I spotted Ogli on a friend’s Facebook page – around Guy Smallman’s photo journalism job he fosters rescue hounds, writing reports on their likes and quirks, seeing how they settle in to his home, how do they respond to people, other dogs and even to being inside a home as these dogs are rescues from the streets of Romania.
Photo: Guy Smallman
And there started my barrage of questions through Facebook messenger – Does he bark a lot, is he house trained, can he walk on a lead….and all the answers came back positive.
Photo: Guy Smallman
His name is Ogli, as written in his European passport, he’s been collected from a sanctuary in Romania, chosen to be given this opportunity partly for his age, he’s nearly 8 and entering his twilight years and because he was being bullied by the other dogs – he’d been there for years. He’s probably a mongrel, but looks very like a Romanian sheepdog – there’s several types of sheepdog – and on my searches he fits all their features – amber eyes, small build, mostly black but the fur turns slightly orange where it’s been exposed to the sun. I found myself gazing at the few photos Guy had taken over and over and daydreaming about how he’d fit in to our day to day lives.
As lockdown was easing we booked a visit – heading to South London by car – our longest journey in months along the M40 and Hugh driving through London relying on the old TomTom to tell us which lane to be in.
And it was love at first visit. He’d mostly stayed in his dog bed for the first week, only leaving for food and when a lead was put on. The clanging of doors and echoing corridors of the block of flats he was staying in spooked him and he was at first carried out through the doors for his walks. He slowly ventured out of his bed in the flat for a brief bit of attention before returning to the sanctuary of this comfy space.
We took him to a nearby London park, keeping our distance from the other visitors and he did his business as soon as we entered the gates, then walked close to heel, always just behind one of our legs. He was conscious of anyone behind him – the herding instinct – and if we came across other dogs he simply looked away uninterested – his way of not being a threat and not having to interact more than necessary to get by. Joggers and bikes passing make him jump, but he quickly returns to his steady gait by our sides.
He obviously loved attention, a head ruffle and a gentle stroke. I could see he was an intelligent dog with beautiful eyes. As we chatted on the way home all four of our family said yes, but I wanted us to sleep on it and think through the realities of this extra being – would everyone agree to picking up the poo so they could walk him alone…this was the last questions to answer as we settled on our decision, but when this was finally agreed to by all and we made the phone call with our decision.
Our garden check had to be done by video and I toured what would be his space with my phone camera at his height – the garden, the outside offices where my husband and I work and I even did a time-lapse showing the brief journey to the beautiful park behind our garden.
Then came the kit to buy which we wanted to keep minimal until we knew more what he needed. I visited the key shop in town, masked up with hand gel to hand, and had a disc engraved with his name, our phone numbers and ‘micro chipped’. I ordered a basic bed and a lead and visited a pet shop for his collar and a dog brush. On our way to collect him we brought his food – the first meat to come into our house since we moved here in ’98 but we thought it best not to change his diet again straight away.
Back to London and we walked him again and then Guy cuddled him and handed him to me on on the back seat of the car. I clicked on the car restraint and held his lead and he was off to his new life. He looked anxious, panting and copious dribbling – our introduction to dealing with his bodily fluids…but as Guy had described him he is super adaptable and he soon lay down. I wanted to stroke him, reassure him, but also didn’t want to over fuss him. We’d been advised to let him to come to us in these first few days despite our excitement, and he lay down with his feet pushed against me – we had contact and we headed back to Oxford without stopping.
His new bed was ready in its place between a chair and the piano. We introduced him to downstairs, to his garden and the park. He preferred staying outside with one of us holding the lead or attaching it to a tree and staying nearby.
Inside that first night we wondered what the plan should be…undecided whether one of us should stay with him we shut him in the lounge and headed upstairs but were woken by his scratching at the door – Hugh headed down to find our Extinction Rebellion posters attached to the window had been removed and ripped up, and the leg of a teddy in the window – part of lockdown ideas to entertain kids walking by, had been chewed off and the stuffing of this handmade bear was strewn over the sofa. Hugh settled on the sofa and then Ogli settled in his dog bed.
Our son was keen to sleep downstairs the next night and the next, but on that third night Pip slept through the dog scratching at the door and Hugh ventured back down to settle the dog. In the morning we found he’s scratched an old telephone cable from the wall by the door and chewed through it – could have been worse….
We borrowed a crate from doggy friends with the idea of settling him in there at night so we knew nothing was being destroyed, but were keen to not have it feel like a punishment. We talked it through and questioned why he wasn’t allowed upstairs – it wouldn’t be a problem but I envisioned muddy footprints on the piles of clean clothes. On the fourth night we propped the door to the stairs open with a large fossil and waited to see what would happen. I spoke to Ogli from the stairs and I think his herding instincts were satisfied, he knew where his flock or pack were and wasn’t shut away from us – he hasn’t ventured upstairs yet…
We have fed him at the same times each day – he needs to put some weight on. We have walked him 3 or 4 times a day, mostly around the nearby park, but we have ventured further afield to meet with doggy friends.
I am puzzled by his history, and I’ll guess we’ll never know it, but before the sanctuary he must have been well trained. He’s house trained, but also will not do his business in the garden meaning that despite lockdown, we have to get out of pyjamas even to take him out for a pee.
He’s obviously been hit with a stick before as when my husband picked up a fine looking stick on the path (our son loves playing with sticks) he cringed and the stick was quickly put back down.
He walks well on the lead and politely waits for us to go through doors before him. We haven’t tried recall, if he’ll come back when called, but he’ll stay close when asked walking down the garden.
So after a week, he is relaxing more, he is excited to see us, wagging his tail, rolling over for his chest and tummy to be rubbed. He’s chilled meeting people and dogs and ignores the many birds and squirrels around here. He likes to settle where I am so now has a second bed made up of the cot quilts and blankets by my feet where I work. He still jumps up each time I venture from my desk shadowing me through the house and garden.
He’s been to the vet and due to COVID we couldn’t go in the building with him. They chatted and wrote notes outside and I pointed out to the vet that she had to go through the door first and as we waited in the vets garden we suddenly spotted him pushing the hanging blinds aside at a window, checking where we were or looking for an escape route. He’s got a passport with his jabs and microchip details – and all are up to date.
We walked him home, his second long walk of the day and he flopped after, not use to this amount of exercise. I have always loved collies but worried we’d feel guilty if we hadn’t worn one out each day living in a city but think with his age our walks will be enough.
If you want to read more about the animal charity, Active Animals Rescue and Rehabilitation who rescue cats and dogs in Romania – they can be found here
COVID has taken a toll on their funds so if you can spare anything their PayPal details are here:
Donations via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org or transfer to Active Animals Rescue and Rehabilitation Ltd, ACC: 19654360 SC: 80-22-60
And other changes for me this week…my step counter has gone from an average of 5,500 during lockdown up to as many 15,000 steps and my time on social media on my phone has dropped by 85% – dogs are good for you!
Welcome to Oxford Ogli Blogli.