Showcase February/March 2023

From The V…r of Dibley to Jaunts in Eastbourne

I took early retirement knowing that the first thing on the agenda would be to get a dog. A small, easy to manage Jack Russell thought I – but since I was volunteering at Battersea Dogs’ Home, I inevitably ended up with a Staffie cross. What a wonderful breed!

Dibley was a stray that loved everyone and would lean on you for attention. The ‘Staffie Lean!’ I’d be a wealthy woman if I had a pound for everyone who told me they were scared of Staffies until they met Dibbles.

He loved visiting with Canine Concern, meeting students, school children and police, though he was also a big favourite at the nursing home we visited. He was the police poster boy for their anti-hate crime drive in 2019. He was bullet proof with all the excited schoolchildren rushing up to him as we arrived at playtime, which gave me the opportunity to teach the youngsters how to approach a dog.

There’s something about Staffies – they are so intuitive. He knew which students were struggling and I watched in amazement one university fresher’s day as a young man, head down hugging his knees and not engaging with anyone, found a Dibley nose under his arm and managed a smile. The next moment, there were several young people in a circle with him and Dibley, all interacting. The magical power of dogs!

Similarly, he knew to run over to a claustrophobic woman on the Tube who was having a meltdown, do his ‘sit on your feet’ number and make eye contact. She reached down, stroked him and said that was just what she needed.

Dibley lost firstly a leg in the battle against cancer but carried on visiting as a tri-paw. His last visits were to the police and Brighton University; he was up for much more, but Covid intervened and then the brave boy finally succumbed. I was so touched by the lovely tributes that came his way. He was a one-off and as all owners will understand, quite irreplaceable.

You’ll also understand this: home isn’t the same without paws, so I reached out to a Romanian rescue and got Monty, who I renamed Jaunty (by name and nature!). He’s the complete antithesis to Dibley so no fear of comparisons. Like many Rommie rescues, he has some issues around other dogs, but loves all humans. He’s gentle, sweet, hilarious and very loving. His favourite antic is stealing socks/shoes/gloves and yes, undies. Not ideal in the summer when he blithely transports them to the glass porch!

He has some very big paws to fill, but is going about it with aplomb. He’s also light enough to sit on people, something he takes full advantage of. I’m doing lots of training with him and have had to learn his body language. He doesn’t speak English – seriously! Foreign dogs have different ways of interacting and many can’t cope with the head on, nose to nose greeting of many English dogs, which they find too ‘full on’.

I’d hoped for a dog friendly companion but he is anxious around some dogs and I’ve had to learn to move at his pace. Sadly, we can’t currently do the group sessions at the universities and police etc; neither can I take him to the park to play with other dogs. It’s a slow process but so important to stay within his comfort levels.

It has been really rewarding to watch him grow into his care work. He has a mutual admiration society with his one-on-one recipient, Colette, he loves his school children (I suspect children fed him on the streets of Romania) and is the epitome of his name as he skips jauntily around the care home. He is a quick learner and now knows exactly how to behave. He gets very excited when his Canine Concern paraphernalia comes out. I am so proud of my gentle, happy boy as he trit-trots into his various establishments, his half tail held high and a big grin on his face.

Canine Concern Comments

Freda has been a supportive member of Canine Concern with Dibley, and now Jaunty. It just goes to show what a little patience and kindness can do to some very nervous rescues. Not all dogs can do this work, but if the owner is bonded well to their dogs, often they can make great teams. When we assess any potential Canine Concern dog, we look at the bond between owner and dog as well as the dog’s temperament. We can also help with deciding where the best visits could be. Jaunty is now great with one-on-one visits, school visits and care home visits, but would struggle with group visits. Freda will monitor this and maybe he might be able to in the future, but for now he is doing great and is achieving so much.