. But eventually he came to meet us, and quietly sat there while we gave him some fuss. Sarah was obviously his real Mummy though and Trigger gave Stanley a real telling off that day for taking Sarah's cuddles away from him.

As soon as Sarah and Paul said you can adopt him; he became Tigger. With his apt colouring and just knowing that he was going to live up to a reputation of being bouncy and fun, he just was Tigger.

A quiet drive home, with me keeping an eye on Tigger to check he was OK as he sat in the boot of the car. But, I think that was the last peace we had – and certainly the last time we felt we drew breath for quite a few weeks.

The first mistake we made was to take Tigger into the back garden where we let him off his lead to explore. To say he ran around the garden is an understatement. Round and round and round he tore, leaping anything in his path, going backwards and forwards and resisting any efforts to either catch him or persuade him to slow down. I was already fretting that he would injure himself and I’d be having to confess all to Wiccaweys.

Eventually, the steam ran out and the house was entered. Things did not improve. The house was an alien land which had to be climbed over, mouthed, picked up, moved, and run away from.

Sarah had said “give us a ring in a few days and let us know how things are going”. A few days ………. I reckon I was on the ‘phone within the hour! That was when we found out Tigger had had his jaw broken at some point, and once again my heart went out to our little man. and I was even more determined to let Tigger learn “not everyone’s bad”.

Yet Tigger just did not run out of steam. We seemed to have a dog who never slept – well, maybe for a couple of hours when we weren’t looking. He wouldn’t eat – and then proceeded to guard his food bowl with great ferocity, snarling and with a real dangerous glint in his eye. We could not leave him alone in a room for fear of him hurting himself as he threw himself over the furniture, using chairs as springboards and tables as walkways and picked up, chewed or mouthed everything he could then reach. It truly seemed as if the only things still in the same place in the house were the ceiling lights!

If one of us was in the house on our own, he accompanied us everywhere, both through choice and necessity. If we took a shower, it was safer to have him in the bathroom than wonder whether he was chewing through an electric cable, and he “slept” in the bedroom because we’d had to get him a safe crate, but really didn’t want to use it at night as well as during the day, especially as any bedding that was put in there was being systematically shredded into one inch squares while we were out. If he wanted to go into the garden, we had to put him on a lead, because otherwise he ran the equivalent Grand National around the garden before he would come in again.

Taking Tigger out into the big, wide world was another challenge. It was absolutely obvious he had never really been on a lead. He did not so much go forwards as sideways, backwards, round, up – however before long this was replaced by the rescue collie tug. Yet life outside was scary too. Forget ghost trains, a walk down a street which contained a street lamp, temporary road sign, cyclist, any sort of vehicle, moving or stationery, piece of rubbish – you name it, was so scary for him. Nor could Tigger cope with walking over bridges, of which there are many in our village – just nice safe bridges over diddy little streams – he would just lie down and refuse to budge. And as for people ……. oh no. We didn’t do people at all.

So we had people outside the house to contend with, and even worse, friends and family who visited the house. We had to “book” visitors in – who would then spend hours (literally) having their eardrums dented, while Tigger explained to them at length just how much they worried him from as far away as possible.

Yet he still had love to give, and would quietly pad over to you and lean up against you, and there was just this glimmer for us that things would get better. One morning I woke up very early, and opened my eyes to find two big brown eyes gazing back at me, as Tigger sat quietly, resting his chin on the edge of bed, seemingly watching over me. Quite moving.

And he just loved looking out on the world. If he could look out of a vehicle window, or sit on the windowsill, or stand with his paws on the bedroom windowsill looking out (something which he seemed to spend all night doing when he wasn't systematically removing the wallpaper for us) he was most contented.





Sarah had put us in contact with a friend, who runs dog training classes near us – and Tigger started attending these straight away. Tigger loved his lessons, and showed his enjoyment of learning from the outset, and we started to have something constructive to aim for.

