Wilbur • My Cyprus foster dog

When I was first sent photos of an unnamed brindle dog that had been rescued from a horrible pound in Cyprus that often puts dogs to sleep, I immediately fell in love. He was big, unique looking, and had the most gorgeous eyes. I knew as soon as I saw him that I would need to help rehome him, as his colour and size didn’t make him a popular choice among adopters. He was only a year old and I felt so guilty that he was caged up without a home to go to. I named him Wilbur and I started looking for a family for him, determined to get him rehomed before Christmas.

Our last flight of the year from Cyprus to the UK was on the 20th December and in the early hours of the morning Wilbur arrived at Manchester airport to be collected by his new owners. However the excitement was short lived, and just one month later I was contacted by a member of the family who expressed concerns about Wilbur. Luckily, he had been rehomed in Sheffield, which is where I go to university, so I was able to go round and see what the problem was. When I went over Wilbur was curled up in his bed looking very innocent, but surrounding him were badly chewed skirting boards and cupboards. Apparently the lifestyle of the adopters was somewhat different to what they had originally described to us, and Wilbur was spending the entire day on his own without a walk or social interaction while his owner was at work. It also transpired that he was getting just 20-30 minutes of walking per day, and there wasn’t even access to a water bowl in the kitchen. Although he was happy and healthy, I decided then and there to remove him from the property and take him home with me.

 

I was glad that concerns had been expressed because it showed that some members of the family recognised that this wasn’t a suitable life for a dog, particularly a dog of Wilbur’s size and intelligence. He was bored stiff. To this day I still believe that the adopters loved Wilbur but just weren’t prepared to accept that their lifestyle couldn’t accommodate a dog. So Wilbur came home with me to my rented university accommodation that doesn’t permit pets. Not exactly conventional but such is life.

He quickly won the hearts of my 5 housemates and settled in quickly. He was incredibly well behaved, fully house trained, very smart and friendly with everyone. He very quickly decided that he liked being in the bed at night and quite happily took up 3/4 of it, giving me a swift nudge with his paw if at any point I got in his way. He picked up basic commands  with ease and learnt sit, down, paw, stay and off within a week and would also go and sit on his bed when asked.

He loved being outside and it was obvious that his enthusiasm throughout the entire walk was representative of the lack of exercise he had had in his previous home. He was always so giddy and would bounce about on the end of the lead in excitement. He also loved meeting other dogs on his walks but when he would bark to greet them he seemed shocked that he could create such a noise! Seeing him fall in the park pond after trying to get a little bit too close to the ducks was entertaining, as was listening to him huff in a grump over his wet legs afterwards. Every day I spent with him was another chance to assess his character and it really helped me to distinguish what I believed would be the best home for him. After two weeks I published his adoption post online and the enquiries began.

A lot of people were interested in adopting Wilbur as a pal for their existing family dog and I also had a handful of large dog lovers that fell in love with the Great Dane in him. However the two enquiries that really jumped out at me were the family that wanted to adopt him onto their farm in Shropshire, and the young couple interested in adopting him into their very active life in Shetland. I pursued them both, but for personal reasons the family in Shropshire later had to withdraw, leaving the couple, Lauren and Lewis, in Shetland as the most promising offer. The more I spoke to them, the more excited for Wilbur I got. I wasn’t going to settle for second best for Wilbs, and they sounded amazing.

 

Both Lauren and Lewis had a lot of experience with dogs, including training working gun dogs and search and rescue dogs. During the home check they showed me some of the open space around their house and it was every dogs’ idea of heaven. Hills, reservoirs, fields and nearby beaches. It couldn’t have been better and the thought of Wilbur being able to leave the centre of Sheffield with me and go to this amazing new life really excited me. His new canine pal Holly also made an appearance during the home check and she looked lovely and full of life, so I knew they would make a great pair once they’d met. Lauren told me all about their outdoorsy lifestyle and how Holly was even involved in their rock climbing, coasteering, kayaking and hill walking on their days off work. Their friends and colleagues were also dog owners and they were all kitted out with doggy life jackets and sleeping bags too for camping trips, so Wilbur would finally get the canine socialisation he was craving. It was no surprise that they passed the home check and I started looking into transport to get Wilbur 8 hours North to Inverness where he would meet his new family for the first time.

Within 2 days, a lovely transporter named Martin, the founder of Astramove, offered to collect Wilbur from my house and take him to Lauren and Lewis up in Inverness. His prices were very reasonable, he was experienced and he was aware of the panic that can go through a dog owners mind when they send their dog off with a stranger, so he was sensitive towards that and promised to keep me very up to date with the process. On Saturday 13th February, Martin came to collect a very excited Wilbur (who clearly thought we were going for a walk judging by the kangaroo style hopping he was demonstrating) to take him to Inverness. He opened the back of his van and Wilbur was greeted by Martin’s chocolate labrador who didn’t even have to make a noise, just raise her heckles slightly, to make sure Wilbur knew she was in charge of the boot of the van. The clumsy goon climbed in next to her and settled down almost immediately. I was really pleased he’d have a companion during the long journey. I thought I’d be in bits when he left, but I actually just felt really happy. It was bittersweet but I was so excited for him to get to his new life.

Later in the afternoon I got a text from Martin to confirm that Wilbur had arrived in Inverness and I quickly logged onto Instagram to see a photo of him curled up in his new bed! It wasn’t long before I got a text either from Lauren telling me that he was doing well but hid behind someone every time he saw the cat! By Wednesday I received the following message and couldn’t stop smiling…

‘Hi Eve, just thought I’d give you an update about Wilbur. He is getting on great, him and Holly have met and are getting along fine. His training is coming along as well, he is a quick learner! We can have him off lead walking to heel now and his recall is getting better every day. Had him at the beach earlier, he wasn’t so sure of the water at first but soon followed Holly in. Thank you again, can’t imagine life without him now xxx’

I cannot stress the importance of fostering and the huge change it can make to a dog in need. Not only do you get real quality time with them to assess their personality, but you’re taking them away from a life that they shouldn’t be living and giving them a second chance to find the perfect home. Wilbur’s transition from Cyprus to the UK wasn’t the easiest, but it was all worth it in the end to see him adopted into such a loving family who will provide him with the absolute highest quality of life. You might have to spend a bit of money helping to foster, especially if you choose to foster a dog from abroad, but there are also thousands of dogs in the UK in need of foster homes too, and rescues are very grateful to receive help. You get out what you put in. I had Wilbur for a month, which isn’t very long for a foster, but I was determined to find him a home, so once I’d started, I just didn’t stop, and four weeks later he was ready to leave. If you’re not in the position to adopt, fostering might just be a way in which you can help. I’m so happy I took Wilbs on, and I’d definitely do it again. He might have only been my best mate for a month, but without that month he would never have found the amazing home he has now.

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