On November 10th, 2017, ISCP member Rowena ended her series of blogs about life with Cauta, her adopted Romanian ex-street dog, on a sad note. Cauta wasn’t coping with city life, and it seemed the only course of action was to rehome him. Four months and much work later, and Cauta’s issues have markedly lessened. In this blog Rowena explains why.
Much time has passed since the last postcard. It was a very dark time back then. This was a postcard I didn’t think I would be writing. But here we are. Back in November last year we just couldn’t see a way through, and love was just not enough. Cauta seemed so edgy, unpredictable and distressed.
We felt like we had come up against a brick wall and the only option left was rehoming. We thought it was unfair to ask him to live in an environment he so clearly found so difficult. We thought we were the wrong home for him, he needed more space, more countryside, less people, less dogs and more freedom. We really did feel despair and I particularly struggled with knowing I had bought him over to the UK, but now it seemed none of us could cope. It was as if a tsunami had swept into our lives and overwhelmed everything. At the lowest points I did regret bringing him into our lives, thinking he would be better off anywhere else but with us. We had some very tough conversations.
However, there was one thread that dragged us through. I had expected condemnation and judgement for the thought of rehoming Cauta. I was astounded by others understanding and compassion. Living on borrowed hope we edged toward finding other solutions for him, thinking his time with us may be short, but wanting to do everything we could for him, while he was with us.
We took him for an assessment at a local rescue and were buoyed up by their hope, their optimism and their reading of his character and capabilities. We started to see glimmers of light. On recommendations we trekked off to a specialist holistic vet, on the hunch that his behaviour was more linked to the pain from his early fracture, and the adaptations he had made to this, than anything else. We learnt some surprising things, that he was much younger than we thought, that there were ways to help him that perhaps didn’t mean a whole new environment. The vet looked at Cauta’s whole system, everything was considered. She recommended a course of hydrotherapy, physio, and herbal tonic, aptly named ‘Happy Wanderer’.
But we were also exhausted, physically and emotionally. We returned weary, with a complex list of physio exercises and a sense of heaviness, wondering how on earth we were going to get Cauta to actually engage in the work.
We struggled on. We kept up the behavioural work but kept him out of situations we felt he couldn’t handle. Slowly but surely we edged up the cliff. We noticed his incidents becoming less frequent, less intense. He seemed calmer, less anxious and more grounded. Very slowly he seemed to settle, be less distressed. When he did fly off the handle there seemed to be more a narrative, a meaning to his behaviour, rather than a constant, random danger.
And now. He has days, as we all do, where he is not at his best. But he is less extreme in all respects. He now eats his meals standing on a wobble cushion, he can sit/stand in quick succession, he can walk backwards and jump to nose touch an outstretched palm, he can even offer paw and get up whilst his paw is held (the canine equivalent of squats!) We are still working on the commando crawl but much to our surprise and relief, he has taken to physio eagerly.
He gets worried on some walks on lead still, his interactions with other dogs off lead are managed carefully, but his social skills are much improved. The anxiety involved in taking him out of the house has lessened for now. He will always need careful guidance, but he seems to be able to cope much better in this environment now. And that goes both ways, he is guiding us just as much as we are guiding him.
Love was not enough, but a community is. Without the support of people around us we would have spiralled downward. It may take a village to raise a child, and it is certainly taking a team to raise Cauta.
When we thought our journey together was coming to an end, it may have been only just beginning. Radical changes are on the horizon – more about those in Part Two.
There is only one Cauta (and some camera witchcraft.)