Most days however were filled with watching Tigger. What had he climbed on, and where was his mouth. Sleep had been scarce, meals were cobbled together in haste, items that had been removed from his mouth at some point were scattered on top of anywhere we had managed to put them at the time, and we just could not do anything or get anything done.

One evening we put Tigger in his crate, and went out to a local pub for, quite literally, a proper meal in peace. And we talked and wondered whether we were really good enough for Tigger. We were not quitters, we loved Tigger, we wanted to keep him, yet felt we were failing him and perhaps he deserved better. Not only that, we felt we were failing Sarah and Paul as well. We had rung them so many times for advice, and they had unfailingly talked us through the problems we were having – they must have felt we were ‘right’ for Tigger, and they had invested so much time in him with us and we just were not coping and giving Tigger the life he deserved.

Maybe the time we spent away helped, or maybe talking through so many things helped us to give off a calmer feel to Tigger, because things in the next week began to improve. Graham rang me at work one afternoon. “Tigger’s in the garden – off his lead”. The shriek of “what” from my end of the ‘phone must have been heard by everyone in the office – yet it seemed he was trotting around the garden quite calmly. OK, so this didn’t continue all the time, but it was no longer necessary for us to stand outside with him every time he wanted to go outside.

I started sitting on a stool outside the house, with Tigger sat by my side, so he could get used to people walking past. Eventually I was able to move to sitting in the village, so Tigger could just watch whilst people and cars went by.

Progress was slow, and sometimes difficult to see, patience was needed and yet when you look back, you know how far Tigger has come. Tigger learnt that bridges were not going to eat him – and learnt that playing in the stream afterwards was great fun. Food guarding improved slightly – and a change in feed to something he enjoyed more seemed to improve not only his hyperactivity, but his tendency to guard too – after all, what point is there in guarding an empty bowl! Tigger now eats a completely natural raw diet.

It became possible to actually do something in the house – albeit that there would always be a face peering at you to see what you were up to (isn’t that just what we love about collies). And he was a real boy – anything technical was fascinating – tools, engineering, woodwork. He learnt to play – with balls, raggers, balls, rings and balls. We found he loved hide and seek – whether it was to find a ball or one of us.

His nose, which I thought would always be brown, turned black and shiny, his coat softened and shone, and the handsome boy who others had seen all along started to become apparent to us too, as we started to see past the problems to the real Tigger beyond.

We sat Tigger in our camper van on the drive one day – he liked it – especially sitting on the front seat viewing the world. So we took him down to the local woods, parked up, made lunch, took him for a walk – all the things we would do if were away. Tigger thought this was fine – so that meant we could take him away for weekends to new places – and he was off into a new world of walks, fun, doggy friends and adventures.

People were still a problem. They were scary. Walks were always fraught as we could have to pass someone. Walks in busy areas were extremely difficult, but we kept trying. Tigger obviously felt that people were deliberately leaping out of doorways at him, and appeared when he least expected him. And then they wanted to touch him, which was far too much.

The turning point seemed to be the new Wiccaweys HQ.
Everyone there a “dog” person, and when we helped out there Tigger just had to keep meeting people. Alexa started to get her special Tigger greeting, then Dougie. Gradually the taller men became acceptable, and eventually the day came when Tigger forgot to bark at Paul before he went to him. Noticeably Tigger has devised his own little code. “When I think you are OK, I will proffer my paw. When I really want to get to know you, I will stand up on my hind legs, lean against you gently and greet you properly.” People are still scary, but perhaps the day will come ……

There is a real serenity about Tigger – his quiet movement compared to his size astounds me. He is a proud, gentle man. His stillness and calmness is something which few people see, as it is saved for when he feels safe and chilled out, when he settles down with a contented grunt for a cuddle.

Yet he has a real zest for life, enjoys fun and action and games – and the chance to act out his puppy hood, two years after he should have been enjoying it. And anyone who says a dog doesn’t smile, I totally disagree with – Tigger’s eyes light up, and his mouth drops open into a big huge smile and he laughs at life.

