We wanted a female puppy. A puppy would be easier to train, adapt to boat life and less ‘rescue baggage’.
Then we met Scruff.
But let’s back-up a bit, to the very beginning of our doggy journey. Starting with a puppy promise…
When I was 19, my gorgeous boyfriend (now husband!!!) bought, made and ordered me 19 presents. One gift was a Puppy Promise We’d often bonded over our love of small fluffy things and desire to one day have a dog of our own – but, we were a few years off being in a position to feasibly keep and care for a pet. Knowing that we would be together forever, Ryo designed, printed and framed a ‘puppy promise’, offering to get me a dog in the next ten years, when I was in a position to sensibly have one.
It’s little surprise that I decided to marry this guy.
Years passed, and whilst I regularly dropped hints and made reference to the Puppy Promise, we both knew we were still a while off. Time moved on, until… six years later.
We Were Ready!
Things were coming together as we settled onto our a narrowboat soon after our wedding. But, now we had the added complication of the fact that we wanted to rescue a dog, but many centres are reluctant to re-home to boats as you have no secure garden.
We agreed that the earliest we would get a pup was autumn, it would give us a chance to get everything ready, get our busiest months out the way and let the INSANELY hot summer pass.
This didn’t stop me sending several links of cute pups to Ryo on an
daily hourly basis. There were international charities saving street dogs in Spain, people selling accidental puppies on gumtree, and breeders trying to get thousands of pounds per pooch. We just wanted a little mutt in need of love, but the search was coming up short. Then I met a lovely lady and her dog on the towpath. She mentioned that she’d rescued her dog from Appledown Rescue and Kennels, who were more than happy to re-home to boats. I begun <del>stalking</del> watching the Appledown Facebook page closely. They regularly uploaded albums of their newest dogs, and they were gorgeous! They had a puppy waiting list, and there was no guaranteeing how long you’d be on it, days, weeks, months… But we were waiting until Autumn to get our dog.
We were in no rush. Then, that weekend, Ryo went to London to see some of his friends at a Star Wars exhibit. I was left to my own devices… By the time he got back, we were on the waiting list and I was reading my newly purchased puppy training book….
I watched two litters of puppy come and go, and we hadn’t been contacted. They have a very complicated system of matching breed, age and suitability to each dog and family, so when Ryo phoned to try and find out where we were on the list, we were told it didn’t matter.
Ryo called again the next week, (on my… encouragement…) and really emphasised how keen we were. Later that day, I got the call. A litter of 5 month old pups had a couple left, and we were welcome to go and meet them any day that week. I thanked her, hung up, and cried.
I did not have the emotional capacity to go to a rescue centre without my husband and leave without a) breaking into a puddle of puppy-induced tears or (more likely…) b) adopting several dogs. Like, all of them. Besides, Ryo and I were equally excited to pick it out together.
So we agreed to go and meet the puppies together that Saturday.
Friday evening came, and I saw a Facebook announcement on Appledown’s page, they had just had a photoshoot with their new batch of rescues and would be uploading soon. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Re- Ryo, can I please borrow your phone? I’m running out of data and want to look at pictures of puppies.
One by one, the albums started to go up. There were cuties and sweeties and fluffers and-
“Ryo, look at this one.”
My heart stopped, I flipped the phone around and Ryo froze too.
“It’s that one. Yes.”
The centre opens at 10, we were there at 10.04am, I’d stressed the whole journey over whether or not we should ring ahead and make sure no-one saw him until we got there.
We explained that we had been contacted about the puppy waiting list, and would also like to meet ‘Willie Thorne’ (his temporary rescue name). Lovely Appledown employee, Kim, took us round to the gate. With us on the outside, she entered and held up a wriggly little yapper who was cute, but not enjoying this impromptu cuddle.
A girl puppy, and cute to boot. She ticked all the things we’d said we wanted. But it didn’t click and Kim could see it.
“Let me just go get you Willie Thorne. He’s been exposed to kennel cough so can’t be out in the yard with the others, I’ll have to shut them all away before I get him.”
After a very amusing (for us, not Kim) five minutes of ushering, enticing, guiding and cajoling, all the yappers were put away and Kim emerged from the other door with this fluffy, excited, and very keen little bundle of energy. The gate opened, I got down to his level to introduce myself, and he curled up on my lap and looked up at me with those big puppy eyes that informed us that he was here to stay.
Ryo got a very similar introduction and our hearts were set.
Kim’s phone rang.
“Hello? […] Ah yes, well I’m afraid a couple are just looking at him now […] oh, no, sorry, I can’t do that… […] well they are with him literally at this moment… […] well they are from the waiting list […] ok, well yes, you are welcome to come down and fill out a form to join the waiting list- […] ok, see you soon then.”
By the time we got to the reception, the rival couple were there filling out a form to be added to his waiting list. Later that day he had a trainer for film and screen begging to take him home, with three follow-up enquiries, but it was too late. He had plopped himself into our hearts and he was ours.
The Waiting. Again.
Normally, there’s a standard seven day period between selecting your new furry friend and taking them home. However, as Kim had explained, Scruff had been exposed to kennel cough. So they had to wait for his symptoms to come out. Then they had to wait for the symptoms to go. Then he could go to the vets and get neutered. Then he could spend a week recovering. Then he could come home.
Due to previous neglect and some time on the streets, his fur was completely matted. Top to bottom. So, although he couldn’t come home, I could go in and groom him. Every day for three weeks, I went in, plopped him on the grooming table, and slowly teased away his matts and clumps. He was so good and just loved the attention.
Had someone done to me what I was doing to him, I would have bitten them. He didn’t so much as whine.
Meanwhile, at home, we were trying to come up with a name. There are many things I can call in a park, but Willie is just not one of them… He was like a little bear – Baloo? (Hindi for bear, strong Disney connections), no, he was too small for Baloo. Ewok? Wicket after the main Ewok? It went on the list. What about taking Willie and extending it to William Shakespeare? We could call him Billy for short? …
We went around and around in circles, until – Scruff. I mean look at his little face. He’s Scruff by name and nature. But, he’s a street dog, we’re bringing him into our lives to give him the best life possible, would he get a complex if we gave him such a street dog name?
So we didn’t.
We called him:
Prince Scruffington of the Low Seas*, the First.
Scruff for short.
(*Mainly the Grand Union)
Bringing Him Home.
You know what, it was so full of adventure, I’m going to do a whole other post on it! (With videos!!)
Now and Next…
We’ve all settled in very nicely.
Scruff has helped me take up running; he goes into the Globe with Ryo when I’m out the country (he even has his own staff pass…!!); he protects the boat; sits quietly through church and has made friends with everyone up and down the towpath! He even starred in a promo for my boat-related storytelling!
He’s changed our lives. We love him so much and can’t wait to see what the future brings for our little family unit!
Happy 6 months Scruff!