Wilfred The Hairy
Our story begins at the beginning of February with a call from a hospital social worker about an elderly gentleman who had been admitted as an emergency leaving 2 dogs and a cat alone in the house. Susan Offen went to investigate ” Squalid does not begin to describe the conditions in which they had all been living. The condition of the older dog (a 14 year old Labrador) was such that he was put to sleep immediately. The owner confirmed that they had not been walked for years, nor let out very often and had urinated and defecated at will around the house. Whilst it is difficult to excuse his neglect of himself and his animals he was clearly very fond of them and they had not been ill-treated.
I found a foster home quickly for the other dog, (an 8 year old labradoodle) who weighed nearly 40kg and had a long softly curling coat that was matted and very dirty. Despite everything going on around him, he was calm and trusting and very affectionate. I’ll never forget the smell of him in the car, it was appalling so I travelled with the windows open and before going to his foster home I called in on my colleague Helen Benn and we gave him a shampoo in the garden. Unfortunately it did not improve the situation much, but simply added “wet dog” to the smell.
It quickly became clear that he was going to need rehabilitation before he could be rehomed, because he was too nervous to go in the garden on his own, sat down and refused to budge when taken for a walk, and did not appear to be housetrained! So we had to move him the next day to a foster home who has an outdoor kennel…..
Sally Oliphant takes up the story. “ I did wonder why the car windows were all open the February morning that Wilfred arrived but as soon as I met him, I realised why…..he looked like a huge bear and smelled just like I imagine one would!
I decided to start from scratch with housetraining, feeding and walking. Initially my biggest concern was that he walked really slowly and carefully like he had sore feet – it was hard to see under all that matted hair, but it was clear that he was overweight with very poor muscle tone and his pads were in a terrible state – pink and soft with several deep cuts and red raw at the sides. I persuaded a dog groomer to see him the following day before our first trip to the Vet to get some help with his feet. The diagnosis was chronic dermatitis from standing in the acid from his urine. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been for him and the regular saltwater footbaths for all 4 feet must have been even worse. The poor boy cried each time but still allowed me to do it.
The housetraining & preventing him scent marking was quite simple – to make sure that he didn’t have the opportunity, I put him on a lead in the house and attached him either to me…..or to the rail of the AGA, or to the leg of the office chair when my husband was working & I was out. He was very happy with that as Wilfred is a dog that likes to be with his human….all the time. Everywhere! Just as you would with a puppy, I took him out at regular intervals (yes a saltwater footbath each time) and introduced him to a special tree….walking round and round and round until he got the idea! My dogs watched me as though I had gone mad although Freddie my 4yo chocolate boy picked up Wilfred’s lead one day and decided to take him for a walk himself!
Feeding was more difficult. Initially he picked at the kibble in his bowl quite politely but didn’t want to eat anything apart from Dentasticks (he arrived with an industrial quantity of them) and I was worried that he would lose weight too quickly. Eventually I discovered that he liked supermarket tinned dog food, particularly chunks in jelly. I also learned that he would eat dry kibble but only if it was thrown on the floor (don’t ask how I found out!) and not from a bowl – I did shed a tear imagining the life that he had been used to. And so we started the process of changing & improving his diet.
Foster dogs are often insecure and appear clingy, but Wilfred took this to a whole new level – literally everywhere I went, he was right by my left heel. So it was quite easy to use this to build up his confidence to go out for a walk, although he never strayed from my side initially and needed constant reassurance and cuddles. Because he was overweight and unfit, he tired quickly so our walks were short and frequent, but as his fitness improved, his weight reduced he became more mobile and started playing with my younger dogs….straight lines were fine, cornering at speed was sometimes an issue! I started doing recall training and unsurprisingly he was VERY keen to come when called…..often at speed. But without the muscle control to stop quickly….well I’m sure you can imagine! But the ground was soft and Wilfred liked a cuddle….and we both learned quickly.
So things were progressing nicely and Wilf was getting fitter and gaining confidence. And then we discovered the lump in his scrotum that turned out to be a mast cell tumour. Although the operation was successful and the tumour was found to be low grade and unlikely to spread, poor Wilfred had a very deep wound in a very difficult area and needed immobility to recover. He was very distressed wearing a cone and it was very difficult to keep him still. Inevitably none of the layers of stitches held and poor Wilfred ended up with a deep, oozing open wound, which the Vet thought would be impossible to re-stitch. He put up with this without complaint – as he did with my solution to contain the ooze and stop him licking it. A big thankyou to my husband for the donations!.
By now I had become very attached to Wilfred. He put up with everything I did without complaint, just gazing at me adoringly all the time. And he was on hand to comfort me when I was upset about something – Wilfred is a big dog that loves a cuddle and of course is always in the right place!
As his wound healed we were able to build up our walks again and Wilfred started to get fitter and stronger and more confident. He learned to walk on the lead, walk to heel, sit on a hand signal and eventually to sit every time I stopped walking. He played enthusiastically with my dogs and even learned (or remembered) how to fetch a tennis ball, even if he did get a bit confused by the fencing!.
So now we began to look for a special home for this special gentle soul. And we found it. It turned out that Ali Outlaw was looking for a companion just like Wilf, and he was looking for a human just like Ali. He was delighted when I told him that Ali wanted to adopt him.
They took to each other immediately and although it was very difficult to let him go, I am SO delighted that they have found each other and will have many happy years together.
You have just read the highlights of Wilfred’s journey and there are lots of people to thank for their help in his recovery and finding him his forever home – you all know who you are! He is a very special boy and has touched our hearts with his gentle loving spirit. And now he has his own WhatsApp group so that we can keep up with his adventures in his new home!