Pick Me! Pick Me!
Did I mention I was going to Ireland in March? No? Oops!
The main reason for my trip was to attend the final show of my Youngest Daughter’s class. The YD has now been formally introduced to you as Tansy Greenlee but she’s more than a singer/songwriter, she’ll play pretty much any sort of music she’s asked to play and she does backing vocals, too. She had a really exciting week for a couple of reasons, but I’ll tell you all about that in my next post. This post is all about the secondary reason for my trip back to Cork.
Way back in February, I wrote about my intention to adopt an Irish dog. After much sifting through the list of dogs available with Cork Dog Action Welfare Group (CDAWG), we finally settled on a black lurcher bitch called Scarlet. Now we just had to organise transporting her to the South of France… should be easy, I thought.
I got a couple of quotes to fly her from Dublin to Nice, based on an estimate of her size and weight. The best one was for €680, with Aer Lingus. Ok, I thought, that’s a bit steep but manageable. The cargo company need her exact vital statistics, so the people at CDAWG measured and weighed her and I reported back with the correct figures. Oh dear, said the very nice lady with whom I was dealing. It turns out that Scarlet needed a large crate – bigger than the maximum container size that Aer Lingus will carry. She offered to quote me for a different route, with an alternative airline – Dublin to Frankfurt, overnight in Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Nice. We hummed and hawed. Two days of travel and two flights, all by herself? What a gruelling journey for the dog. I wasn’t keen on the idea but I asked for a quote anyway.
I nearly fell off my chair when I received the email with the second quote. €1500!! Madness! Even the offer of a cut-price wooden crate for Scarlet only brought the price down to €1300 – still total insanity! We thought long and hard. It was Scarlet’s size that caused the price to skyrocket. What about choosing a smaller dog? I looked through the adoption page again. We didn’t want another Jack Russell Terrorist. Two part-bred JRTs is quite enough, thank you. I wasn’t keen on the idea of a bull-terrier type, either. With Cookie’s previous dog-aggression issues, I didn’t think it was wise to take on a breed with an aggressive reputation. No, I was really sold on the idea of a lurcher. Everything I read about them sounded right for us – playful, easygoing couch-potatoes. We decided to stick with Scarlet and looked into transporting her by ferry. We quickly discovered that she would not only need someone travelling with her, but she would need to be brought on board in a car.
The LSH was due to take a trip home in early April. What if he drove and took the ferry instead of flying? I could meet Scarlet on my trip home in March and if CDAWG would hold on to her for us for an extra two weeks, he could bring her home that way. CDAWG were happy enough with this and, finally, we had a plan.
Or so we thought. Shortly after making our final decision, I received a message from N, our contact person in CDAWG :
I know the dogs in the shelter very well & do most of their write-ups online. Scarlet has been for the most part a super happy girl despite her bad condition coming in, however I have noticed a change in her over the last two weeks. She’s getting a bit down in herself, which happens in the shelter if they are there too long – this is relative to each dog, a week is too long for one while another will still be having a ball after three weeks.
We may have a possibility of getting her out of there this week but it means going to a home in the UK, and I cannot stress it is very tentative. I believe you are due to come over in two weeks to see her, is it only Scarlet you are interested in, or would you be open to another lurcher closer the time. We are trying to get her into foster but unfortunately it’s proving difficult as always.
I suppose what I’m trying to say exactly is, I’m wondering is that you would like to give any dog a home, or does it have to be Scarlet only.
Well, there was no discussion necessary. If the best thing for Scarlet was to be re-homed asap in the UK, then that was the only thing to do and that’s what happened. N assured me that there are always plenty of lurchers available (they’re much more difficult to re-home in Ireland than they are in the UK) and, as the time drew near for my trip, I browsed through the adoption page once again to make a shortlist. N was hard at work on my behalf too, and when I arrived in Cork on a wet Wednesday morning, I was due to see five dogs.
But first, I had to take a trip to our house in Cork to check that it had survived the stormiest winter in years. Duly reassured, I popped into our neighbours, Frank and Margo, for a cuppa. While we chatted, Frank reminded me that Rosie, the very first pony I bought for our children, was lodging with them for a while. We all strolled out to see her.
Did she remember me? I think so! She was with us for almost ten years, before we sold her to her current home twelve years ago. She is 34 years old – I remember her date of birth because it’s the same birthday as mine, 5th June, but in 1980, not in 1962! She’s looking great. She has a good coat and she’s in reasonably good condition underneath it, although she’s a little doddery on her legs but, all in all, she’s looking amazing for her age.
