After losing Dobby nearly five months ago, we decided not to take on any more pets. Losing them is so traumatic, and we felt we couldn’t face any more. That left us with Tally, now twelve years old and as calm and well-behaved dog as you could wish for. However, he has become increasingly needy since Dobby’s death, and last week the first stirrings of new dog syndrome appeared, when TOH suggested that we should find a companion for him.
He wanted another Hungarian Vizsla – a breed we’ve had for over 30 years – that was a few years old and in need of a new home. None of the rescues anywhere near us had any, but an Internet search brought up a “4-year-old Braque Hongrois croisé” – a Vizsla cross. The dog had been removed from the previous owners because of ill-treatment: it was attached to a radiator by a 50 cm. (20 inch) chain, without food or water. It was emaciated, suffering from muscle wastage, starvation, dehydration, skin complaints and numerous injuries.
A particular characteristic of the Vizsla is its unconditional worship of its owner. They’re known as “Velcro dogs” because of the way they stick to you, and they are highly sensitive, easily broken by harsh treatment. They ask you to love them, and to let them love you. If you can add to the mixture fun and food, they’re satisfied. The thought of such a gentle-natured dog being so badly abused decided us – we were going to get him.
There was a drawback – he was in the SPA kennels in Dunkirk, over 400 miles away, with horrors of the Parisian périphérique on a Saturday during the holiday season unavoidably bang in the middle of the journey.
We left home yesterday at 9.00 am, finally reaching Dunkirk at 4.15, fuelled by three chocolate chip cookies each. Tally slept all the way in the back of the car.
From the photograph of the dog – ironically named “Lucky,” I knew that he wasn’t going to be strikingly beautiful. Apart from most of the bones in his body showing through his coat, he had a rather flat head, and very flat feet, and he seemed to have lost the lid of his lipstick. :) Still, looks aren’t everything.
The SPA kennels in Dunkirk are tucked away in a peaceful cul-de-sac on the outskirts of the town. Thanks to the generosity of a retired couple, the entire place is being rebuilt into a beautiful modern facility. http://www.spadunkerque.fr/72641953 Work was well underway when we arrived, though not yet completed. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly, and I noticed that they also have boarding facilities for dogs and cats, which seems a sensible idea to help with the funding of the rescues.
We were led through the buildings to one of the new sections, where a dozen large dogs shouted from their spacious individual enclosures.
Lucky was easy to spot, the only russet-red among the blacks.
Forewarned by the photo and the knowledge of what he had endured, we were prepared for this less-than beautiful dog, cowed by his ill-treatment. What we hadn’t expected was a tornado of wiggling, wriggling, writhing, squirming, widdling, tail-wagging joyous missile, shouting “Hey – you’re here! I’ve been waiting for you. Let’s go.” Lucky bounced and jumped and spun in circles and nearly fell over his own feet in his excitement. He’s on the small side, with a large white splash on his chest, and a very male jaw, but looks like a pure Vizsla. Even after more than three months of care by the SPA, he is still underweight, with his ribs and backbone clearly visible. However, since the photo was taken, he has put on weight and his head shows the classic Vizsla “apple” shape. He’s now “up on his feet” and stands proudly.
With the paperwork done, the adoption fee paid, and Tally and Lucky introduced to each other, we set off for home. Lucky immediately burst past the dog guard and established himself on the back seat, and for the 8 hour journey home tried to force himself into the front against our raised elbows. He was bright and alert, needing to watch the road and take note of every péage or interesting noise within the car.
It was a little before 1.00 am when we arrived home, three of us ready for a good night’s sleep, and our new family member needing to gallop around the house and garden, inspecting every corner, every kitchen surface, behind every chair, round and round and up and down, with the combined energy of a bus-load of school-children arriving at the beach. He couldn’t keep still long enough for a close examination, but there are old scabs on his paws; the tip of his tail has been bleeding from wagging it against the concrete walls of his kennel; there is a small bald patch on the top side of his tail, and a sac of inflamed skin on his stomach from where the harness to which he was attached had rubbed him raw. However, he had been with the SPA for over three months being cared for and nursed by them until he was well enough to be rehomed. What condition he must have been in when he was rescued, I can’t imagine.
In the few hours we’ve had him (during which I managed two hours of sleep before he was wide awake and ready to eat/play at 5.18 am), we’ve found that he’s house-trained, and plainly used to being spoiled. He seems younger than 4; his teeth are tiny and he is puppy-playful.
Someone, somewhere, must have loved him once. So how did he end up near death through deliberate ill-treatment? We’ll never know, but we do know that there’s work ahead – he’s very wilful, but he’s never going to be chained to a radiator again.
Should he remain Lucky, or shall we change his name? My choice is Tommy – as he comes from Dunkirk, in memory of all the “Tommies” who didn’t make it back during the evacuation. However, being as we are fairly democratic in our family :D, and after TOH’s heroic drive yesterday, we need to agree. So I’ll try twisting his arm again today, unless he can come up with a better idea.
Photos will follow shortly. :)