By now, you’ll have heard the appalling news about the Manchester Dogs’ Home fire. Though the temptation is to detail the circle of Hell I’d dearly love the arsonist to languish in for all eternity, I’d rather focus on the good that can be done for the dogs who survived. Over a million pounds have been donated by the public so far, on top of food, beds, and toys (you can donate here if you haven’t already). All these dogs and more need loving homes, so to prove how fantastic a ‘second-hand’ dog can be, allow me to introduce my rescue dog, Brontë…
I’ve wanted a rescue dog for years. What I didn’t realise was that I’d end up physically doing the rescuing.
A bit of background. My childhood dog, Bobby, was basically my brother. I wrote comics about him, fashioned miniature Bobby adventure novels out of cereal boxes, and set up a fan club. With over fifty members in my Primary school alone, he was possibly the most celebrated Jack Russell in 1990s Suffolk. This was the dog who once leapt out of a window to hijack a Royal Mail van (postman was unharmed) and defiantly trampled the hallowed lawn of Kings College one snowy Christmas Day. He was irreplaceable, but I always knew I wanted another dog after him, especially one who needed a bit of help.
You know that story about how Neil Gaiman found his beautiful white husky by the side of the freeway? This summer was my turn. Driving through the countryside with my dad on a simmering hot day, we had about four seconds to realise a four-legged muddy thing was rocketing towards us out of the heat-haze and that it had no intention of avoiding us. We opened the car door and she threw herself in.
I later joked the sight of her galloping down the tarmac was like the Black Beauty title sequence, but she really was majestic. A long-legged grinning wolf with a foxy tail and black-rimmed yellow topaz eyes.
Up close, it was a different story. She was bony, thirsty, and riddled with fleas. No i.d., just a godawful Paris Hilton-style collar, the leather torn and frayed where she’d been fighting a tether. We later learned she’d been locked in a caravan on one of the hottest days of the year, alone, for hours. Had she not forced her way out, she could well be dead.
Long story short, her owners were happy for us to adopt her. We named her Brontë, because we found her Wuthering.
We bathed her, treated her parasites, got her to eat. It wasn’t an instant transformation. You’d throw a tennis ball and she’d morosely watch it bounce away. She would follow me from room to room, silently, avoiding eye contact. Move too quickly, and she’d flinch. Once, when I left the house, she attempted to squeeze her way out of a first floor window to follow me.
It’s been two months. The vet says she’s almost an ideal weight. She loves to meet strangers and let them tell her what a big, bad, beautiful wolf she is. Toys are no longer a mystery, and she’s beginning to respond favourably to that arcane primate ritual, the hug. And bones. So many delicious bones. We love her. We love our life with her. She’s a troublesome beast, and we wouldn’t be without her.
Adopt a rescue dog. With rescue dogs, you enjoy the satisfaction of taking on a creature who needs your help and seeing it improve day by day as a direct result of your kindness. Adopt a rambunctious terrier. Adopt an old lapdog. Adopt a wee beastie rescued from a puppy-farm cage. If it’s a pup you want, register your interest at your local shelter, and they’ll contact you when a litter comes up. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you make the choice to take business away from unscrupulous breeders, puppy farmers, illegal importers, and other assorted lowlife. Those people deserve every blow that’s coming to them, and dogs deserve all the very best humans have to give.