Feeling very happy to have seen our old friends (two-legged and four-legged) I made my way to the address I’d been given to meet the first dog on my list, Síofra, a young lurcher bitch. She’s in a lovely foster home with four resident dogs and one other foster. I went into the kitchen to meet the pack and was immediately overwhelmed by a sea of white fluff – the four permanent residents are Spitzes; gorgeous, friendly bundles of white energy. The two foster-dogs, Síofra and Piper, hovered in the background, with Piper taking to her bed soon after – she’s a beautiful dog, but still unsure of herself with strangers.
When the Spitzes had thoroughly investigated me, Síofra approached, shyly and gently. She’s such a sweet little dog, keen to make friends despite her bad start in life but polite and submissive around the other dogs. Her fosterer showed me a video of her playing with a puppy and I was struck by how gently she played with him.
(The puppy, Winter, is now booked for a permanent home – hooray!)
Síofra seemed to tick all the boxes and I went away completely charmed…. BUT. There had to be a BUT. You can probably see from the picture and the video that she has mange – demodectic mange. I’d been forewarned and I had done some research, so I was confident that it wasn’t contagious and that, ultimately, it could be cured. No, my concerns were a little more complex. Large sections of Siofra’s body were hairless. How would she cope in the hot Provençal sunshine? She was also very thin, despite the fact that she has been gaining weight steadily. The journey from Cork to Céreste takes almost three days, with eighteen hours of that in a cage on the ferry. How would she cope with the stress of the journey in her weakened state? Would it make her mange deteriorate again? Even worse, what if some inspector at one of the ports looked at her and decided that she wasn’t fit to travel?
The LSH and I discussed it that evening and we came to the conclusion that Síofra was not the dog for us. We scanned over the adoption list one more time and two more caught our eye – Snoop, who reminded us both of dear old Scamp, our friend and chief trouble-maker for eighteen years; and Jack, a cute lurcher pup. You can see why Snoop reminded us of Scamp…
Both of them were in foster care. I was due to visit the shelter the next day, but I could arrange to visit them afterwards if I wanted.
The next day, I made my way into the middle of nowhere, where the CDAWG shelter is located.
N met me when I arrived and was keen to introduce me to her favourites.
First there was Joey, a sturdy, brindled lurcher. We took Joey and his kennel mates out to the run. I have to say, I just didn’t connect with him, nor he with me. I could see a lot of Cookie’s behaviours in him – the selectively deaf ear, the sudden intentness and fixation when he found a scent. I had entertained notions of taking in a dog with ‘issues’ but Joey made me see quite clearly that I did not want two dogs with the same set of issues. One overly-independent dog is enough! No, Joey needs a home with balanced dogs and with an owner who can devote plenty of time to making a strong bond with him. I suspect that, ultimately, he will be easier and more biddable than Cookie – he definitely doesn’t have her manic streak!
The next kennel of dogs (they keep them in compatible groups where possible) had an older lurcher, a collie type dog and quite a large lurcher type. None of them caught my eye. We moved on to the next kennel.
“This is Flash,” said N. Flash was famous for a while – he was straying in Cork for ages, but he was so scared it took months to catch him. Flash is nice-looking, a big black and white lurcher, and he’s come on in leaps and bounds. He greeted me politely, but Joey had already shown me that I didn’t want another dog with the same issues as Cookie.
“Who’s that one?” I asked, pointing at a petite little lurcher, standing at the back of the cage. She was thin but had a lovely shiny coat.
What a coincidence! I told her about seeing old Rosie the pony the previous day. We both laughed, but Rosie held my attention.
We took the three dogs out to the run and they all took off, with N throwing a ball or a frisbee for them from time to time. Rosie hung back a little, though, and then she approached me, shyly and gently, just like Síofra. I caressed her head and scratched behind her ears. I looked into her eyes and she held my gaze for a few seconds. I think that, at that moment, she chose ME. Then she turned her elegant head away to watch Flash play.
We took them back to their kennel after a while, me walking Rosie. She walked steadily beside me, no pulling or drama. I really liked her, but there were still a few more to see.
