Charlie 12 plus

Male, 13½ years old

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Being the Rehoming coordinator for BDW I learn about many dogs and their lives and of course what happens to them after they are placed with us for rehoming.

Some are very young – we get 10 week old puppies others of course are at the other end of the spectrum – very, very old. We did have a bitch that was confiscated from a puppy farmer she had produced 8 puppies. I took the original call from the Cornwall dog warden ,Darren and Simon took the bitch and the puppies and the rest of the team all rallied round and we had lots of help from many sources and homed them all through welfare. A very happy ending for them all.

We lost our last dog in October 2016 he was a wonderful PAT dog the calmest Dalmatian you can imagine and he brought a lot of pleasure to so many people and some terminally ill children he used to visit.

After that I said – no more for a while I was moving house and changing my life completely so I did not need a dog for a while I had other priorities, finding a new home, new life, new place to live. I moved from Oxfordshire to North Norfolk on my own just taking my two cats with me, getting some ex battery chickens some weeks later. Then it was my turn to take the BDW rehoming phone for a few months. It was busy time for me still travelling occasionally to my previous home in South Oxfordshire but I managed the 320 mile round trip in a day if I had to.

We had a couple of dogs on our books that were being fostered an 8 year old hard of hearing bitch her owner was very frail – her dog had jumped up at her and she had ended up with several broken ribs, she was being fostered and was doing very nicely in her foster home. And then there was 12 year old Charlie. He had been left along with a 2 year old bitch and a Great Dane bitch in a kennels in Kings Lynn after their owner had lost her home. We don’t know much more about the circumstances, the great Dane was rehomed and we rehomed the younger bitch Dalmatian but Charlie aged 12 had lots of lumps/skin tags on him, a few problem teeth, very bad ears – lumpy not flat and smooth where they had been neglected and he had shaken his head until they had bled leaving hematomas. The ear canals had become very thickened and were full of what one could only describe as black tar! Each ear was at a different angle on his head – he could not hear because of the neglected ears. He also seemed to scrape his back legs in a sort of spasm if he got excited – they got out of sync! And he was not happy with other dogs barked at them when on lead. He also had what I can only describe as nasty habits – he would eat anything, I will leave it to your imagination just what! So he was not an ideal candidate for us to be able to rehome. One of our fosterers Jenny went and got him after he had been visited and assessed and the coordinator said BDW should get him fixed up at the vets to try and get as many of his problems sorted out. He had some of his lumps and the skin tag removed, a couple of teeth out and his ears cleaned under anaesthetic. He was prescribed cleaning fluid and drops for his ears after this but he still shook his head quite a bit every day. He was also vaccinated and wormed.

Jenny had a young family her partner and three boys aged 8-12 and Charlie settled down with them – she took him for walks every day but he could never be let off lead as he was not good with other dogs and she lived in quite a busy area so it was not practical – the fact that he could not hear was of course also major issue. One thing she noticed very early on was that he flinched if you moved your hand quickly or if you had something in your hand. He had obviously been hit as well.

At the end of May 2017 she was going on holiday for a week to her family in Blackpool and she was planning to put him in kennels. But on speaking to me (I was the coordinator at that time) I said it was a shame he had to go into kennels and he was supposed to be good with cats so I said that I would have him for a week so that he did not have to be shut away. This I did and whilst it took my cat a few days form them to get used to him he was quite good with them and showed no sign of chasing them or bothering them. Of course his total occupation was food.

Jenny had been regularly cleaning his ears with cleaner and put in the drops but these did not seem to be doing the trick and he would still shake his head frequently. Charlie and I got to know each other over the 8/9 days and whilst he caught me out with what he would eat when I was not looking he was quite controllable with regards to barking at other dogs if I distracted him with some of his kibble. I live in the country side with open fields and there are a lot of holiday people around during the summer coming in on the boats from the Norfolk broads to go to our community shop and pub which serves very good food. Many of them of course have their dogs with them so I was careful but he was fine if I distracted him.

Charlie went back with Jenny and her family. During the next month or so I had a lot going on and I also had the Welfare Funday to run and organise. After this Jenny said that she had had him for nearly 6 months and she would like to have the summer free without him so she could be with her children – they like riding their bikes – Charlie could not be let off lead he was also quite slow, not good with other dogs and so it was difficult to go out for the day with him and she asked if I could either find him a permanent home or get someone else to foster him for the summer.

