Buddy's Rescue Story

Rescuing a dog is not easy. You don’t know how they ended up in a rescue centre, but it is unlikely because everything was wonderful. Often it was not.

I have had Buddy for over two years now. I spent many months trawling the internet looking for the dog for me, including several visits to rescue centres. Seeing so many dogs abandoned was heart breaking, especially the older ones. People don’t tend to take the older dogs as they are going to cause you heartache earlier than a younger dog, whose life has longer to run.

Then one day I found Buddy. The original advert described him as ‘a distinguished older gentleman’. He had his ears back, look frightened and had a big golf ball sized growth on one of his hind legs. He had been found, half starved and weighing just 16KG, wondering the streets of East London in the bitter winter of early 2020, and taken to the pound. He was saved by Staffie and Stray Recuse and taken to a foster home in Dorset. The instant I saw his picture I knew he was going to be the dog for me.

I don’t know Buddy’s history, but it is probably not a good one. When I picked him up he was still thin, and his body was pot marked with scars. Some looked like cigarette burns. His teeth were almost entirely ground down – if he were a human he would be wearing dentures. That would either be caused from chewing pebbles due to boredom and anxiety or possibly by his owner filing them down if (and I dread to think) he was used for bait in dog-fighting. His nightmares were really terrible and they would come throughout the night. Waking him out of them required him to be shaken hard and his howls and screams chilling. He was obviously living very real events.

Then there was his behaviours. He was very protective and patrolled my garden all day long. He was keen to protect me from other dogs – even spaniels – and he barked a lot. Lots of people I talked to, including professionals in dog welfare, said he exhibited all the behaviours of a yard guard dog. Matters were made worse when Covid hit and we couldn’t go out. I had to nurse his wounds without a vet and for many months it was just him and me, largely, confined to my house and without vital socialisation for him. He became very attached and dealing with his separation anxiety, already present when I got him, has been a huge challenge. He cannot be left alone and as a strong boy, and one so precious to me, it is hard to find anyone capable of looking after him when I have to go away. His life has been hard, and maybe saddest of all, he doesn’t want to play with dog toys or balls – he just doesn’t know that sort of joy.

Saving Buddy has meant so much more than just giving him a loving home. It has been about making up for his previous life after years of fear and neglect. When I picked him up he was already grey and his eyes misted; the vets telling me he was at least ten years old or more. As a Staffie Cross, he has probably got a bit of a longer lifespan than a pure breed, and he might not have had a proper shelter or have eaten a regular or decent diet.

My aim now is to get the percentage of time he spends with me to be as high as it can, compared with his previous life. I want to give him the best life possible, for as long as possible. It has taken time, but now Buddy doesn’t guard, only has the occasional nightmare, and enjoys his daily walks in the woods, and occasionally on the beach. Judging by his reactions, he had never seen either before – maybe just the concrete floor and fences of a yard for most of his life.

Despite what may have been his previous life, Buddy loves people. He has his favourite coffee shops and when I take him into work he goes to everyone’s desk and asks for a stroke or a cuddle. I only go in shops that allow dogs in, and the reaction I get from people who see him for the first time is usually to ignore me first and fuss over him. It is odd, as most people ask about his background. It is as if they know he has been rescued.

Every day with Buddy is to be treasured. I have never thought of his time with me, in the twilight of his life, as ‘retirement’. Rather, I look on it as the start of his life. I always call him ‘young man’ and although he is old, the experiences he is enjoying now are just like he is starting out in life. I definitely saved him, but what he gives me back in terms of love and appreciation is ten times that. I know he is thanking me for his rescue and he seems determined to live in the moment.

Who amongst us will look back at the end of their lives and think I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my dog? Thanks to Buddy – not me!

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