New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue

New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue, Inc.

 

HOME OF THE YEAR
The 2002 Annie Raker Rescue Award

The Annie Raker Rescue Award is offered annually to an adoptive home which, in our opinion, has committed to the challenge of an Old English Sheepdog requiring special care and consideration. This home has responded to unusual behavioral and/or medical problems and has shown a willingness to alter lifestyle in order to accommodate their new family member. 
This silver Paul Revere bowl will be engraved by the New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue, Inc. and awarded at the annual meeting. The bowl will be maintained by the recipient for one year. 

This year, we have altered the wording to adapt to a most memorable Rescue Story. So, for poetic license, please hear this story omitting the word “Adoption” as it is shown above and just call it, “a home.” That said, here is the story in their own words: 

SHEBA’S STORY

BACKGROUND

We are a British couple with no children, and a wonderful Old English Sheepdog, Sheba. She is our second OES. The first one was our wedding present to each other in 1976. She lived until she was 12. A few months later Sheba, aged 8 weeks came into our lives. In 1998 we were offered the opportunity to work in the USA for 3 to 5 years. Sheba was 9 and there was no question in our minds that she would come with us. We did think about the challenge of bringing her back even then, but the harsh UK quarantine law was already being relaxed for countries in the EC and everyone said it would be relaxed for the US next. We just hoped that that would happen soon or that Sheba would not outlive our stay in the US. 

After 4 years, with Sheba aged 13 and healthy, one of us, the main earner, lost our job on 15th May, one of the many aftermaths of September 11th. Our visas were tied to our jobs. We decided our best opportunities for employment were back in the UK, and we wanted to come home. There were many challenges involved in this decision, as we were in the middle of moving form DC to New York City, and had just signed a 2 year lease in Manhattan, but none of these were as distressing as what to do about Sheba. The UK quarantine law had not been changed. 

SEEKING A SOLUTION

We began to research all possible options, an emotionally draining experience:

  • Should we put her in quarantine in the UK after all?
  • Would the law be changed in time so we could bring her straight home with us?
  • Could we get an exception from the British Government if not?
  • Could we find someone in the US to give her to, preferably someone we knew?
  • And even yes, was the best solution to “put her down?”

We were very clear that our criterion had to be what was in Sheba’s best interests. We pursued all these avenues in parallel.

Our first preferred option was to give her away to a loving family, avoiding the trauma of a transatlantic flight and quarantine. Devastated as we would be to go home without her, leaving her so far away, we felt this was best for Sheba. We approached some friends, who had said a few weeks before we knew we had to leave, that if ever we had to go home in a hurry, they would take Sheba. We left her with them and their own 12-year-old dog for a few days. We returned on 30th May to hear the sad news that although the dogs got on well they had decided that they couldn’t cope with 2 dogs with their life styles. We bless the generosity and honesty of our friends.

2 days later (1st June), we consulted our vet on a number of issues. He had known Sheba for 4 years and had also had her in his kennels from time to time. His advice was: 

  • Sheba would not survive the harsh conditions of UK quarantine. (Our view also). She would pine unless we could personally see her every day and feed her. Looking at the locations, this would mean a 2 hour round trip every day which is not practical for 2 people looking for jobs. 
  • He was at that time concerned about a transatlantic flight, which he felt could have an adverse affect on her kidneys. He declared her heart and reflexes to be good, and her weight ideal.
  • He ignored, not surprisingly at this point, the question of putting her down. Our view was we could be with her until the end, acknowledging this would be premature, but we had shared a longer than expected partnership for her breed. She would not be put through any trauma or separation. And we would not have the anxiety about what was happening to her, although we would have the guilt of putting down a reasonably healthy dog.
  • The vet shook his head sadly at the prospect of finding some one who would take on a 13 year old dog, a prophetic viewpoint. Nevertheless, everyone in the surgery became committed to trying to find a home for Sheba including the customers who were in that day. They made phone calls and put up an advertisement and gave phone numbers and web sites.
  • That afternoon we called another vet in New York recommended to us as his wife operated a dog placement service. She said she wouldn’t have a hope of placing a 13 year old dog.

At our lowest point we started the next day, Sunday 2 June, to make calls and do internet research. There were dire warnings about advertising dogs for sale, which could be bought under pretence for research purposes, and there were descriptions of rescue organizations where the dogs were put down after a few weeks if they weren’t placed. We tried organizations saying they specialized in senior dogs, but didn’t get much response. That afternoon we sent dozens of e-mails to friends and former colleagues begging them to help find a home for Sheba. We had taken photos of her that morning and a neighbor scanned them for us.

