We’d been following Balkan Underdogs (BU) page for some time and had seen theirs and other stories of the appalling conditions for the street dogs in the Balkans. When we made the decision to adopt a dog we were in no doubt it would be one from BU as we had previously spoken to people working with the charity and also people who had already adopted a dog through them. The desperation of the dogs and what they had been put through broke our heart, and we knew we wanted to make a difference to at least one dog’s life, adopting from here you really are saving a life, they just cannot survive there without help. We could see the hard work and kindness put in by all the people involved in the charity and we just knew we would have 100% support.
We spotted the perfect dog for us
We were looking through pictures and came across a beautiful black dog named at the time as ‘Kloi’ with a white chest and big ears and we instantly fell in love but I was sure she would have already been reserved already so I picked up the phone and excitedly messaged BU as I didn’t want to lose the chance of adopting her.
I was soon informed that Kloi had been waiting nearly two years to be noticed, her whole life spent in kennels, those now familiar blue bars from the other side of which we first saw her face looking out, never knowing real warmth, comfort and love. Now however, Ellie was already in the UK in kennels having been brought here just a week before we noticed her by her kind sponsor who had donated funds to keep her safe in kennels all her life. This meant that instead of the 4 – 6 week wait we had been anticipating that would allow her vaccinations, passport and travel to be arranged – it meant that Kloi could be at our door in just a few days carefully transported by kind BU volunteers.
Ellie and her siblings had only ever known kennels since being rescued as young pups
They really were amazing. We were so nervous but asked loads of questions on the adopted group and got so many useful hints and tips, everyone really wants to support each other.
We’d already decided to rename her ‘Ellie’ and she suited the name really well. When she finally arrived, we instantly loved her and she was absolutely beautiful, everything they had described. From the outset she was so loving, jumping into our arms and very inquisitive.
When the volunteers left we took her on a walk first, to help get her calm before introducing her to a house which she had never seen before. She was brilliant on the lead we couldn’t believe that she didn’t pull at all. We had her bed ready, some toys, brought some nice food and treats for her to enjoy.
Introducing our home to Ellie – not the other way round…
We brought her into the house on her lead and introduced her room by room so she was not overwhelmed. She seemed to take everything in her stride. We then let her off and she had a good sniff around, suddenly in the kitchen she was stood still next to the counter and she just sprung right onto our high kitchen top, we couldn’t believe it, we checked for springs attached to her paws but none were there – she has since learned not to do that anymore!!
The first night was difficult, she was confused and did cry a bit but we let her find her own spot and she did settle. In the morning I think she thought she just had a good dream and when she saw us and realised she hadn’t she looked so happy. And then she discovered the sofa, two months later and it’s still where she spends her days, it’s her true love. “When Ellie wakes up we can still see the disbelief in her eyes that this is life now”
Whilst sleeping she has the habit of gently grunting and getting comfy, she sounds just like a human – but we put this down to her teenage years! A week after having her she was dreaming and suddenly her tail just started wagging like never before and it made us so happy to think what her dreams are now filled with that they had replaced the nightmares from a former life and now she always looks so content and cute when she’s snuggled in.
Getting over a few hurdles
We can’t deny that there were some difficult times during the first month, our biggest being her separation anxiety, she would howl when we left, we think she thought we wouldn’t come home. It was a difficult time as it broke out heart but we did persevere, we both have full-time jobs and needed her to feel ok with it.
Again we asked for support from the group, advice about the best way to go about it. A lot was about being top dog, so we looked online too and found great advice. We also found toys such as Kongs and things with our smells on to be left. When we were with her we spent a lot of time training, eating first, ensuring she followed house rules and it really worked a treat. What I can say about these dogs is they only want to please, as long as they know what you want and its clear they will try their best. It was so sweet to watch as she learnt what we needed she adapted and vice versa, we watched what she wanted from us and adapted to form a perfect little family pack. We can now leave her and she is absolutely fine. We come home to a sleepy dog, still stretching and yawning before giving us a cuddle.
The other slight issue was toilet training. We had read plenty of tips online and followed them step by step. It would seem to work and then the next day a lovely present in the spare room. We knew she had never had a home and this would take time so again it was just patience (even when we thought we couldn’t be) we ignored what was left in the house; unless we caught her doing it then it was a no and carried outside. We watched her 24/7 and soon learned signs she needed to go so it was outside with her until she did it and so much praise people nearby may have though we were crazy but it did the trick within 3 weeks completely house trained and if she needs to go in the night (unusual now) she will cry to let us know. She really has shown us she is a smart learner !
Life is now so much happier with Ellie in it !
All the problems above paled in into insignificance compared to what she brings to our life and home. We never cease to be amazed at what a wonderful dog she really is, in her first month she was toilet trained, knew every house rule, sit, give paw, wait, up, down and trained recall to the whistle. Truly intelligent and so responsive. She can be a lazy so and so, spending most hours in the day on the sofa sleeping but we don’t mind that after all she has been through.
She loves being out and about on a walk, she’s such a runner, we take her up into the moors and she runs miles and miles in seconds bouncing around, so happy. Other times we take her into the woods where she likes to chase birds (and attempt to hunt – very unsuccessfully) but she loves chasing! You can just see her smiling. She great on a walk never going too far and always coming back to check in on us. She hates water though, even rain, she starts running if she feels it falling on her, we think she thinks she can out run it! She’s even fallen in the river before, too busy chasing something and not looking where she’s going !
“Her poor face looks so sad when she’s wet, but a nice warm bed next to the radiator always cheers her up after a cold walk out”!
Ellie is brilliant at caring for others …
There was a time that we were looking after another female dog who just couldn’t settle, Ellie kept pushing against her gently and going to her bed again and again, until the other dog settled in her bed. We could see Ellie showing her it was ok and it was amazing to watch.
“She still looks at us like she is the lucky one, but she has no idea that we are. We didn’t know there was a hole in our hearts until she filled it, we didn’t know there was joy missing from our lives until she brought it, we didn’t know our home was incomplete until she completed it”.
If either of us are ill she won’t leave our side, she truly tries to look after us too. She’s so gentle with our Nieces and Nephews who come round, she loves children. She senses who likes dogs and who doesn’t, she will not push those that are nervous and she is just so gentle. My Niece who is terrified of dogs is now always telling me Ellie is her “most favourite dog who makes her brave.”
Our happy shiny future
When she first arrived although she had been cared for as much as possible without the care and attention of a home so her fur was quite thin and she was a little underweight. Now she shining, her fur black, much thicker and glossy, like silk. People are always commenting on how healthy she looks. It’s such a rewarding feeling seeing her look better each day. On walks people comment and this is absolutely true that she is the nicest natured dog they have ever come across. The list of amazing traits she has and things she does goes on and on, I don’t think people would believe us but she really is the perfect dog who has so effortlessly been placed perfectly into our life.
To watch in her eyes how much she wanted to please sometimes made us feel so sad.
“If anyone is unsure about adopting from here I would say please do. I was so nervous but after doing it I can say it’s worth it. Knowing you’ve truly saved a life. Every worry you have is normal but I’ve learned every dog is different, all the hints and tips out there but when you get them you’ll just know what to do as well. All the planning we did but it was Ellie who really did the work, trial and error with each dog, they all respond differently and learn in their own way and trust me you will have your perfect dog”.
From Ellie with love – day on the beach February 2015
Author and proud Balkan Underdog Adopter Abbie Fender
Read about Ellie’s sister Malina – follow her happy story to a hopeful adoption