Romanian Rescue Dog: Our Story
Kevin and I always knew we wanted a dog and that we wanted to open our hearts to a rescue dog. We really wanted a puppy and after searching online at UK rescue centres, we came to see that to get a puppy we really needed to be looking at rescue dogs living outside of the UK. That’s when we started down the crazy rabbit hole of Romanian rescues. Unfortunately, Romania has a very difference view of dogs than of us here in the UK. Dogs over there are very much seen as unwanted vermin. Horrible things are done to the many thousands of strays dogs from general abuse to dumping them to poisonings. Fortunately there are very special people in Romania who think highly of these poor dogs and work tirelessly against all odds to protect and care for these dogs. People like Maria, our Zel’s rescuer. We then found Zelda through one of many UK charities, hers of which being Canine Chums To Love. They have a Facebook and website to browse through all their dogs for adoption. Most Romanian rescue charities have dogs that currently live in Romania or other countries and can travel from the age of 4 months. Sometimes they have dogs that are being fostered in the UK if you’d prefer to met them in person first.
All rescue charities require a successful home check to determine that your home is safe and secure for a rescue dog.
Taking The Plunge!
Adopting a Romanian rescue is no doubt an exciting yet daunting experience.
When you see a dog you like, you can reserve that dog if it is still in Romania and the rescuer will prepare them for travelling, passports, arranging vaccinations, microchips etc.
You pretty much pick a dog from the limited pictures (and video if you ask for it) they have, talk with the charity about that dog’s needs and requirements, pay upfront for them and then some time later, depending on when the next UK trip will be, your pup will be either delivered to your door (like our Zel was) or to a pre-arranged location near you. Wow! Talk about taking the plunge. You then have a responsibility to take care of your new dog, making sure they are happy and comfortable in their new forever home.
Setting The Scene
With our little Zel, we knew that there was a chance that she’d be delivered to us in the middle of the night so we took time to set up our home for her the day before. Low and behold, she was delivered at 3 in the morning! That night, it felt like Christmas Eve, we were too excited to go to sleep! We took a week off work to spend quality time with our new puppy and build on that important bond.
A Shock To The System
When Zelda arrived with us, she was timid, quiet, exhausted and no wonder, she had been on a van journey that would have worn anyone out! She had some scrapes and scabs on her legs where she’s been laying down for the 4 day journey from Romania and had a bit of an upset tummy. Imagine what was going through her mind! Imagine not knowing what was happening to you and being handed over to a random couple you’d never met before. She must have been quiet frightened. That’s why we were sure to clear our schedule to spend much needed time and attention on her, not necessarily to overstimulate and expect too much from her, but to just be there for her. She needed time, peace and quiet. We, too, were quite taken aback by how timid she was. You see pictures online of pups in their new homes and it’s all glamorous and happy but the reality is oftentimes a different story. Zelda was dirty and smelly, her back dew claws were very loose, her back bowed down due to her being so scared, her coat was dull and you could see the stress and unease in her eyes. It didn’t take long though for her to begin to come out of her shell.
Middle Of The Night
The van pulled up by our home in the early hours of the morning. Two Romanian chaps came out and gathered Zelda’s documents and passport and scanned her chip. The first thing I did as they opened her crate door was put on her new collar with our details to be sure she was protected. I then picked her up into my arms. My God! We have our new puppy! Coming back into the house holding this scared bundle of fluff was so surreal. Check out the first ever picture taken of her! I put her down in the kitchen and sat down with her. We stayed up with her and pretty much just stared at her in amazement - after months of research and searching for a dog, our little Zelda was finally home.
Romanian rescue dogs have a bit of a reputation for being escape artists. That’s why we personally think it’s absolutely crucial that you keep your new dog either indoors for at least the first 24 hours or put them in a harness and lead to take them into your own secure garden to use the bathroom. Walking your dog outside of your garden is something you should wait a few weeks before trying. Yes, your dog will be toileting indoors on a designated papered area (near the back door so it’s easy to train them on to do it outside) but you need to make the chance of escape while they are still learning to trust you as slim as you can. We cordoned off our patio for the first few days for her to explore and toilet in then after that we got her use to wearing a harness. Remember she had never worn a collar before so this took time to get use to. The poor mite didn’t even have blankets or a bed while she was in Romanian due to the severe lack of funds. Once she was use to her harness, we hooked her up to a long line and ventured into the main garden with her. This builds trust and keeps her secure. We go on about this so much because when we got Zelda, she travelled with about 12 other dogs. One of those dogs was let out into their new garden too soon, refused to come out from under a bush, spent the night outside with their owner sleeping by them and had disappeared by the morning. A massive search was set up but unfortunately that poor dog was later found dead after being hit by a car. So, yes, please do take what we say here seriously and take some days to get your new dog use to you, your garden and their new life.
