Published: Monday, February 21, 2011
My name is Helen. I have been a member of the Burns Nutrition Team for 3½ years and currently have two dogs.
We had been pondering getting a friend for our two year old Bearded Collie, Indie, ever since the Boxer who shared the first eight months of her life with died. She loved having the company of another dog and they did nothing but play all day long. Although she missed her friend she had learned that there were certain benefits; lots of extra attention, having all the toys to herself and knowing that anything coming out of the fridge was, maybe, eventually only going to be coming in her direction.
After a long period of ‘shall we, shan’t we’ (with my boyfriend veering on the side of ‘she’s doing well by herself’) I found an Old English Sheepdog on a local rescue’s website. With my preference for long haired dogs I just had to meet him! The site said he was friendly, two years old and full of energy: the perfect companion for Indie! I set about persuading my boyfriend that Indie would benefit from a friend and that our trio would only be complete if we had a second dog. He was still not convinced. I somehow managed to persuade him that we could just visit the dog and, if he didn’t get on in any way with Indie, we would leave him there and forget the whole idea. So we went to meet him …
At the rescue we heard that no-one else had showed any interest in the Old English. The staff all thought he was a fantastic dog and this made me even more eager and hopeful that things would work between him and Indie. He had come into the rescue centre with his coat terribly matted so he had been shorn and looked like he would get cold easily! They brought him out, pulling right at the end of his lead and we walked around a field with both dogs on the leads. Immediately Indie, who is generally quite a shy dog thought “PLAY”! She bounced towards him and started barking. He seemed completely unfazed by this. Everything seemed OK so we continued down to a fenced-in, grassy play area. The two dogs chased after tennis balls together, each allowing the other to take the ball without any problems. There was no denying it- everything was going fantastically. We went back to the rescue centre a further four times to make absolutely sure they were absolutely going to get on. By the last few times, Indie was even whining in the car with excitement on the way down the rescue centre drive!
So, on the 25th November we picked him up, took him home and christened him “Hugo”.
Before we left the rescue centre we had been given a few details about Hugo. He had lived outside for the past year (hence the matted hair) and was unlikely to be fully housetrained. He wasn’t used to being walked very often and was never let off the lead because of his tendency to run away. Oh dear! This certainly was going to be a challenge.
It became clear very quickly that he was a ‘man’s dog’. He bonded with my boyfriend straight away and followed him everywhere. If he left the room Hugo would panic for a few minutes before he finally realised that I was still there and he would settle again. Needless to say, my boyfriend has fully come round to having two dogs and thinks Hugo is great.
Then there was the weeing …
Hugo likes to drink - a lot. This has rather obvious consequences! Although mostly confined to the tiled kitchen floor, unfortunately his ‘christening’ did also extend to the living room rug and, once, even the sofa. The frequency of his weeing started to worry us a little. When the bowl was put down he would drink the whole lot, leaving nothing for Indie so, naturally, we filled it up so that she could also have a drink. He seemed to need letting out every two hours day and night - miss it and you had a nice puddle to clean up! The trouble was when we let him out and he had his wee, he would come straight back in and drank another whole bowl of water.
We decided to take Hugo to the vet and make sure there was nothing untoward going on. The vet did a urine test and a blood test and couldn’t find anything wrong with him -phew! However, it still left us puzzled as to why he was drinking so much? A few weeks passed and things gradually improved. Hugo and Indie became very good friends, playing constantly and we seemed to have two very happy contented dogs. He was also leaving some water in the bowl when he drank and the urinating was improving until it was just one trip outside during the night. We could only conclude that either water had been a novelty to him in the past or he was drinking it all so that Indie couldn’t have any! Either way, things had improved and now it just seems to be a case of him learning better bladder control overnight.
After a few weeks Hugo seemed to be learning his new name. Lead walking on a long lead (with plenty of treats) was going to have to become gradually letting him off to see whether or not he runs for the hills! Luckily his favourite thing in the world is a tennis ball and it seems that as long as you have one in your hand nothing else matters.
To start with we took him on our normal daily walk in a reasonably enclosed woodland and showed him the ball and treats and let him off the lead. He didn’t leave our side – just incase the ball did anything interesting! We put him back on the lead to pass anyone but he passed a few people and dogs and greeted them nicely. A few trips around the country park and to the beach later he was doing so well that we decided it was time to let him off the lead properly on the beach and see what happened.
So, last weekend we went to the beach. Luckily we couldn’t see anyone nearby so we let him off to play with Indie and Cider, my colleague Becka’s dog. They all ran around together and chased the tennis ball without any problems. Hugo didn’t show any signs of wanting to run away. He was far too interested in what the ball was doing! Walking along the beach we came across a group of dogs just a short running distance away. Again, with the ball in his mouth he showed no interest in saying hello to any of them. People with prams, other groups of people with dogs and still no sign of wanting to investigate, Hugo just trotted along just ahead of us the whole time.
Maybe we picked up the wrong dog from the rescue centre. Maybe he’s still finding his bearings and we haven’t seen the half of it yet- either way, I’m very proud of my new ‘so far’ very well behaved dog!
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