Rescue Stories – Bernard The Sheep Dog
Introducing Alyson & Bernard from North Wales! Another in our series of Super Stories, this is the rescue story of Bernard the sheep dog and his passion for squeaky toys. Bernard has lived with his new family for over six years now bringing them love, fun and his funny quirky personality. I get to visit Bernard a few times each year as his rescuer Alyson is my auntie and he’s always happy to bring me his latest favourite squeaky! So, here is another of our rescue stories:
Alyson, Introduce yourself to us!
Well, I live in North Wales in a semi rural property with my two sisters. Our neighbours include ducks, chickens, horses & sheep as our property runs alongside a small-holding. We have a huge garden and I really enjoy gardening & being outdoors. We don’t have a television and I don’t use the internet because I don’t have time for technology.
What made you decide that you wanted a dog and how did you decide on a rescue dog?
When my younger sister came to live with us she had a dog called Paddy. When Paddy died it was awful and I realized how much fun we’d had and how much we laughed and we’d all seemed more relaxed. My sister was reluctant to get another dog because she was grieving so much. It was only a few months after her dog had died, but I felt the time was right. Paddy had been a rescue dog so it seemed natural to make enquiries about re-homing.
Tell us about Bernard, How did he come into your life and what did you know about his story?
My timing was perfect. I rang a local rescue centre just to make some enquiries about how we would go about adopting a rescue dog. They’d had a call that same morning from a young man who was working 12 hour shifts. He had realized could no longer look after his dog Bernard.
The rescue centre suggested I give him a quick ring and see if he’d be happy if we could help. This could avoid his dog having the trauma of leaving him at the rescue centre. So we arranged to go to his house to meet Bernard.
Bernard met us with very loud, aggressive barking. Although Bernard was much bigger than we’d expected, he was quite thin and his head seemed much too big for his body. Once we’d sat down in the lounge Bernard was ok with us and settled down.
When tentatively stroking him we noticed a few bumps on his back, he had knotted fur but we fell in love with him. His owner explained his reason for calling the rescue centre. He knew his dog deserved much better care than he could give him right now. Bernard had originally been his sister’s dog, but when Bernard was a puppy it was the young man who had trained him. He had always looked after him more than the rest of the family. He absolutely loved Bernard to bits, and had trained him very well..
The family had had Bernard’s mother as their pet and the young man’s sister had wanted to keep one of her puppies. However, the young man’s sister had since left home, without taking Bernard. Then Bernard’s mother died. A short while later the young man was also ready to leave home but because his parents didn’t want to keep Bernard. It was the young man who had trained and looked after Bernard so he took Bernard with him.
Suddenly Bernard, left on his own for the first time, was missing the company of his mother. The young man’s career started to take off and he was having to work long shifts. This meant leaving Bernard alone for long periods or passed around between various family members. His family didn’t really want a dog around. The young man saw Bernard becoming more and more upset. Bernard was suffering, getting more and more unhappy as he wasn’t with his owner enough. However his owner couldn’t give up his job or he would have no means to live.
We arranged for his owner to come over to us the next week, so that he could see where we lived. He could see for himself if he thought we would be OK looking after his dog. A week later, he brought Bernard with his favourite blanket, food box, ball and flicker.
It must have been so very hard for him to leave Bernard with us, and when he had gone Bernard let out a really long, sad howl. He knew he was gone…
On a happier note, a few times over the past six years the young man has come to visit Bernard at our home. Bernard always remembers him instantly and greets him like a long lost friend. The young man still works long shifts, he tells us that although it was very hard to give Bernard up he’s glad that he did. Now when he visits he sees Bernard is so happy and healthy.
He believed that Bernard deserved looking after properly and with us he knows that he is.
How has Bernard changed your daily life and in what ways?
He loves cuddles and tickles and we laugh at his silly antics. We’re all so much happier because we have Bernard in our lives. He’s absolutely brilliant at playing football. Bernard is kind enough to include everyone in his games, passing the ball or toys to everyone in the room in turn. He is such a playful dog and he absolutely loves his toys!
Yes, I see Bernard has a fine collection of squeaky toys in his bed! How did his collection start and which if any of all these toys is his favourite?
