How did you first come to meet Jacky?
Jacky was rescued as a tiny puppy from a refuge in Tarbes by a volunteer dog walker. She had unexpectedly to leave France on a business trip a couple of days later so we agreed to look after him for the two weeks she was away.
What made you decide to foster/adopt him?
When the lady returned we put Jacky in her car, and, as dogs do, he knew something was happening. He put his paw on my arm and gave me that “I don’t want to go, what have I done wrong?” look. So when the lady said she could not really cope with a puppy along with her many cats, and did we want him back, it was no contest.
Have you previously owned a dog/dogs?
In the months prior to Jacky arriving we fostered two dogs out of the refuge - one for two weeks, the second for almost three weeks. Letting them go, even after such a short time, was not easy. Before that, because of work and lifestyle we had never considered keeping an animal of any description
Describe Jacky’s first days/weeks with you?
What to say? He was used to sleeping out in the open in the kennels with all the noise and distractions of an over-full rescue centre. We bought a large cage so he could sleep in the kitchen. He cried and barked when we turned out the lights. After a couple of sleepless nights we hit upon the idea of leaving the cage door open so he could get out and walk around. With the door open he was settled, no crying, barking and he was happy to sleep in the cage on his blanket.
Getting his feeding sorted took some trial and error. We fed him three times a day (which apparently is wrong, it does not give his digestive system time to work properly). We settled on twice, 8-30 am and 6-30 pm and that is how it is today. We never consciously house trained him but in eighteen months there have been no more than a couple of ‘accidents’ in the house.
From the very beginning he was taken for short walks early morning, late evening, with a longer walk during the day. This may well not be necessary with a lot of dogs but it works well with Jacky.
What were the problems, if any and have you managed to address them?
Problems are in the eye of the beholder. If you have a beautiful garden make sure the animal does not have access to it. Grass is for doing whoopsies on and flower beds are for burying things in. Initially he used to jump up at people by way of greeting. All dogs do it, it is a simple habit to cure. Jacky has never been one for barking which is a godsend to both us and the neighbours, but like all young dogs he liked to chew. Slippers, shoes, wellington boots, hats, gloves, towels, anything that he can shake is all grist to his mill.
He also is not averse to taking things off low tables or even the worktop. A container with a dozen mince pies, the egg off Jen’s salad (he left the lettuce), anything that is within reach has clearly been put there for him. The solution, put it higher or out of reach, simple but next to impossible.
Do you have other animals at home and how does Jacky react to them?
We discussed getting another dog so that Jacky would have someone to play with after he hit 12 months old. A friend of ours passed away leaving a 12 year old dog, so we agreed to take him ‘for a couple of weeks’ to see how they got on and/or until another home could be found. He is still with us.
The dog, Simba, was clearly traumatised when he arrived so it was difficult for him. Jacky was determined to be the dominant dog and pushed him around a lot. He still does but Simba, after 4 months, is pushing back, or trying to, he is much smaller than Jacky. They have never fallen out over food bowls, toys, sleeping baskets et al but sometimes their play gets to the edge of aggression especially when Simba has had enough and wants to rest.
Do you have any regrets about fostering/adopting Jacky?
None at all
How has Jacky changed your life?
Dogs need attention, if not 24/7, pretty close to that. They need to be let out at a reasonable hour in the morning, last thing at night and preferably exercised during the day. Some need more than others, I guess all young dogs need more, older ones perhaps less so. I have also lost several kilo, so there is a definite upside.
We used to be quite selfish with our time, taking holidays whenever, day trips off, long lunches, whatever. Now it seems all decisions are taken after considering the impact on the dogs day. Silly, but hey, they are family.
It is very necessary to consider the impact on house, garden and the car. Mud and leaves, dog hair, upturned water bowls in the kitchen, all need a large degree of tolerance otherwise it would be very easy to fall out of love with the idea of keeping an animal.
What advice would you offer to prospective fosterers/adopters?
Bear in mind there is no such thing as a free dog (or cat). Vet bills, tablets, proper food, bedding, baskets, replacement slippers all cost money.
Be aware that they can very easily come to dominate your life (in a good way). If you are pushing 80 do you really want a puppy? Can you exercise it, give it the attention it will require. If you are slightly built remember that even medium sized dogs can pull you over if they decide to go after something that grabs their attention.
If you are thinking of adopting try fostering first, but give it a real chance.
Become a volunteer so that you can see what life in the kennels is like and see the dogs as they arrive, that would be a great incentive to take one home.
Taking Jacky and then Simba was not a difficult decision and keeping them safe and happy for the rest of their lives is our ambition. He and Simba are the family we never had so our experience will not be the same as everyones but it is difficult now to imagine life without them.