When Andrew and Christine rehomed Luna the Rottweiller from our Cornwall centre in 2014, it soon became apparent they had their work cut out for them. Twelve months on, Luna has transformed from a frightened, anxious dog into a wonderful companion thanks to the couples' patience and understanding.
"We came to find Luna on the back of the tragic loss of both our 4 year old rotties within a month of each other due to cancer. We decided that, because of other stuff going on, that a new puppy was probably not the best option and that prompted us to think about re-homing an older dog.
We weren't particularly looking for a rottie but when we saw Luna on the NAWT Cornwall website we just had to go and have a look and it was love at first sight - for us at least, not sure about her! We met her wonderful handler, Jodi Hughes, and she introduced us and took us on a short walk with Luna. She explained that Luna, then seven years old, had been with the centre for about two years after being picked up by the dog warden, had already had two failed re-homing attempts and was a dog with some 'issues'. We decided there and then that Luna was going to come home with us. We have had rotties for the last 25 years and so felt we were probably as good as anyone at being her 'third time lucky' chance of finally finding a loving home.
Jodi explained that her issues meant that she didn't particularly like to be handled and was generally unsure around people, she could become fixated on totally random objects and then possesive over them when trying to move her on. She disliked loud noises - shot guns, bird scarers and tractors, she could be extremely stubborn on walks and violently 'worry' her lead if she didn't get her own way, she needed to be muzzled when going to the vet and we realised we had a real job on our hands. Over the next three weeks we got to know Luna better, at least one of us visiting every day and saw first-hand some of this behaviour materialise - a spectacular lip-curl being an early indication of when she wasn't happy. She came to visit us on three occasions to check out her new home and all went well.
So, on 31st March 2014, Luna landed and the fun began!
The first few days we realised that one of Luna's issues was going to be food. She had obviously not been exposed to a normal kitchen for so long that she went into a frenzy of anxiety at the sights, sounds and smells of cooking. She would desperately snatch at any morsel that might come her way - we lost two scones that way after putting a plate down within her reach and Christine's Dad lost a cake from his carrier bag after she stuck her head in it on a snatch and grab raid!
She was also anxious and fearful of chinks of light or reflections playing on the ceiling, again going into a frenzy of crying and running about like a mad thing! A fear of noises made watching TV difficult - anything with guns and fireworks was particularly testing!
We are fortunate to live in a lovely part of the world and have a large garden for Luna to explore but this just brought more problems, as each day she would find something new to fixate upon, take possession of and guard - holes in the fence, tree roots, daisies - you name it!
After the confines of the kennel, it seemed she found it difficult to settle in all the space she suddenly had available to her, which resulted in some late nights trying different combinations of beds and corners until she found her spot and slept peacefully at last!
Walking was difficult, we couldn't even take her collar on and off and some days Luna would only want to go a hundred yards or so, especially if we took her out alone - it was almost like she was worried we wouldn't bring her back!
And so the rehabilitation began. Time. Understanding. Patience. Persistence. Kindness.
We have addressed each issue in the same way, breaking down her fear and anxiety. Given that she didn't like to be 'handled' added a degree of difficulty and we did have to resort to some odd means at times - gradually showing her that the kitchen was a good place with lots of nice rewards for calm behaviour; changing lamps to cut down the shadows and reflections thrown on the ceiling; watching tele with her on a lead to reassure and comfort her; making sure she has a 'worry' toy to hand to work through any anxiety by giving it a good thrashing - a big bumble bee is her current favourite!
Fortunately, Christine works part-time from home these days and has invested a huge amount of time. She has been particularly successful at the Vets, going for regular, non-invasive visits just to build up Luna's confidence at being handled by strangers - which culminated in her booster vaccination in February without the need for the muzzle!!! - and so much so that Luna is now a 'case study' in their lectures to students at the local college.
We can stroke her from head to tail, she will roll over and have her tummy tickled, she will stand and be groomed - all unthinkable in the early days - she will even let us dry between her toes after a walk in the rain, although that does still invoke a vestige of the lip-curl!!
We have continually tried to socialise her with other people and dogs and she behaved impeccably at Christine's birthday when we had 30 people round - apart from the friend she tried to intimidate into surrendering a sausage, but at least she only tried to stare her out where once she would have had it off the fork! Luna is learning how to play again and now has some doggie friends and regularly goes for walks her with her best chum, Kip, the springer spaniel.
She has been on holiday twice - to Northumberland just a couple of months after she came to us (10 hours in the car being no mean feat) and Dorset, both times staying in a strange cottage but taking the change of scenery in her stride.
She has transformed from that frightened, anxious animal that came to live with us just over twelve months ago into a wonderful companion - she is currently snoring at my feet while I type this. We won't pretend she's perfect and we are still a work in progress but she has repaid our decision to take her on in spades - we are so grateful for the way she has taken us into her trust and look forward to many more years of fun with her!
Hope you like the pictures...
PS - she likes ice-cream!!!
PPS - a very big thank-you to Jodi and the team at NAWT Cornwall for all their encouragement and support."
Visit our Facebook page to see more photos of Luna