I realised today that it has been about one year since My Boy, Bilko, came into my life. Bilko is the first dog I have had as an adult, having had rescue cats all my life. I had just moved into a ridiculously rural area, was working from home, and the time was right to give a loving home to a dog. I originally went to the Little Valley rehoming centre to see another dog, Murray, who had been with them for about four months. Murray was a German Shepherd cross (but no one knew what with) who was very wary and just couldn’t connect with anyone who came to view him. As my friends will tell you, I have a real soft spot for sob stories and the underdog, so Murray intrigued me. I met him and he was painfully shy. Now, I’m no animal psychologist, but it made sense that I made myself as unthreatening as possible so when I met him in the field, I first walked and talked with the trainer, paying him no attention at all. When he seemed a little more comfortable with my presence, I crouched and offered him a treat (given to me by the trainer) behind my back so there was no eye contact. I gradually brought my arm round to the front with several more treats, until he was facing me and absolutely ok with me. He was such a lovely boy!
I went home and did some research on the breed, having not had a dog before, and it broke my heart to realise that my home (and I) would not be the right match for Murray, for several reasons. I didn’t know what he was crossed with, GSD’s need a lot of exercise and around deadline time I was usually superglued to my mac for several days in a row. They also shed a lot, which (on a purely selfish level) would mean a lot of work to keep it away from my yarn. Working on commissions with dog-fluff flying around is not ideal! Also, anyone who visited me who had a dog allergy would suffer. So, it was with great reluctance that I went back to the rehoming centre to explain my reasons for being unable to offer a home to Murray. They understood, but it didn’t ease my conscience any. On the way out, I saw a rather scruffy looking Tibetan Terrier, who took one look at me and started barking like mad. It was definitely not love at first sight! I enquired about the TT, and was advised that he had been a house dog for an elderly gentleman, he hadn’t been socialised and was a problem dog who needed a quiet household, no other dogs nearby and someone with lots of time to be with him. I knew a bit about the breed, as a friend has several TT’s so I know that they are demanding, intelligent, don’t like to be left alone, bond closely with their ‘owners’ and wasn’t looking at it through rose tinted glasses. I also knew that, due to their double coats, they tend not to moult like other dogs, which is great for allergy sufferers (and for my yarn!).
Bilko and I went for a walk, with a trainer, in the field. He had clearly bonded with the trainer, and viewed me as a stranger. Although I held the lead, he was more eager to walk with her than with me. There was no magical ‘connection’ at our first meeting, in fact I left wondering if we were right for each other.
All that changed when I got him home a couple of weeks later and it quickly became apparent that we were a perfect match! I can still remember how uncertain he seemed of everything, but I let him take things at his own pace. I talked to him all the time (and still do!), let him investigate and find his feet. He quickly became my little shadow. In the year we’ve been together, he has changed beyond recognition. He is a confident, assured boy, who takes commands well (sit, stay, up, down, wait, gently, rest, high five!) and is my best friend. He is no longer a ‘problem dog’ (unless you count his predilection for Hungry Hector biscuits as a problem), has canine (plus the occasional feline) friends and is the funniest dog I have ever met. He snorts like a little piglet when he wants something, shakes with excitement when he’s happy, hides my slippers, loves to play ‘Biscuit!’ and regularly has ‘funny five minutes’ when he dries his beard after drinking!
Right now, he is snoring on the sofa after a lovely walk, and I will join him in a moment for some Sunday Afternoon Knitting on a very secret project indeed, involving almost ONE MILE of lace yarn. More on this later…x
It’s bliss and I am happy to count my blessings today.
*Bilko images are copyright of the lovely and talented Magda at studiomag.co.uk