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:
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
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?
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
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]