Whichever of us is home first is greeted warmly as Tigger comes out of his crate. The second person home is greeted with the sight of Tigger standing up to or lying on the windowsill in the living room or bedroom, waiting for you to come home – and by the time you are through the gate, he is there to welcome you. And you just know that the decision to bring him home was the right one. These days if you are really lucky, he will come and lie on your knee, and maybe just check that your paws are clean enough for him.

So it is a year today since Tigger joined us here. And as a special tribute to an Irish boy, we have given him an official birthday on St George’s Day – so today he is officially 2.

So thanks to Aisling and all at Limerick Animal Welfare for rescuing our wonderful boy in Ireland and letting him come over to England.

And thanks to Paddy, Tigger’s trainer. Sarah certainly helped us to choose well when she suggested we contact Paddy, who has given us so much time over and above our lessons, to answer our questions and send us detailed e-mails suggesting ways we can work with Tigger.

However, we would not have had Tigger here today without the incredible support we have received from Sarah and Paul. Time after time we rang them for advice and sent them e-mails with questions. Every time they came back to us and helped us and talked us through countless problems, and we know we have taken hours and hours of their time – and they have taught us so much this year.

And the “but” that Paul had to mention to us when he first spoke to us about Tigger?
Merely the fact that Tigger is deaf. Yet the deafness has never been a problem or a handicap to his love and enjoyment of life, and the problems we have had have never been down to his deafness. Tigger is a dog who plays, learns, loves and gets up to mischief, just like any collie – from digging holes in the garden, to an obsession with stealing clothes, clothes pegs and tissues. Tigger just happens to be deaf, just as some collies have the misfortune to be black and white. And anyone who now says to me “but how do you train a deaf dog” is likely to be in for a very long chat.

For all those who work so hard for Wiccaweys and other Rescues, I am sure that life must bring you much heartbreak, frustration and sadness, and perhaps a sense of inadequacy that this is so much to be done, with never enough time, people or resources to succeed in doing it all.

Next time things seem bleak, just remember Tigger, who is just one success story, and a testimony to all your hard work. Tigger has brought real joy, happiness and love into our lives. Tigger's a wonderful, special boy who truly lives up to the nickname he has here - “Sunshine”.

Best Wishes,

Margaret, Graham & Tigger


Tess

Tess - 1 year on.

A year ago today we drove up to Toddington services on the M1 where we meet Sarah. We collected our new foster dog, an incredibly pretty and extremely nervous young girl called Tess.

It was love at first sight for me. Tess had been rescued from a farm where she had been found chained up and being beaten. She had a wound on her head where she had been hit and her teeth were ground down from trying to chew through the chain to free herself. She was horribly thin and utterly terrified of everything.



Back home we couldn't get anywhere near her yet if we were out of her sight she would mess in the house and wreck the place. She was never still and paced constantly including at night. For two weeks we barely slept and at one point had a serious discussion about whether we should return her to Wiccaweys as it was just getting too much. Then we tried crating her which helped with the messing and destruction, but then we found out (via a very displeased neighbour) that if she couldn't be out taking her frustrations out on other things she would bark constantly (and I mean constantly) while we were gone. When we took her out it was like trying to walk a wild horse. The slightest noise send her flying into the air and the sight of a strange human caused blind panic. If someone came to the house she would run and hide upstairs.


Slowly Tess made progress. We experimented with places to leave her when we were out and eventually cracked the barking problem. She learnt to lay down and go to sleep occassionally and started to enjoy her walks. She even started looking for a fuss occassionally.

As she has got to know us she blossomed into an affectionate, happy, playful girl. So 2 months after we picked her up she went on to the Homes Needed page. Around the same time we went out for the day and my
Mum came to let the dogs out for us. Tess got totally panicked at the sight of another person in her house and apparently started thrashing around in her crate like a wild animal. She actually managed to snap her
own harness. It was this incident that made me begin to question whether letting her go was the right thing. I cried for hours thinking about how scared she must have been and how scared she would be if she went to a
new home.

