Rescuing a Dog - Margaux's Second Chance
I have wanted a dog for many years. There was always a list of practical reasons why now was not the time…. I worked long, unpredicatable hours, I had a baby, we moved to Paris, had another baby, moved again, and again…. THEN the stars all aligned (and my husband ran out of *credible* excuses!)...
Children both at school, working from home, living in the countryside. We NEEDED a dog!
For months I had been researching how to go about rescuing a dog. I thought I wanted a large, short-hair, male, who was at least 3 years of age. Ideally our favourite breeds were some kind of Pointer, and we have always loved Weimaraners and Viszlas. Curiously I had no interest in having a puppy! The hunt was on.
2 dogs in particular, each in turn, caught my heart via this Facebook group; Paco, and Edouard. But for various reasons with each one it wasn’t to be (in truth the vast majority capture my heart and almost every post I take a minute to imagine how I could foster/adopt). Oh the emotional rollercoaster!
Then, I contacted a lady called San from Helping Homeless Hounds, an Association attached to the refuge in Figeac, about a male Pointer she had advertised. Unfortunately he wasn’t cat friendly, and I have my lovely Norbert to consider. But she had an idea about another dog that she thought might suit us well, but she needed to check her reaction to cats! I was sent some photos and my heart skipped a beat. How had a missed her advert earlier in the year? I waited eagerly for her to be cat tested that Friday.
Meeting my rescue dog
The following Friday I did a 6 hour round trip in a day to meet this dog (then named “Nita”). We had a walk, a play, and quite simply I fell in love. She wasn’t sure of me at first; but after releasing her bountiful energy, and with a little patience, she was so loving and gentle (and absolutely gorgeous). When I took her back to her “box” before I left, I had a lump in my throat. Yet her positivity was infectious, she remained so happy despite all the barking and smell. It was her home and it is what she had got used to. The dogs are looked after so well there in all the circumstances. The staff and volunteers are just amazing.
I made a bold executive decision on behalf of my family and paid the deposit there and then. I just knew she was right, and I trusted the advice I was given. “Nita” became my “Margaux”. I couldn’t take her home for various practical reasons (visitors and some long medical appointments), and it hurt my heart then, and for every single day that followed until we were reunited again.
Fast forward a loooooong few weeks, and much shopping on Amazon and ZooPlus later (reviews to follow!), I collected my fur baby. Much to my joy, she seemed to remember me! We went on a walk. Then did the paperwork and I took her to the vets.
Getting Margaux Home
On the long drive home she was quiet and settled in her crate in the back of the car. We had one stop at a service station when she did a wee, but was skittish and had her tail between her legs.
When I got home my husband and the children were still out. This was good. I could quietly introduce her to house and garden, take her for a walk, and bath her because she rolled in something stinky!
The first introduction to her new family went well overall At first, she was scared of the children (age 4 and 3), but quickly was snuggling on the sofa with them. With hindsight, I think her travel and new environment were absolutely exhausting, which is why she seemed so relaxed - when in fact she was utterly emotionally wiped out.
She barked at my husband that evening every time he got up from the sofa. She seemed to think she was protecting me.
Settling in my rescue dog
Her first night in the crate there was no whining, no barking. In fact, she has always been very happy in her crate. I was worried about this, her having been in a cage in the shelter, but it’s her bed and she finds it comforting.
The next morning she was shaking and seemed scared. I stayed home with her that day. She was fine with me but once the children got home, and later my husband, she was very unsure and nervous again, and barking at everyone a lot to protect me.
During those first few days that followed she barked a lot at my husband and the children. Never at me. This started to improve by the end of the week but did continue for about a fortnight. To be honest it was emotional for everyone. The children cried. I cried. My husband (who was not very well) got grumpy. She was obviously not used to living in a house as the concept of people entering rooms through doors and around corners seemed to give her a fright every time.
House Toilet Training
There were wee accidents in the house for the first few days. But after that she really got the hang of it. I did lots of behaviour capturing and praise when she went outside. For the first couple of weeks we had some poo’s inside too. I used an enzyme spray after cleaning to discourage repeat accidents. Now 2 months in, we still have a behavioural problem with her running upstairs and doing a stealth poo in a bedroom, always on a rug, maybe once a week. Sometimes immediately after doing one in the garden. It is baffling me. We are working on this, and she definitely does it on purpose. All advice welcome!
