I love my rescue dog to bits – but he's made my life a lot harder

It’s 1pm and Henry, our 18-month-old dachshund, is right on cue scratching at my office door for his lunchtime walk. 

The walk is something I look forward to because I can step away from my desk – yet I can’t help but dread it in equal measure.

It should be a simple enough part of mine and my partner Nathan’s daily routine, but Henry’s walk is an ordeal for our other dog, Dudley – a seven-year-old Cavachon we rescued in February 2022. 

In an ideal world, Dudley would join us for our afternoon strolls – what dog doesn’t love going for a walk? But one year on, Dudley is still yet to enjoy what should be a basic activity. 

Since rescuing Dudley, our lives have changed forever – and not in the best way. The happy moments outweigh the negatives and we couldn’t imagine life without him. But the sacrifices and adjustments we’ve had to make have definitely taken their toll. 

Rehoming a dog was important to us. We felt passionate about providing a safe and comforting environment for dogs that had been mistreated. As a member of various dog rescue social media groups, it broke our hearts to see so many unwanted animals waiting for their forever homes.

After searching the websites of local rehoming centres, we eventually got to Dudley’s profile. His sweet little face immediately captured our attention.

We arranged to go and meet him and when one of the rescue shelter volunteers carried Dudley out to us, our heart went out to him. We knew from his online profile that he didn’t walk on a lead and, having been used for breeding, we were told that he had likely been living in a shed or something similar, with very limited daily human interaction, let alone a loving family unit. 

He’d never lived in a house before.

Through his heavily matted fur and dark stains over his paws and legs, we could just about see his beautiful wide eyes under his long fringe. He looked sad, scared and confused.

When we introduced Henry and Dudley, at first, Dudley ran away from Henry’s excitable nature. But after a few moments, he began to make contact. He was calm, quiet and we instantly fell in love.

My partner and I were thrilled to be given the green light on Dudley. We couldn’t wait to finally give him the warm and loving home he deserved. 

Yet, when we arrived back at our place, it was evident that Dudley was confused. We’d prepared all the necessities and a few added extras to welcome him: bed, toys, food bowls and some warm blankets. 

In hindsight, we were naïve to think he’d feel comfortable in new surroundings straight away. In reality, it was a struggle to get him to leave the corner of the kitchen.

Another thing we’d failed to take into consideration were the stairs. When it was time for bed, Henry bolted up them as usual and we expected Dudley to follow. It was only when he remained at the bottom, it hit us that Dudley probably had never seen a staircase before, let alone walked up and down one.

With some gentle strokes, I gained his trust to pick him up and put him on his upstairs bed in our bedroom. Even now, after a year and plenty of perseverance, I still have to do the same thing, every morning and every night.

We’d envisioned family walks to the pier, followed by Sunday lunches at our local with both dogs falling asleep under the table.

Unfortunately, because Dudley was treated so poorly, he refused to walk on a lead. We tried a dog stroller, but this scared Dudley so much he’d jump out of it along busy roads.

Instead, we became accustomed to staying indoors to keep Dudley calm, with only one of us able to leave the house to take Henry for his daily walk. It’s taken us a year to even take Dudley on short walks in quiet areas. And there’s so much more work to do to build his confidence.

Naturally, Henry is excited to be getting outdoors for exercise but his enthusiastic yaps as we put on his lead distress Dudley, who barks as if he’s screaming for his life.

It’s the same when the post arrives. Dudley will shoot up from his bed and aggressively bark at the door. When he does this, it shatters our nerves. There have been times when I’ve wanted to cry through the frustration of how to reassure Dudley that there’s nothing to be scared of. 

We’ve had to limit the number of deliveries sent to our house to keep the peace. But even when we open the front door to put out our recycling bins, or if one of us needs to run to the local corner shop, Dudley’s worrying cries make you feel instantly guilty. 

Still a member of various dog rescue groups, it doesn’t help to read the stories of others who have rescued similar dogs with behavioural issues that now live their best lives. It’s a stark reminder that we couldn’t be further away from the fairytale ending.

With just Henry, we saw friends and family without giving it a second thought, either bringing him with us or leaving him at home for a couple of hours. 

If we booked a short getaway, we could always rely on a loved one to take care of Henry. But we could never ask someone to take on Dudley’s behaviour.

It sounds terrible, but rehoming Dudley has disrupted our once peaceful, easy lives considerably.

Every time we’re invited to a social occasion, we have to weigh up the pros and cons of both of us going, how long we should stay, and what excuses we can come up with to not go instead of blaming Dudley. We’ve missed out on several big events and he has isolated us from friends and family. 

Of course, we knew taking in a rescue dog would involve a few bumps along the way. But even for experienced dog owners, Dudley would have been a significant challenge.

We don’t regret bringing Dudley into our lives – as his character came to the surface over time, we realised he’s such a lovable little chap.

He lives for his biscuit treats and tummy scratches, and loves running after his brother in the garden. 

After he finishes his breakfast, he comes up to me for cuddles as I open my work laptop. Perhaps because of his age, he sleeps a lot during the day. And when it’s time for dinner, he jumps on his two front paws and dances around the living room.

But for those who are thinking about rehoming a dog, you have to ask yourself, are you in a position to give a dog who has been treated terribly the love and attention it needs?

There seems to be a lack of support during the initial settling-in stage. Admittedly it is difficult to determine everything about a dog’s personality, but online profiles need to be more accurate about a dog’s background and behavioural patterns so potential owners can make suitable choices about what’s best for both them and the dog.

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