I suppose having had him for that few days made me realise how much I missed having a dog and I had very little to do at that time to keep me occupied as well that was of a ‘routine nature’. He had also been very good with the cats so I said that if Dalmatian welfare would pay for his vet bills (if they got expensive) I would take him. Charlie was 12 years old so any pet insurance policy would have been prohibitive and in any case it would have excluded all his existing health problems – so of no use. Welfare agreed and I took him on. The first thing I did was take him to my vets and ask them to give him the once over! His ears were my main concern and the spasms in his legs. But he did not appear to be in pain it was just his ears were bothering him all the time. Charlie had been on the drops he had been prescribed for several months and if they were going to work they should have done so by now! So my vet suggested that each ear be tested separately because sometimes it was necessarily to treat each ear with a different antibiotic because they had different infections. I took a swab from each ear and handed them into the vet and they were ‘grown’ separately in a lab to see what was actually going on. It came back 2 weeks later showing that each ear needed different drops to clear the different bacteria in each one. Charlie was very good about my cleaning his ears I did it every other day – using q tips the ones with cardboard sticks with cotton fixed round them not the plastic ones. And whilst he often gave me a fed up ’look’ he let me gradually clean each one pulling the black wax stuff out as I went and then put the respective drops in each ear. I always rewarded him with a biscuit and I think that was what made him submit to my ministrations. The jaw movement of him crunching the biscuit also helped to remove the ‘tickling feeling’ I think that was left after I had scraped the ears out and gradually the head shaking became less and less and the black stuff also. By august his ears were no longer being shaken at all.  Now I clean them once every three or four weeks to keep an eye on them and make sure that nothing is happening and it has made so much difference to him. He still cannot hear but at least he can rest in comfort and not need to shake his head any more. He is sometimes very difficult to wake up, he sleeps very soundly, he cannot hear the door bell and if he is asleep he often misses me coming back into the house when I have been out for a couple of hours, he usually wakes up a few minutes later surprised to see me of course – just resting his eyes!

Despite him not hearing at all he is very good with keeping an eye on me all the time when out walking in the fields and foot paths and so I let him off at certain points on our walk – there is stubble in the fields at the moment. If I stop walking he comes running back to me for a few bits of his kibble and he is constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure I am behind him. At the moment the fields have been harvested of their sugar beet and barley and of course he has found that sugar beet is delightful stuff to eat! So he finds lumps of that have been left and eats them if he can. I was worried at first but I looked it up on the internet and apparently there is very little sugar actually in it and it does not seem to upset his tummy so I don’t worry about it too much – he won’t give it up anyway unless he has had already eaten a reasonable portion!

He loves to run back to me in an over excited way usually falling over when he gets to me as his legs get a bit out of sync! And then after getting a few knobs of kibble he runs off again in a very high spirited way. He often turns back to me after a few yards wanting more but I just wave him on. But it keeps his attention and he gets a lot more exercise and muscle toning than if he was just walking. Sometimes in the garden I throw a ball on a rope for him – he goes a bit made runs around in a circle and then dashes into the house! No idea why but that is all he does – a minute of rushing around and then in he goes in to leap onto the settee!

He snores a lot and also has very vivid dreams from what I can gather based on the amount of shaking and movement he makes when asleep!

He has been funny with some people if they want to stroke him and they have something in their hand like the post man for instance or someone coming along with a walking stick. He will bark at them and is clearly nervous of them.  I have to have ‘eyes and ears’ in the back of my head in case he gets frightened by someone suddenly appearing from behind as he cannot hear them approach as he is so deaf. He has barked at people if they make sudden movements as well – a chap walking towards us without warning suddenly put out his arm pointed at Charlie and said ‘ no spots on you!’ both Charlie and I jumped out of our skins and Charlie leapt in the air to snap at him. Fortunately, I had him on the long lead and just managed to pull him back. He did the same with a lady a couple of weeks later when she suddenly without warning jerked out her hand to stroke him and he snapped at her. She realised what she had done and I explained about how he was a rescued dog, had been hit and could not hear. So since then I have been very careful when out walking to make sure that I am between him and people and he is on a short lead.  He also does not like people just standing about on their own I have had that on two occasions, suddenly people just stop and stand still and he thinks this is suspicious and will bark at them. But he loves being made a fuss of when out and I carefully explain about no sudden movements or things in their hands and he is fine.

In September unexpectedly had to have one of the Siamese cats put to sleep at the age of 10 she suffered heart failure. Rosie was always the cat who did not like dogs even the ones that were there before she arrived as a kitten. So Botley our rescued cat (now 11) who was always happy with the dogs was left on his own. Botley is a very inquisitive cat likes to go out a lot and is very people and dog orientated. He was a rescue cat at the age of 8 months and he is quite a unique cat – we have had 15 cats all of them bar one have been Siamese or Oriental of some sort. Botley has taken a real shine to Charlie and I often find them in the living room, Botley rubbing himself on Charlie’s head and purring very loudly. The other day they were both sitting in a doorway side by side looking at me as I came out of the kitchen! I don’t know what it was all about but they seemed to be in cahoots with each other. Charlie seems to take this amorous ‘attention’ and Botley sitting on his head in good part but the only thing he won’t tolerate is being bothered if he has a chew that’s a definite no, no!

So taking on a rescue dog has its moments some downs some up but mostly up I have to say. And if you can try and understand what has happened to a dog and what its gone through in its life its nice to be able to give something back to a dog in its twilight years when it clearly has not had the best of a life in the past. Charlie is a happy chap and is very content. And so am I, what more can two oldes want!

Christine Breden

 

 

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