They fetched their Romanian rescue pup, Toby, four days ago from a temporary foster. He’s seven months old.
A couple of weeks previously he’d been transported on the long journey across Europe from Romania in the back of a van.
The Romanian rescue organisation had picked up Toby’s mother and siblings from the streets when he was two weeks old. Both the original rescue and the subsequent foster had looked after multiple dogs.
Now, probably for the first time in his life, he’s an only dog.
There were two siblings with the foster; Toby was the shy one. The journey home took over two hours and he was sick in the car. Once home, he was so scared they had to carry him in. They put him down in the garden.
The traumatised Romanian rescue pup spent the next seven hours behind a bush.
He ignored all attempts to lure him out and when it was time to go to bed the lady picked him up and carried him in.
She placed him in an open crate in a quiet place behind the sofa.
He didn’t eat or drink. He wouldn’t come out.
The next day the family tried to make friends. Their new Romanian rescue cowered back from the fifteen year old daughter and from the man. He growled at the boy who tried crawling towards him.
They called me.
My advice was ‘less is more’. Everything in the young Romanian rescue pup’s life is different to what he’s known before. Imagine he’s a young deer. He will be spooked by the smallest thing.
After our call the family did brilliantly at controlling their understandable desire to make friends with their new family member.
Day Two: Toby slowly began to warm up to the lady. He followed her. He sniffed her bum. But he didn’t want her to touch him.
He would only come out for her alone. Any second person was one person too many.
That was the situation when I arrived yesterday evening, the fourth evening. Toby remained hidden in his open crate behind the sofa throughout.
I discussed the way forward with family.
I explained about his ‘stress bucket’ and how he will still be affected by the trauma of recent days. Each time he relaxes a little, something else happens that is new and scary. Yesterday, when he was in the garden, the wind flapped the washing on the line. He immediately ran for cover.
If anyone reading this has been involved in a terrorist attack, I would guarantee for several days at least they would jump at the smallest sound. They would constantly be looking around. They would feel unsafe.
Romanian rescue Toby is accustomed to life in a large pound with many other dogs including his siblings. Recently he will have encountered and witnessed things that, to him, will be traumatic. These are things we might not even notice. There will be sights and sounds he’s never encountered before that so far as he knows could kill him.
A small example of something that could have huge impact on the new Romanian rescue but they wouldn’t even notice, is a puffing air fresh spray. How would this seem to Toby? Not only would it suddenly hiss, but also flood a smell that wouldn’t be natural to the dog’s super-sensitive nose.
I would guess the more the place smells of ‘Toby’ the more at home he will feel.
We discussed taking things very slowly. We also discussed not letting Toby become too attached to the lady alone. Whilst still with only one person at a time until he ‘warms up’ a bit, people should take turns. They can feed him but not look at him or walk towards him. They can just ‘be there’.
It’s now the next morning after my visit, day 5. The lady has emailed me a happy update.
Toby finally ventured out of his crate about 10.45pm while she was watching TV the other side of the room with her 15-year-old daughter. He spent an hour and a half pottering around the garden. From time to time he checked where they were. Previously he hadn’t stayed outside for more than ten minutes since his day behind the hedge.
Then this morning, at my suggestion, the husband came down instead of the lady. He opened the garden door and then Toby’s crate without looking at him. He came away and sat down.
After a minute the Romanian rescue pup went into the garden. He then wandered in and out of the house and garden for an hour. All the time the man was quietly in the background.
Then he fed Toby and he ATE IT (the capitals are the lady’s). He had only previously eaten when he had seen her put it down.
Both the lady and the man came downstairs now and Toby retreated into his crate. They chatted and took no notice of him. After a few minutes he came and sat on the floor next to her with her husband in the next chair. They both ignored him while the man dropped cheese.
The lady then went to get ready for work and Toby began to follow the man instead. He was very excited that Toby even sniffed his bum!
So, it’s the fifth morning. Their shy Romanian rescue has spent over two hours pottering and exploring, being very curious. To quote: “It was so lovely”.
The dog finally went back into his crate when they boy came down – still a bit too much for him. It won’t be long, though.
“We can’t believe the difference overnight. It’s just like you said, after days of his ‘stress bucket’ being over-full, it’s starting to slowly come down.”.
I’m pretty sure I shall be visiting a different dog when I go again in a couple of weeks’ time.