To prepare to welcome Margaux home I listened to an audiobook “Zac George’s Dog Training Revolution”, which I found really useful. There are videos on YouTube as well. At the end of her first week, I also started taking her to training school. Despite being 18 months, she joined the puppy class! We were starting from scratch.
Puppy school has been absolutely wonderful - for training Margaux, for training me, for my French, and for socialisation for us both! I highly recommend joining a dog training school if you get a puppy or dog. And I am really excited to progress on to doing agility with her as well - apparently after only 2 months, she is doing so well we are not too far off giving it a try. Proud puppy mama!
Margaux is a French Pointer crossed with a Brittany. She is a people pleaser and intelligent. She wants to learn. She also LOVES her food, so she has proved easy and delightful to train. She had sit down, lie down, and leave it mastered very quickly. On walks out around other people, cars etc, initially she had her tail between her legs and was really nervous, and I was worried about her running away (seeing as that’s how she ended up in the shelter in the first place. I kept her on the long 10m training lead for the first 3 weeks all the time and worked a lot on recall. During week 4 I let her off the lead for short periods near home and gradually built it up. By the end of week 4 we were doing full daily countryside walks off the lead, which was fabulous. She runs so so fast and never seems to tire. She needs it! Our garden also has no fences so it has been so so important to have a strong bond with her and excellent recall. We are working on her walking nicely on the lead at the moment. She’s not so great at her stay command just yet, and she still jumps up a lot. She’s a work in progress!
2 Months Later
After 2 months she is still scared in new situations, and whenever she is anywhere with cars and people she has her tail firmly between her legs. I hope this will get easier for her. I will certainly keep practicing. She also still barks at new people entering the house. She’s a barker! It really seems to depend on the person as to how quickly she quietens down. Out and about, especially when running free, she is great with other dogs and people, runners, cyclists… and an absolute gem with my young children.
It broke my heart that initially she had no idea what to do with toys. Now she LOVES her balls, and the children enjoy playing with these with her too. She does eventually chew most things she has though! Christmas is bringing her a new batch. There is nothing she loves more than a good chew on a pig’s ear in the evening when the children are in bed and we have dinner.
I cannot trust her in the house unless I have eyes on her! She will chew things and hide shoes, and if food it left unattended - in her belly it goes. Now she is 20 months old, but in a lot of ways she acts like a much younger pup. She never got a chance to be a puppy, so she is doing it now I think.
The other, possibly post-rescue, trait that she has, is that she always paces. Unless someone is sitting with her, she walks round and round rooms or the house. I read somewhere that it can take 6 months for the adrenaline to leave a dog’s body after they have left an animal shelter. It will be interesting to see if her constant pacing reduces and stops with time, or if my little bundle of energy will always do this.
My “hunting dog’s” relationship with my Bengal cat, Norbert, is quite amusing. In the shelter Margaux showed zero interest in the cats. But since she has come home she will chase my cat all over the house. She will sometimes hunt him out and stand over him and bark until I come. Outside she will chase him up trees. But, the cat will also chase her! The cat is definitely in charge in our house. Norbert will tell Margaux to back off with a paw swipe if needed. And when they are playing chase, if Margaux catches him up, he will just flop down onto the floor in submission…. whilst Margaux licks him!!
Rescuing a dog has changed my life. I love my daily dog walks, and evening cuddles, and when I’m at home working at my desk I have lovely warm toes as she snuggles up under my desk on top of them! I am batty in love with her
Knowing her now, I just don’t understand how my Margaux wasn’t adopted in the 6 long months she spent in the rescue shelter. I think about this often, and wish I knew more about her life before us. Maybe she was there so long (and compared to some it wasn’t long at all) because when inside her kennel she was so frantic and excited, running in circles, and barking, because of all the noise and adrenaline etc. Given my inexperience, frankly, I probably would have passed her by as well, and it is only because San from Helping Homeless Hounds recommended her and matched her to us, and gushed about what a lovely dog she was, that I drove all that way to fall in love.
I cant imagine life without my Margaux now, so please consider rescue, and please take advice so you consider a dog who may not at first seem like the one.
Frankly, your dog will choose you!