How do I rehome my dog?
Giving up a pet is never easy and there are many different reasons why people decide to rehome their dog. Lisa Hocking, from Cornwall, recounts the heart-wrenching moment she decided to rehome her Springer Spaniel Jake.
"I've always held a fairly dim view of a person who chooses to rehome their dog. I'm not talking about abandoned or abused animals, just ordinary people whose circumstances and priorities change. I'm a housewife and mother of two young children and, until November 2009, I was the proud owner of a beautiful Springer Spaniel named Jake.
"Jake was nine months old when we rescued him. I don't think he'd had a bad life in those months before we knew him, I just think he was perhaps a little misunderstood. It wasn't long before we realised that problems he was having with his ears were driving him crazy, and we discovered he had suffered an inner ear collapse in both ears.
"After a fairly major operation he was a much calmer, happier dog. After two more operations over the next year (one to remove a stone from his stomach and another to remove a fish hook from his cheek), we settled down happily together. My husband Joe and I both worked full-time and Jake would go to work with Joe.
"Having never owned a dog before, and certainly having no real knowledge of the nature of a Springer, things worked surprisingly well for the next couple of years. When I stopped working and was at home more often Jake was at his happiest, even choosing to stay at home rather than go to work with my husband. Our first daughter came along, and our little family became even happier. Jake was as gentle as a lamb with her, although considerably less gentle with her toys!
"Jake's needs were simple: food, water, companionship, exercise, and to give and receive love, all probably in equal quantities.
"In time our daughter became a toddler and then our second daughter came along, meaning many little visitors often came to the house. For some reason, Jake had an issue with little blonde boys and found himself more and more behind the child safety gate separating the kitchen from the utility room. Although he could still see us, he wasn't happy about the new arrangements.
"Because he was unhappy he'd start to eat things, which made him unwell. Baby socks were a particular favourite, followed by wet wipes. This caused stomach upsets, which invariably meant more time behind the child safety gate.
"Because of the Springers' ability to find dirt where there is none, he'd always come back from walks wet and muddy. Now that we had children this meant another couple of hours behind the child safety gate until he'd dried off.
"The children's mealtimes meant even more time behind the gate. In the evenings when the children were in bed I had tidying to do, nappies to wash, and then an early night to catch up on lost sleep. So not only was Jake isolated more during the day, but there was no longer time for cuddles and attention in the evening.
"Jake had a way of looking at us that let us know he was unhappy. Behavioural issues were just around the corner, and it was of our own doing. The only way to make up for the lack of attention was to give him extra exercise.
"Our daily walk was in arguably the most beautiful place in the world. Jake was able to run off and explore freely and safely. But in reality it often meant waking my baby from her sleep and struggling with the pushchair against the wild wind.
"Had that one walk been enough for Jake we might have got by. My husband is a full-time teacher and a part-time fisherman, and it was simply impossible in our new circumstances to take Jake out again. Although we never missed a single day's walk, if the weather was atrocious he'd sometimes get just 20 minutes' exercise. We knew we were failing him.
"We discussed the possibility of finding Jake another home, but no matter how close we came to taking action, we just couldn't do it. What if he found himself in similar circumstances and just kept being rehomed?
"Hadn't I vowed that I'd never be one of those people whose dog was slowly pushed out when children came along? I could see this was exactly what was happening. Jake was special and deserved to be someone's best friend and constant companion.
"My options were either to persevere in the hope that in a few years' time Jake would again get the attention he deserved, or to risk him being unsuccessfully rehomed. It seemed to be a no-win situation and I didn't know what to do.
Help at hand
"While researching online, I came across English Springer Spaniel Welfare (ESSW), a registered charity run entirely by volunteers. I received advice over the phone and a representative came out to meet Jake. One of ESSW's main aims is to help Springers stay in their existing homes, and it was prepared to offer us whatever level of support we needed to achieve that. We decided that we'd do our utmost to give Jake more exercise each day. In reality though, without a major change in our circumstances, this just wasn't achievable for us.
"Jake was unhappy, and I was unhappy because I knew how much his life had changed; yet he'd done nothing to deserve that isolation and lack of attention. I was also aware that I'd soon have to start earning a living.
"Some months later we made the final, gut-wrenching decision to find Jake a new home through ESSW. That was when I met ESSW volunteer Hilary Eccles. I felt she truly understood our circumstances and she assured me that I was doing the right thing by Jake. I wrote down everything I could think of about Jake to help ESSW find the right home for him.
"After a little while, ESSW informed us that they'd heard from some potential new owners who were interested in Jake - a newly retired, active couple with experience of owning Springers. They'd decided to come to the area to meet and spend time with him. Meanwhile, Jake would stay with Hilary.
Saying goodbye to her dog
"And so the day came for Jake to leave. Someone once told me that in difficult times you should talk to your dog because they understand more than people think. I'd been explaining to Jake for some time what was going to happen, and why.
"He helped me to pack his belongings. With his tennis ball in his mouth, he watched me put the rest of his things into a bag. It was as though he knew what was about to happen and he was asking ‘is it time to go yet?' I felt he understood and that it was what he wanted.
"All that was left was to say goodbye. When Hilary arrived to collect him, Jake and I had one last big cuddle. And he was gone. Four years living with a Springer ended with a very sudden sort of stillness. This was going to take some getting used to. No more nudging me for his share of a tin of tuna, no wagging tail to come home to, and no more unconditional love and loyalty from our little boy. Naturally, and thankfully, the newly retired couple fell instantly in love with Jake and they took him home.
"Since then we've received many updates on his progress. He settled instantly, behaves impeccably, enjoys three walks a day, and receives about as much love as he can handle. I've asked myself what sort of people take on a dog in Jake's circumstances, and take the time to make sure his previous owners are assured of his happiness? I'm eternally grateful to these good people for giving us, and Jake, a happy ending.
"Although I'll never forgive myself for failing Jake, who, due to our inability to look ahead, had three homes, I know in my heart that we finally made the right decision for Jake. I truly believe that this will now be his ‘forever home'.
"A clothes horse stands in the space where Jake's basket used to be. The time previously spent walking him I now enjoy with my baby while my toddler is at pre-school. But the space he took up in our hearts remains the same. We'll always love him and miss him. His photographs are still all around our home, and our toddler often speaks of her ‘best friend Jake'; we're proud of her for that.
"I hope it's reassuring to know that not all the work ESSW does is helping abandoned and abused dogs. It's totally committed in helping all Springers have a happy life, whatever their needs.
"Now and again I see people who mention that they haven't seen me out walking my dog for a while. Knowing there's nothing I could say in one sentence to explain all of the circumstances, I reluctantly tell them we've rehomed him. Let them think that I'm that weak, shallow person without strength of character. Because I know my boy is happy.”
English Springer Spaniel Welfare
Selina Clarke, the charity's national coordinator, said: "I can't tell you how thankful we are at ESSW that Lisa has been able to relay what must be a very hard tale to tell, and to go national with the story just shows what a brave and caring person she is.
"We really want more of the public to see that rescues don't just help dogs with bad backgrounds or abuse cases to find new homes. Many of the dogs we help are dogs such as Jake and these are the hardest cases in some respects. We have to accept we aren't miracle workers and therefore do our best to help owners cope with the situation, while finding the best possible home for the dog.”
Is rehoming the answer, or do you need help with training?
PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU WANT TO REHOME YOUR DOG IT IS BEST TO CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VET OR RESCUE CENTRE