First Days In Their New Home
In the first few days, you couldn’t get up or move a chair without her looking over from her hiding spot in fear and curiosity. We tried to carry on our lives as normal as possible but made sure she had her own space to escape to. We got her use to the sound of the TV, the other dog’s barking in our neighborhood, our voices and general runnings of the home.
Give them plenty of space & regular periods of quiet time during the first few days
We talked softly to her and put out our hand to sniff. On the second and third day, we would get down on her mattress and try to encourage play. It was so adorable seeing her interact with Kev for the first time. Scared but still very much intrigued to see what he was all about. She would play a little bit, do a lot of stretching and head tilts, coming out of her shell for a few seconds. It was beautiful to watch! We made sure that Zelda had a crate, covered with a blanket, to make it feel dark, safe and her own private area where she could always have access to.
House training Zelda was very easy - when you know what you’re doing! It’s fairly simple, so long as you stick to it and don’t confuse the pup. We took her out regularly to the garden, especially after meals, play and naps. When she goes to the toilet, we praise her and said “Go wee-wee!” with highly squeaky voices. You can emphasize this by giving them a small treat. We did that everytime she went to the toilet in the garden so she quickly understood that that’s where she should relieve herself.
If she ever accidentally peed indoors, we’d ignore it and encourage her outside and say “Go wee-wee”. Rather than getting upset with her, realise that it’s actually your fault for not letting them out in time! Scolding a dog for toileting inside will only confuse the dog and make them scared of going full stop. Plus we only want positive training here and don’t ever condone punishment or force when training a dog.
If after a few weeks of no accidents indoors they one day pee inside, you need to go back and do some more training. They’ll get it in no time at all.
Every situation is the chance to learn
After a few weeks, it was time to venture outside of our home and garden, out into the big wide world. We’d walk slowly down our street so she could sniff the grass and see other dogs and people from afar. We only took her a short length of time so to not bombard her. Taking nice small steps and tackle things one small step at a time. It was totally unnatural for her to walk on a lead so that was a bit confusing for a while!
In no time at all, she was walking confidently on her lead and we were smashing down obstacles everyday. She is a very fast learner, extremely sharp and smart. That’s the Collie in her!
Once your dog is confident and you’ve developed a good amount of trust with each other, don’t shy away from meeting other dogs and people because its vital to the development of your new pup. So long as your dog isn’t scared, you should be seeking out new things to try, see and do. Take time to stand and hear all the sounds of the bin man and their noisy truck, watch the squirrels in the trees, see the swings in the park, watch the kids play football and the noisy moped drive by; get lots of new and exciting experiences under their belt. Tackling these things together will only develop your bond even more. Everyday things that we take for granted like wheelchairs, prams, traffic cones, wheelie bins, and x are all very strange for a puppy or rescue dog!
Your New Best Friend
This all sounds like quite a slow and steady process, with cautions and attention to detail required. But while that is still true, you are yet to get to the best part! After the first few months, you’ll suddenly realise that you’ve got this confident, beautiful pup as part of your family to enjoy and truly enrich your life. Rescue dogs are very loyal and notoriously loving. We just can’t imagine our lives with her now! We’d love to see your rescue dogs so please reply to this post as we’d love to hear your stories.
One Year On
One year on, it would be quite difficult for anyone to suspect that Zelda was a rescue dog at all - other than her very unique appearance. Not only has she come out of her shell with us but she’s completely relaxed around other people and dogs (except for the odd case of her getting a bit bamboozled by multiple dogs).
Our mornings usually start with a nice family snuggle with Zelda in bed (a far cry from the shy, timid girl we first met) and then we go on a nice walk around the park where we see a few regulars and sometimes meet a new face or two - all of which Zelda is eager to meet and play with. After doing some exploring and investigating, we make our way home where we do a little bit of training, have some breakfast and get ready for the day ahead of us.
Everyone who has met Zelda says how beautiful and kind natured she is. I do find myself often taking a step back and looking at the progress she has made (and continues to make) and her love, bravery and willingness to please still makes me smile from ear to ear.
Seen as we have first hand experience in taking care of a 4 month old Romanian rescue pup, we’ve put together our checklist for you and your new arrival. Have we missed anything?
Order food and treats in advance
Sort their insurance
Prepare your home for the new arrival
Book in for first vet appointment for full health check-up
Get them micro chipped (Zelda had her microchipped already fitted as part of the adoption fee)
Be sure to spay/neuter.
Buy newspaper ready to house train
Get brush and shampoo (they may well be quite smelly!)
Get poo bags/dispenser and doggy water bottle for walking
Ask for quiet from family and friends while new addition settles in
Disclaimer: All information and advice given in this blog post is our own personal opinion based off our own experiences. Please do not take any of the advice without your own thought, common sense or advice from your vet.