Years ago, while on holiday in Cuba, I stumbled across a stray beach dog - heartbreakingly skinny and nursing 9 puppies. After spending my days sneaking food from my hotel to feed her, along with clean water to wash the sand out of her babies’ eyes, I flew home and promised myself I would return for her.
So when I discovered ‘Give a Dog a Home UK’, the incredible work the team does in helping overseas dogs really resonated with me. After speaking with Lynne and completing my home-check via Jackie, I received my first Romanian delivery - Jez, the wonder dog!
Shaking, skittish and smelly, I had to carry him from the van into my home. Jez couldn’t trust me and rightly so. He’d been rescued from a Romanian death camp and had lived a hellish existence through no fault of his own.
We took our first night slowly. He’d been used to surviving by himself so it was important not to impose on his space. Slinking low with big, frightened eyes, Jez eventually crept towards me with his tail wagging nervously. He could sense I wished him no harm but a friendly human? Really?! It’s difficult to comprehend what must have been going on in his head that night.
Fast forward 24 hours and after a silent night’s sleep in his crate Jez was playing with his toys, racing around the house and already coming out of his shell. He followed me everywhere and over the next couple of days we experienced many “firsts” together. Jez had his first shampoo wash, went on his first walk using a lead and, for the first time in his four-year life, was learning to trust a human.
As I type this Jez is curled up and snoring under my right arm. He has slotted into our home like an old friend and even mastered a few new skills, such as “sit” and his toilet training. He’s still a little wary of strangers, sometimes ducking when people go to stroke his head too quickly - the memories of being struck in his former life. Loud noises and sudden movements continue to challenge him. Yet he surprises us every day by revealing a new side to his character and playful personality, rewarding us with kisses that signify just how far he has come.
These are not normal dogs. Life has dealt them a bad hand but despite everything they still have the ability to love and be loved in return. That’s the beauty of dog rescue. You open your heart just a little for these vulnerable dogs and they reward you with bucket loads of joy and loyalty in return.
Now my admission: it’s been less than a month since Jez arrived and we have succumbed to adoption. Fostering has not gone to plan this time, but helping to heal Jez’s wounds continues to be an incredibly gratifying experience. Yes, I am a “failed fosterer” but really there is no failure here – Jez is transforming into a loving pet and is transforming our lives, too. This special dog deserves his spot on our sofa and in our hearts.