A little over a hear ago, a new member joined our family, in the form of a goofy white dog, of dubious parentage, who soon came to be known as Billy-Boy.
For some time, I had been thinking about getting another dog as a companion for my tiny Morky, Gypsy. When my partner was here the canine population swelled to three but when he and his dogs returned to Melbourne, Gypsy would sink into a deep depression, moping around the house or sitting at the gate, like Greyfriar’s Bobby, staring mournfully down the track where their car had disappeared.
Once I had made the decision I was keen to rush out and find a cute puppy to fit the bill. The more I thought about it the more I wanted one and spent endless hours on the internet looking at breeds of small dogs that might make a good companion for Gypsy. Aside from the fact I couldn’t believe how much a puppy from a breeder was going to cost, the more I started to think my responsibility as a dog lover was to get a rescue dog.
And so my search began. I scanned all the websites, reading heartbreaking stories of abuse; filled out numerous lengthy questionnaires and made several adoption applications, each time missing out on my chosen pooch.
The decision to take on a rescue dog is a fraught with questions. Who knows what baggage they will bring? Deep down, like most people, I sort of wanted a puppy who I could help shape from the start and would grow into a member of our already sizable pack. Perhaps this wasn’t the right time? When that time came, the dog would find me.
But still I kept looking and applying to no avail. Then, late one night I came across twelve month old ‘Benji’. A small maltese terrier, located somewhere in Central Victoria, the description said. It was hard to tell much from the photo but there was something about his sad eyes that seemed to stare deeply into my psyche. Something felt very right about him. This would be my last application, I told myself, as I pressed the send button.
Two days later I received a phone call from his foster carer saying that she had received my application and thought that I could offer him the kind of home that he needed. In my excitement, I tried to think of all the questions that I should ask. I found out that he had been seized by the RSPCA from a property where he had been locked in a shed and that he had been severely abused and was terrified of men and just about everything else but loved the company of other animals. He would need a lot of patience and training but she felt that the home I had described in my application would be a perfect environment for him. That was enough for me and I agreed to take him for a trial.
The day came to pick him up. We had agreed to meet half way, in St Arnaud at the Botanical Gardens. We were up early but the heat to come was obvious as we piled the three dogs into the car for the hour and a half drive north.
I felt my jaw drop as I caught my first glimpse of him through the border of red hot pokers, that all municipal gardeners seem to favour. I had known that he was going to be a bit bigger than I had planned but he was like an old flokati hearth rug! He sure as hell wasn’t a small maltese terrier. The only thing he had in common with a maltese was that he was white and a dog! A dog that had been put together by a committee; a huge head, long body and stumpy legs.
We all bundled out of the car, after all it was as important for our dogs to meet him as it was us. My partner and the dogs hung back as I quietly sidled over to where he and his carer were waiting in the shade of an old elm tree. He immediately shied away and tentatively peered out from behind his carer’s legs, eventually allowing me to get close enough to hold out my hand for a sniff. Although he was incredibly timid he was quite interested in our dogs who were now sitting under the tree with my partner and slowly edged closer to them, wagging his tail in greeting.
We all sat there, in the shade, finding out more about his past as he gained confidence, allowing pats and playing with the dogs. I looked across to my partner and we both knew that we would be taking him home with us.
Papers were signed and fees paid. We all headed towards the car, not knowing how the trip back would be. Would we all fit in the car? Would he even get in the car? My partner headed over to open the door and make some space. Within seconds of the door opening, “Benj” was in and settled himself in between the front seats!
He never looked back…there was nothing to leave behind. Only a life ahead and it had to be better than the one he was leaving. He sat there between us, looking at the road ahead all the way home and he hasn’t looked back since.
The next few weeks were filled with new experiences for Billy. Routines to learn, freedom to run around and explore, dogs to play with, couches and beds to sleep on and house training, something Billy had no idea about!
The carpet took a beating those first few months but what joy Billy brought, watching him slowly relax and settle into his new pack. It’s still impossible to look at him without smiling.
He is like a great, big, goofy cartoon character. He is a very odd shape and everything about him is slightly crooked. His fur grows in all directions and sticks up like a cocky’s crest on his head. His long eyelashes, like deadmen’s fingers. He walks with a Mae West swagger. He doesn’t quite get games like fetch but creates his own ball games. He’s not sure what to do with toys but takes them out of the basket and places them in lines across the floor. He misses the bed when he enthusiastically tries to jump on to get his collar put on and howls like a hound dog in excitement when we leave for our afternoon walk. In short, he is a dag and he loves life.
He is still frightened of men and takes several meetings to trust new people but once he has decided that you are part of his pack, he will engulf you with love and adoration.
How anyone could have abused and hurt such a gentle and affectionate creature is beyond belief.