We agonised for two more months over what to do with Tess. For a long time I said to myself that my feelings for her didn't matter and I would get over her going to a new home and be able to help more dogs.
But I couldn't get over that thought that all the progress she had made with us was only with us. In the face of a new person she was the same dog we had met at Toddington. I couldn't bear the idea of putting her
through all that again when she was already starting to be happy here with us.

Eventually in April we admitted defeat and asked if Tess could stay here permanently. Although she still has her challenges it was without doubt the best decision we ever made.




Tess has completely gotten over her separation anxiety now and will happily be at home alone without issue. She is still nervous of people she doesn't know, but she'll go up to them for a treat and you can see
that she gets more relaxed with people each time she meets them. She will approach my family and wag her tail at them now. When she is at home with us she shows no sign of being that same scared little girl.

She is happy, always with a big grin on her face and her tail held high and wagging. She has such a happy silly personality under all that fear and loves to chuck her bones around and pounce on them or play fight with us. For a long time she was still wary of Dave but now she plays with him as much as me and even rolls on her back so he can rub her tummy. She has been off lead during recent visits to Wiccaweys and seeing her charging around freely having a fabulous time has brought a tear to my eye. Last time she was even playing ball with Tigger and running up to Mrs B in between throws.


I'm so glad we're such rubbish fosterers and we can't imagine not having Tess here now. Our five are all so different and each one brings something special to the mix. Tess has us in stitches with her ugly yawns, her elaborate stretches, her silly moments, her clumsy attempts to get on our laps and her singing. Earning Tess' love and trust has been a huge honour and sharing her life over the last year has been an absolute joy.

Being the first and only people to gain her trust has enabled us to forge a bond with Tess that is stronger than with any other dog. A dog from a difficult past may be hard work but winning them over makes it SO worth it!

Best Wishes,

Sarah, Dave, Tess and the Sprog Dogs!








Harley

Harley - 1 year on, and at his 1st Flyball tournament.

It's been a year now since Sarah and Paul brought this skinny little collie to our house, and what a difference a year makes.

To say Harley (aka Charlie) has been a challenge is certainly an understatement. I would imagine that his previous owners had no idea of the breed, and he certainly would have ruled the roost in their home. Being a cocky little devil, he challenged my bossy little collie bitch, who immediately put him in his place. That was his first lesson.

Harley was an adrenalin junkie. He would rush to the window, squeal, bark and belt around like a looney. He wound himself up into a frenzy chasing shadows, birds and anything that moved.
He escaped 3 times into the fields behind our house when he heard foxes barking. We finally found where he was getting through and it was so tiny that a ferret would have a tight sqeeze, never mind a dog. If I didn't take him for a walk when he wanted to go, he would stand in front of me and bark his head off. When that didn't work he tried rushing around and jumping on the furniture. This wound my other dogs up who then started joining in. I ignored him and refused to take him anywhere until he lay down quietly. It took many months before he accepted this and he does have the occasional lapse.

I took him to all the agility and flyball shows last summer and he was a swine. He barked, lunged at passing dogs (no malice just excitement) pulled me over - he is so strong, and generally behaved like the dog from hell. He escaped from the caravan, and was running amok in the ring. He chases anything that moves and won't come when called. I felt that he was not bonding with me and was still doing his own thing. He started flyball training a few months ago and this helped with his recall.

All this went on for quite a while and being one who will not give up, I persevered. Within the last 2 mnths he has taken a huge leap forward. He is listening to me, has stopped trying to be boss and has turned into a cuddle monster. I still only let him off lead in certain areas as he chases wildlife, but he will return to me a lot quicker. His behaviour has imroved a great deal, although there are still one or two things left to work on.

These pictures are from Harley's first starters tournement at Carlton Towers. He ran like a trooper and controlled his excitement. I was so proud of him and walked around with a big grin on my face all day.
This crazy mad dog IS GETTING THERE.