A year with Lottie.
We’ve had our crazy Romanian rescue dog Lottie a year today. 8th November 2019. And what a challenge it’s been!
As far as I know she was found on the streets of Romania as a puppy and then looked after by a wonderful woman Roxana who runs a Romanian rescue centre and sends the dogs to the UK rescue where they are rehomed. After our home checks and donation, to the rescue charity, Lottie was brought to the UK in a big van with around 20 other dogs, also for adoption and delivered to our front door at around 8pm. She had spent 3 days in the truck getting here.
We were so excited and looking forward to giving her a great life with us. She was 5 months old. I thought, ‘I’m a dog trainer. How difficult can it be?’ Let’s say it was a bit of an eye opener even for a dog trainer!
I wanted to ‘tell it like it is’. I’m not writing this to put anyone off adopting a foreign rescue dog. Far from it. I have written this more to prepare anyone considering adopting a foreign rescue dog . In fact, as well as being a very challenging first year, it’s also been hugely rewarding and she’s such an affectionate dog, almost as if she’s grateful for her new safe life she has with us.
We wanted Bentley, our other dog who was two, and Lottie to meet outside before we brought them inside together. That’s one of the recommended ways to introduce a new dog to the existing dog. That didn’t work because as soon as I put Lottie down onto the pavement, after being handed her from the truck, she screamed continuously and rolled onto her back. I quickly picked her up again. Being held in my arms she was quiet. She did a wee on me through fear. Poor Lottie was absolutely terrified. No surprise after having such an uncertain start to her life and such a traumatic journey to us.
We brought her into our house via our utility room, I put her down and she immediately climbed into my washing machine as it was the most enclosed space she could find. After less than a minute though, she came out and started to nervously sniff around. She wanted to meet Bentley and he wanted to meet her. They had a sniff of each other and then I hand fed them both. After a few more minutes she was growing in confidence and was having a good look around our house.
I sat at the table to eat my burger, which was going cold…. Lottie came up to my right to have a sniff of it… I held it away to the left when Bentley took a huge bite of it! Partners in crime already!
I decided to sleep downstairs on the sofa for the first night. Just as I settled down with my blanket, Bentley did a wee by my coffee table. He hadn’t toileted inside for over a year and here he was peeing. He was anxious about having Lottie in our house. Poor Bentley. Both dogs slept with me on the sofa for that first night.
Over the next 2 weeks we let Lottie settle in. No walks, just garden trips for the toilet. We allowed her to feel safe in our home before we started taking her out. We fed her and Bentley separately to ensure each of them didn’t feel threatened at mealtimes. Bentley didn’t wee again indoors, and they were becoming friends. All was going well. Until one day Lottie attacked Bentley and a fight kicked off. It was over a bit of cheese that fell off the kitchen worktop. Of course, Lottie had learned to fight for food when she was a puppy on the streets and food was worth fighting for. Bentley has never had the need to fight for food. He was clearly upset by the incident and so were we.
Over the next month Lottie started more fights with Bentley. He would give her all the signals that he didn’t want to fight but Lottie continued to be aggressive towards him. If we were too slow to prevent the fight, Bentley would not back down and neither would Lottie. It was so very stressful for them and us. Most times I could not figure out why she was picking on Bentley. There was not a food trigger. I got bitten on several occasions while separating them. During this time we were all anxious about our situation. It was so hard on Bentley. We had brought Lottie into our settled life and now Bentley was suffering as a result and becoming anxious at times. However, in between the fights, they absolutely loved each other.
At a particularly low point around 6 weeks after we received Lottie, we agreed to arrange for her to go back to the rescue. We were distraught because by now, we were in love with her. The rescue was quick to respond to my messages and help us. They told us we’d need to get her spayed first before they would take her back because she would need to go into foster with male dogs. I was against getting her spayed before 18 months because I wanted her to mature fully before messing with her hormones. I wanted to do the right thing for her and so did the rescue charity. I told the rescue that I thought she would be better in a home with no other dogs. The rescue told me that she would be rehabilitated and possibly homed with other dogs. I was frustrated. I knew how Lottie was and I knew anyone taking her on with an existing dog, would go through what we had been through. It was at this moment I decided I couldn’t send her back to the rescue after all that she had been through. We were keeping her, and I felt so HAPPY about that decision even after all the sh*t we’d been through with her. We were keeping her and that was that! I’M SO GLAD WE KEPT HER!
I put a strict plan of action into place. We needed to build her confidence as it was her anxiety causing her to fight with Bentley. It was a very delicate operation! Tiptoeing around sometimes. No raised voices, always a calm home environment. Slowly, slowly increasing her confidence. The aggression became less often. To start with there would be a fight perhaps once each week…. Then it would be one every two weeks then 3 weeks and so on. I noticed that whenever we did something out of the ordinary, such as spend a week in a holiday cottage, or a night in a hotel with the dogs, or our summer break in France she would become more aggressive towards Bentley from her anxiety. Anxiety caused by uncertainty.
The last fight they had was in May and it’s now November! Wow! I’m really happy about that. I understand her much more now. Its been a huge learning curve which is an advantage for me being a dog trainer. I have learned so much from her. We’ve re-built Bentley’s confidence too.
Thank you to the charities that save these dogs. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would happen to them without the charities.
Bentley and Lottie absolutely love each other 99.9% of the time. The other 0.1% we control and manage the situation to prevent any fights kicking off. I know there will be more incidents caused by her uncertainty (or food)… but it’s a small price to pay for the enjoyment we have with our two dogs.