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Adopting a puppy – Maddie’s story

In Lifestyle by Gemma Tomlinson21 Comments

Maddie8As most of you will know, Matt and I adopted a rescue puppy about five weeks ago. She’s made her YouTube debut already but I have had some questions about how we adopted her, what kind of dog she is and how she’s settling in with us so I wanted to tell her story and update you on her progress and how we are training her. If you’ve ever considered adoption but weren’t sure exactly what it entailed, or you just like photos of cute puppies, you’re in the right place.

I’ve always been a dog person, and when my family dog Holly passed away about seven years ago I knew when the time was right I wanted to adopt one of my own. For most of that time I lived in rented apartments, spent a lot of time out of the house and lived abroad so things never quite slotted into place, but when we moved back North into our own house I knew that once the renovation reached at a certain point it would be time to begin the search.

We knew we wanted to adopt a dog, and we didn’t really care too much what it looked like, what breed it was, or where in the country we had to travel to find it. Of course when you are adopting you need to make sure the dog will work in your household, they have often been through enough upheaval as it is, but our criteria was pretty much wide open – we just wanted to give someone a loving home. I scoured lots of adoption sites for well over a year – it really doesn’t have to take that long, but we kept experiencing little setbacks in the house (our roof collapsing, the drains being replaced and Matt being made redundant too!) that meant we had to postpone the arrival of some tiny paws but we knew it was important to have a stable home to offer so it was worth the wait.

Maddie7When things settled down a little and Matt had a great new job he was loving, I tentatively went into my bookmarks and checked the website for Many Tears Animal Rescue where we ended up finding Maddie. I had browsed the site so many times, but I felt butterflies in my stomach knowing that if I did see a dog, we were actually ready to apply. On the ‘recently added’ section I noticed a gorgeous 2 year old poodle cross who was not yet ready to be adopted and then as I looked again I saw the reason she wasn’t yet ready…she had just had six puppies who also needed homes.

I hadn’t really considered a puppy until this point, I just assumed we would get a slightly older dog since there are more of them in rescue shelters, but one look at their tiny little faces and I fell in love. I ran downstairs to show Matt, and spent the rest of the evening agonising over our application, I was so smitten I wanted to ensure we got through the screening process. I felt nervous and barely slept that night wondering if we would hear anything back the next day, all I could think about was the fact that after years of waiting I might very well be about to get a dog.

Maddie2All rescue centres are different but when it came to our adoption we had a written application, a phone interview, a home visit/in person interview and then we travelled to meet Maddie to make sure we got along and were a good match. Quite a lengthy process but totally warranted when you know what some of the dogs have been through, they really do want to make sure they are going to stable, loving homes. Thankfully we passed each stage and travelled to South Wales where Maddie was in a foster home to pick her up. Maddie was one of six puppies born to Nucha, a poodle cross from Portugal. She was brought over from a kill shelter, essentially a place that puts dogs to sleep if they can’t find a home for them quick enough. Kill shelters exist all over the world, including the UK, but in countries like Portugal where there are many stray dogs they are more commonplace.

The volume of dogs passing through these shelters means that although in theory they should have the chance to be adopted, many are put to sleep very early on, so Nucha was saved from what was almost certain death. She was brought to the UK and passed on to Many Tears who have a no kill policy and will continue to care for dogs that cannot find loving homes. When she arrived it was quickly determined that she was pregnant, so instead of being photographed and put on the website herself she headed to a foster home where she was looked after and where she would eventually have her litter. We met Nucha when we went to pick up Maddie, and she was not only beautiful but so well behaved and good around people. The fosterer thinks she had been someones pet as she walks well on a lead and seems well socialised, so who knows what her story is, it makes me sad to think about someone potentially not wanting her anymore, she was only 2.

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I had only seen two photos of Maddie (then called Nancy) but nothing prepared me for the way I felt when she was handed to us, she was 100% fluff and so so tiny. Although I used to work at a vets, and had a dog before who I loved and doted on, we got her when I was 11 so being totally and utterly responsible for a little living being does give you a moment of mild panic for a second. It dawned on me that we were going to take her home and we alone had to make sure she was happy, healthy, well behaved and taken care of. We told the fosterer we definitely wanted to take Maddie home (the rescue will always give you the opportunity to back out if you have the slightest doubt) and we were on our way back up North.

