Bodhi & Me – Who Rescued Who?     A beautifully written article by Bodhi’s Guardian Elaine

Anyone that knows me knows I’m hopeless with relationships. I’ll find anything wrong with anyone as a means to escape. Call it commitment phobia, call it PTSD from my childhood, blame my anxiety…the theories are endless, but I always give up on love.

Earlier this year when I told people I was getting another dog (my 4th), and a rescue from Romania to boot, you can imagine what they said. My closest friends and family told me I was having one of my bad mental health spells. They told me it was one of the worse ideas I’d had for a while. They said it would tip me over my very fragile, delicately balanced, edge.

I just wanted to help him. He was found on the street in November by the dog catcher, sent to the public shelter, fed twice a week with the threat of slaughter within a fortnight hanging over him and the other dogs in there. His little face on his internet profile, scarred ears, eyes, nose and chin all saying I am trying to escape, something at some point, no doubt. His ribs poking out from his torso and legs covered in tick bites. I just really wanted to help him. I didn’t think about anything past that urge to make it all better.

I’ve lived with dogs all my life, mongrels and pedigrees and had even bred Kennel Club registered pooches in the distant past, but never rescued. My three geriatric Shih Tzu’s have always been as loved and as spoiled as any member of the family. I just had this urge, this thought that wouldn’t clear off…

So, I paid Pawprints2Freedom enough money to cover their costs and arranged for this Romanian boy to board the Happy Bus all the way to us and what’s the first thing he did when he stumbled off that Happy Bus? He gave me the biggest, wettest kiss on the face.

Now I’ve been meeting internet randoms for years that have tried their luck when they see me, but his kiss was so special, trusting and loving from that first moment, despite his beginnings. Then he arrived at the house, cocked his leg up my vintage dining table and left a big poop the floor, before settling down on our furry throw and watching the telly, like he was home.

Then he broke us. I’ve never been so anxious in my life, and I’m medicated! Josh was rocking on the stairs too, we couldn’t contain any of the dogs, we were all anxious. We couldn’t sit down, we couldn’t rest as he wouldn’t settle and poor Barney, my old Shih Tzu boy, was literally dying in front of my eyes. I was trying to give end of life care to my old boy when Bodhi arrived. It was hell, a living hell that I couldn’t stop. Thank goodness Bonnie was too blind to witness it all and Millie was too deaf to hear it. I couldn’t take to Bodhi. I actually disliked this poor scrawny dog. There, I said it.

He mouthed me and nipped me like a pup, but with the jaws of a lion. He made me cry out with pain, covered me in bruises and made me fear him. I doubled my dose of happy pills within days of that happy bus driving off.

Then my Barney died. He was my everything as far as dogs go. I spoke to him, sang to him, took the mickey out of him. He was my mental health support, he licked so many of my tears away over the years, it’s no wonder his sodium levels were up the shoot. Heartbroken. Bereft and still am.

Still, this smelly, biter Romanian carried on mouthing me, chewing me and making me cry even more. That was when I filled in the forms to send him back. I spoke with the charity and cried to them too, but I just wanted him gone.

They asked me to upload some nice photos of him for his advert. They asked me to list his favourite foods, his habits, his best characteristics, all for his advert. All so someone else could choose him. No chance.

Even when a friend told me he’s just a dog, get rid of him. Even when my family said I need to put my mental health first and send him back. No chance.

Something clicked in me. I knew his favourite foods and habits because I was starting to understand him. I wanted to defend him to the ends of the earth. I wanted him to find the nirvana he’d been named after, free from hate and pain after sitting in that bus for nearly a week to get here.

I still believe my mom in heaven sent Mandy to the dog poo bin to save us. We were just meant to meet this angel in the form of a dog behaviourist (Yes! Good Dog) on our walk. Her knowledge saved us. She clicker-trained me to recognise every good thing Bodhi did. He got a treat every time and I got to see a different dog. My glass was becoming half full, for the first time in years. Clicker training should replace CBT.

Here we are now. Six months on since we smelled his awful smell, and we were all broken. It’s been so hard, but I have never been more incredibly proud of myself. I didn’t dump him when I found his faults. I persevered with him. He’s just the most sniffy, adorable, handsome, clever, instinctive, bellringing, door handle unlocking lapdog and I love him. There, I said it.

He’s not perfect and never will be. He still mouths and chews me, but now I understand what he’s trying to tell me, whether he’s in pain or overwhelmed.  He still barks at random dogs and cars but now I know he’s scared and trying to make them go away. He still cowers from old men with walking sticks. That’s his PTSD.

We are still on our journey. Bodhi has just started training at Mandy’s Scent Work Academy. If you have a nose that’s sniffy, it needs to be given a job. He has found his purpose.

It doesn’t matter whether you paid a breeder £3000 for a puppy they worked hard to raise, or whether you paid a charity £365 to save a dog from the kill list, living with a dog is a humbling experience.  The hurt is just as much when they bite your finger down to the bone as when they cross over the rainbow bridge.

You’ll never see love in anyone else’s eyes like you do when they’re after your dinner or your attention and you reciprocating love.

If you’re considering a dog, consider a rescue. Not everyone’s choice, I know, but there are so many dogs looking for their ‘Bodhi’, their nirvana, their world free from hate and pain.