When he came to us he had a ball and flicker and it seems like that was the only toy he knew what to do with. We don’t think he’d ever had a dog toy because he hadn’t a clue what to do with them. He didn’t chew them or know about hiding them. His first toy was a plastic “burger”. We played throwing it to him but he didn’t know what to do. But when we squeaked it he pulled out his tongue. It made us laugh so much Squeak – tongue lick – squeak – tongue lick-squeak – tongue lick it was so funny! He still puts out his tongue every time a squeaky toy squeaks and it has us rolling about in fits of laughter.
Bernard as a rescue dog could have presented you with many challenges when you adopted him. Did he settle into his new life well and what, if any, challenges did you face?
It took a while for us to bring Bernard back up to good health and Bernard was very sad and sensitive for a while.
We had to let him realize he was safe with us in his own time, and show him that we weren’t going to leave him. To show him we were around all the time for him.
He had lots of sores and some matted fur, so we took him to the vet for a check over. He also had aches and pains and a couple of pressure sores from lying down for too long. Those things took quite a while to heal up.
If we got down on the floor with him or touched him in a sore place he would sometimes bare his teeth at us is fear. Over time though we slowly won his trust whilst he slowly recovered his health.
We know now that the sores were part of a skin complaint. His skin had probably flared up because he was unhappy before he came to us. Then leaving him with us which also caused him a lot of stress. So now, if any of us go away for a night or he hears the bangs close to firework night he’ll sometimes get a flare up. He has a shower every 2 weeks with special shampoo and that helps a lot. A big bonus is that he loves having a shower!
We don’t think he had never been to a vet before we got him. He needed a lot of medication at first to get his skin stable. His health was so compromised it caused a weakness in his back legs and some of his small teeth fell out. Now though he’s doing ok most of the time now. He’s about 12 years old now and his coat is usually very shiney and he’s well. On the vets advice we have to restrict his exercise so he doesn’t overdo things.
As I mentioned earlier, when we first got him he was very nervous and a bit snarly with us. We knew he didn’t mean it and he always seemed kind of sorry after he’d snarled. The sores must have been so irritating and painful, he would have been on the edge of his nerves. It took a while for him to really trust us.
We soon realized that he REALLY doesn’t like us leaving him on his own at all. We call him the Houdini dog! If he’s in a room on his own he’ll find a way to open the door to find someone. Once jumped up on the patio door handle when we left him inside, somehow managing to completely lock the door with him inside. We were all outside in the garden!
We’ve tried everything to stop him getting into mischief. Now we just arrange that someone is always home with him. If we can’t be at home he comes with us when we go out. My sister works from home so he sits under her desk for a lot of time during the day. But he still needs to wander around the house every now and again to check on who else is home.
I know that many years ago you had another dog, Meg, a Jack Russell. How is life different with a big dog rather than a little dog?
Bernard is very different to Meg. Well trained by his former owner he doesn’t run off the way Meg did. Without knowing his full history we don’t know if another dog has attacked him because he’s very scared. This fear comes out as aggression with some dogs. The funny thing, his best friend Tyson is a Jack Russel!
What are your top tips for keeping Bernard’s coat in such wonderful condition, especially for his age?
He gets a lot of stroking and petting which helps keep him happy and healthier. He also has Yumega every day to help his joints. The Yumega also helps his coat along with an Aloe Vera spray that I rub on his coat from time to time. Plus the medicated shampooing every 2 weeks. Bernard loves having a shower!
Bernard is quite obviously very well behaved. Has he ever had any professional obedience training or did you train him yourself? What kind of training methods have you or your trainer used?
When he came to us, in many ways Bernard was very well trained. He doesn’t come to the table to beg, he walks easily on the lead. He hardly ever pulls (unless he hears fireworks!) One of the worst things he does is scratch at doors to get in/out when he’s on his own. Also, he barks at people when they’re coming in to the house. Yet he’s usually easily distracted from barking with a squeaky toy and Bernard has many many squeaky toys!
What would be your top three tips for anyone wanting to adopt a rescue dog?
- You won’t know your dogs’ full history. As such be aware that your adopted pet may react to something unexpectedly. This can happen even after you’ve had them for a while.
- Prepare to give extra time and care getting your new pet fully settled into the household.
- Love your new pet to bits!!
Thank You Alyson for sharing your story with us!
Alyson made a wish list for Bernard from our Pet Shop. We think she made some great choices!