The journey back was so long, she was sick multiple times along the way as she had never been in the car before and we had to keep stopping. I had gone a little crazy in Pets at Home the previous week and Matt was laughing at the little hamper of puppy products I had bought beforehand, but the mockery turned to gratitude when he realised I was armed with wipes, fresh sprays and lots of blankets, after all he was the one Maddie had thrown up on. We made it home in the end and Maddie spent her first night in her new home. She slept quite well – me on the other hand, not so much. I was constantly getting up and checking to make sure she was still breathing, that she was warm and not frightened during her first night away from her family.

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Over the past 5 weeks she has really come out of her shell, she has quite the hilarious personality and pretty much just wants attention 24/7. She’s doing well with her potty training (probably the most arduous task when it comes to puppies!) and aside from occasional accidents she knows to go to the kitchen door and will bark or whine if we are upstairs and she needs to be carried downstairs to go to the door. We have been using a crate at night which really helps. Not only are they a safe haven for your puppy if they feel overwhelmed or need some quiet time (dogs instinctively love small, cosy spaces) but dogs will not willingly go to the bathroom where they eat or sleep, so they get your puppy used to holding it in until you open the crate in the morning and take them outside. It’s also handy if you need to pop out to the shop and don’t want to leave your dog roaming around a room they could potentially hurt themselves or damage property in, but as of yet Maddie hasn’t been in the house on her own since I work from home.

She is getting used to walking on a lead, and has almost stopped biting at it. Like most puppies she thought it was just another chew toy at first, but now she walks well and only bites when she gets very overexcited or frustrated that her lead won’t let her dive into muddy puddles. We have enjoyed going to some nearby parks and National Trust properties, especially now the evenings are getting lighter and warmer. We bath her every Sunday so on that day we usually let her go wild and get as muddy and dirty as she wants to – she loves it!

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One thing is for sure when we head out to walk or go anywhere, so many people stop us and want to pet her and ask questions that a simple errand can take forever. I’m not complaining, I love it when other people find her as cute as I do, but it’s pretty funny and she adores the attention. People always ask what kind of dog she is, and by now I have the same pre-rehearsed answer to give since we don’t really know what she’s crossed with. Her Mum looked like a poodle/terrier cross, possibly a westie as she was medium sized, low to the ground with a long body, and she was a beautiful milk chocolate colour. Since she conceived in Portugal we have no clue about the Dad, but given that Mum was relatively small it can’t have been a huge dog or she probably wouldn’t have carried the puppies successfully.

We have heard all different things from people “that’s definitely a yorkie/maltese/shih-tzu/cairn terrier (the list goes on) poodle cross!” and the amusing thing is everyone has a different idea of what she is. It might become clearer as she gets older but whatever her parentage, she’s just totally perfect for us, and sassy to boot. Her coat was almost all black when we got her but she’s going lighter and lighter as the weeks go on, even more than in these photos. She’s due her first haircut soon and I have a feeling she will come out looking like a different dog since the black fur is mostly at the ends and will probably come off – crazy!

We have been using a clicker to train her, which has been fantastic, and she’s already sitting, lying down, offering a paw and doing a little dance on command. We have been taking her to puppy training classes, I found a local positive reinforcement-based school nearby and she has been working well there and learning to be around other dogs. She is still very timid even around puppies younger and smaller than her, and my aim is to get her to socialise more and not be so frightened when another dog comes to play with her. Other than that the only real issue we want to get ironed out is the dreaded puppy biting/nipping phase. It’s normal since she’s teething and just sees it as playful fun, but it’s definitely something we want to keep an eye on so she doesn’t exit the puppy phase thinking it’s ok.

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So that’s a little update on Maddie, she really has made us so happy, I can’t imagine life without her now and she’s the best decision we made. If you’re looking to adopt a dog I hope this helped you a little bit, and the Many Tears website is a great place to look if you’re ready to take that step. Are you a dog lover? I would love to see photos in the comments if you want to share them!

If you want to see more of Maddie she has her own Instagram account (yes, I’ve become that person and I don’t care) ‘adogcalledmaddie’ – you can find it right here.