A RAY OF HOPE

At 7.00 that evening Annie Raker, or Grannie Annie as we’ve come to know her, of the NEOESR answered our call. She heard our story and was determined to help us find a solution. The next morning we received an e-mail from Annie forwarding a message from her friend in France, Jilly Bennett, a former breeder and current judge of OES. Jilly runs a boarding establishment where the dogs live in her house, sit on her sofas and sleep on her bed if needs be! She has a terraced garden, fenced for them to roam in. She had taken a dog in our situation from Canada, cared for it for the regulatory 6 months and got it ready to meet the UK Pet Passport regulations. The owners then collected it and brought it into the UK free of quarantine restrictions. Jilly’s note filled us with confidence that this was a real solution as she described every detail of what would need to be done. She sent us photos of happy dogs all over her home. 

There were a few reservations initially. Sheba would still have to survive a transatlantic flight. She would be apart from us for 6 months, unless we could visit her, and she may not live the 6 months for age reasons, however caring the conditions. Then there was the cost to consider at a time we would both be out of work. So friends continued the search for a US home We got the British Embassy in Washington DC to contact the UK government on our behalf to see when the quarantine rules would be changing (there were reports in the press that they would change soon), and if an exception could be made. Our friend in the UK, a former OES owner who had been monitoring the legislation all the time we were in the US, also worked tirelessly to get a response from the government. It’s been announced the law will change this year but in practical terms it was too late for us. We heard an exception could not be made unless we the owners had a life threatening illness.

During the next week we started a phone and e-mail conversation with Jilly and started to investigate the practicalities of taking Sheba to live with her in France. We contacted the airlines and triple checked the requirements for flying a dog to Nice, and the French embassy for entry regulations. We would need to fly to Paris from New York, hire a car and travel through France with Sheba, stay near Jilly near her home to settle Sheba in and then fly on home to London. All in all about a week’s journey at the height of the holiday season. We also sought advice from the vet again, to go through all the options with him, and we needed a health certificate.

The vet’s main concern at this point was whether Sheba would pine away from us, but we had got to know Jilly well enough in the last week to reassure him this was most unlikely. And how right we were! There and then Sheba had her rabies jab and blood and urine tests taken and flown to New York. Next day the vet pronounced her fit to travel, her blood was excellent and urine fine, and issued the health certificate. We called our trusted friend in the UK, went through the options again with her and she agreed that taking Sheba to Jilly was in her best interests.

SHEBA GOES TO FRANCE

Next day we sent an e-mail to Jilly and to Annie “Sheba is coming to France” and our hearts lifted for the first time in weeks. It was one thing to lose a job and leave a country prematurely, another thing entirely to lose a dog. Even if she didn’t survive the 6 months we were putting her in the best environment possible. 

Jilly knew we were concerned about Sheba’s longevity and wanted to know her pedigree as some lines seem to live longer than others. Imagine our surprise when Jilly said she knew Sheba’s father and grandfather and had given them champion points in the ring. In fact, she gave a CC to her father, grandfather AND her grandfather. She actually gave her father his third CC, thereby making him a champion. She had also met Sheba’s brother, no longer alive, who was living in Barcelona! It felt really that Sheba was meant to be with Jilly.

The flight went smoothly. Sheba stood up in her cage at Paris airport, shook herself and gave us a look as if to say “OK you guys, now what? The journey through France was relaxing for all of us. Jilly had booked accommodation for us in Menton so we could visit Pension Milou with Sheba, staying longer each day, and finally overnight. Parting was hard, but we were so happy with Sheba’s new environment. Jilly has a magic with dogs and Sheba started eating better than she ever had for us, (normally she was a picky eater). Photos came over the wires showing her with the other dogs and looking settled. She is keeping very well, although unfortunately she has a urinary infection and bladder stones and a recurrence of muscle problems which are causing her to leak, creating a lot of hard work for Jilly

We go to France this weekend (early October) to see Sheba and Jilly, just under half way through her stay. We can’t wait to see them. At the end of January we will go and collect Sheba and bring her back to London. She may not thank us for taking her away from her new home and dog friends in sunny south of France for cold gray English winter……..!!

THANK YOU GRANNIE ANNIE AND JILLY

From Jilly:

GA,

Yes, it is amazing, isn't it? I can't wait for them to arrive next weekend and see Sheba. I think, apart from the urinary problems we are having, she is on great form. She's really ruling the roost here - tells the little dogs where to get off, barks when I'm fixing food, telling me to please-hurry-up. Cynthia says she was never like that. She's so confident and outgoing now. I'm bathing her tomorrow morning - or rather washing her rear and face. I've friends - an OES judge and wife - coming to stay tomorrow night and I'm going to get him to take a pic of Sheba with me. I don't yet have one of those. If it's any good, I'll send it to you. In any case, I'll be taking more of Sheba alone, of course.

* * * * * * * * It gives me great pleasure to present this bowl, in absentia, to Cynthia and Chris Haddock, and to Sheba’s Auntie Jilly, as well. [G/A at the 2002 Auction/Annual Meeting]