There was Seamus, another lurcher who had been scared and mistrustful and who is just beginning to come round. Like Joey, he and I did not connect in any way. Then there was Saffi, a big BIG lurcher bitch. I could see the play in her body as she and Seamus were let loose in the run. Seamus wanted to investigate things; Saffi wanted to play. She gave up trying to entice Seamus after a few attempts and she fixed her eyes on me. I went down on my hunkers and she charged at full speed.
It takes a bit of nerve to hold your ground when there’s a very large greyhound-type dog hurtling towards you as fast as it can, but I trusted her and at the last minute she jinked to the side and then came back to check me out. She was lovely. Friendly, more forward than Síofra or Rosie but still very gentle. I really liked her, too. Would she suit? No, the rational side of my brain said. She’s too big. Cookie would just-about-cope with playing with her, but Cinnamon is so small, she could be bowled over and injured so easily…
No. I went back to the kennels and had one more look at Rosie. Flash stood at the front of the cage and Rosie stayed at the back, tail wagging gently at me.
“Do you want to come to France?”
The tail continued to wave slowly from side to side. My choice was made. I didn’t need to see Snoop or Joey.
The next morning, I returned to the shelter to take Rosie to the vet. She was to be spayed, microchipped and vaccinated for rabies. We were cutting it very close, as the rabies vaccine must be done three weeks before the dogs travels and the ferry was booked for exactly three weeks later!
I walked across the yard towards the kennels and Saffi spotted me. She ran up and down the length of her run, barking and jumping at the wire, tail wagging wildly all the time. I felt rotten. Saffi wanted to choose me too, and I couldn’t take her.
“I’m so sorry Saffi, I can only take one,” was all I could say through the lump in my throat. Even now, two weeks later, I still feel lousy about it.
Rosie greeted me a little more reservedly and I took her to my waiting rental car.
“I hope she’s a good traveller,” I remarked to the volunteer who had met me.
I opened the boot and in she hopped, without even being asked. She curled up in the corner and there wasn’t a peep out of her for the whole trip. Good traveller? TICK!
When we got to the vets, I spent a few moments outside with her, hoping she’ll remember me next time we meet.
Then we sat in the waiting room, met with the vet, I signed the paperwork and we parted company. Rosie thought she was leaving with me and made to follow me out the door, but as soon as she felt the leash pull, she obediently followed the vet into the kennel area and that was the last that I will see of her until Sunday April 13th.
Loads of people in France think I’m nuts taking a dog from Ireland when the shelters here are full. I probably am – it would have been much cheaper and easier to adopt a dog from the local refuge. The thing is, what gets me most about the situation in Ireland is the outright cruelty and abuse as opposed to abandonment and general neglect. Only this week, we’ve had the heartbreaking tale of Thor, a little Jack Russell who seems to have been used to bait fighting dogs. This had gone on for a number of weeks, judging by the amount of old bite marks on his body. He has a massive, badly infected bite wound to the back of his head. His hind legs bear the marks of having been tied up with wire while he was dangled into the cage of the fighting dog, with one of them so badly injured it will have to be amputated. When his abusers had finished with him, they dumped him at the side of the road like a piece of rubbish. THAT is cruelty at the highest level and that’s the sort of thing that made me decide to take an Irish dog. (NB Video is not for the faint-hearted)
I’m a great believer in fate. The fact that three people I knew well were all independently involved in the rescue of Fionn prompted me to do something concrete for the neglected and abused dogs in Ireland. Some people thought I should offer to adopt Fionn, and it certainly would have been a story-book ending, but I really felt he wouldn’t fit in with our two. We need a dog that’s not too big and is playful but gentle. Rosie ticks those boxes and the coincidence with her name and our old pony copper fastened my decision.
The LSH is en route to Ireland via Paris right now in his little Fiat 500. He’ll be making the return journey on the 11th. I can’t wait to get him and this girl home!
Meanwhile, Cookie is practising her social skills and is becoming more and more dog-friendly. I’m dog-sitting Gari, the luckiest dog in France (adopted from the Manosque shelter by our friends Sprocket and Doodles on March 8th). He and Cookie are having a lot of fun. I like to think he’s warming her up for Rosie.
Do you like the look of any of the dogs in this post? If so, contact CDAWG and ask about him or her (Saffi is still hoping for the chance to choose someone else!) And yes, some of their dogs do go abroad, and not just to the UK and France!
Many thanks to CDAWG and supporters for permission to use photographs and videos.