In my eyes, a house is never truly a home until it has a dog at its heart. Having grown up with dogs, I knew that I would get my own one day. But, it wasn’t until I spent two years working abroad that the idea of rescuing was cemented in my head. Having seen first-hand just how abhorrently dogs get treated overseas - from puppies being dumped in the sea in sealed bin bags, to dogs being run over in the street for sport - I knew that when the time came, I wanted to find a charity that took animals out of some of the worst conditions and placed them into a loving home.
It was a pipe dream for a while - something we would do one day when the perfect time arrived. But, then I discovered Wild at Heart Foundation through Instagram and took a look on their website; that's when I laid eyes on Panda.
Panda was found at less than two weeks old, tied up in a plastic bag and dumped in a bin. Had she not been discovered by passers-by, their attention caught by the feeble movement inside what appeared to be just another piece of discarded litter, she would have died. As such a tiny puppy, being abandoned and neglected in this way left her incredibly vulnerable, but thanks to Wild at Heart Foundation's project work in Lesvos, Panda was rescued and taken into foster care. And after all the necessary paperwork and checks were complete, she was on a plane and heading towards a life with her new family.
Since we adopted Panda, we’ve been asked time and time again what it’s like to rescue a dog. Most people are purely curious (and ever so slightly in love with the big-ear, long-leg combo, we can't blame them!), however, there have been one or two who have approached us with presumptions: “Is she a problem dog?”; “What a risk, to get a dog from abroad!”; “Of course, dogs who are separated from their mother so young are always going to struggle to adapt”; “I don’t suppose you’ll ever be able to trust her around children.”
My answer to these? Spend two minutes in Panda’s company and you’ll see that she is the most gentle, easy-going, fun-loving dope you could ever hope to find. We’ve yet to meet anyone - dog or human - that she doesn’t get along with, and she’s slotted into our lives as though she was always meant to be there.
It truly saddens me that rescue dogs are still lumbered with these cliched labels. Yes, there are many rescue dogs that need patient training to help them overcome separation anxiety, food aggression, fear around men or bad manners on the lead; but, there are just as many ‘shop-bought’ dogs who will struggle with all these issues and many of their own that are unique to their breed. The sad fact is that thousands of wonderful would-be pets are being overlooked off the back of flippant comments that go unchecked.
And yet, Wild at Heart Foundation has restored my faith in people’s generosity and empathy. For every instance of cruelty (and there’s a lot of them: I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sat and cried at my desk as another story of abuse comes in, another picture of a dog who's been beaten, neglected, starved, or maimed at the hands of humans) there is an example of compassion pushing back. Our community of adopters have all opened their doors and their hearts to animals in need. We have an amazing network of fosterers and volunteers, all of whom give their time freely to help. And, importantly, we have a truly inspiring following of supporters whose willingness to get involved, to share, to donate, to give gives me hope that we’re working towards a day where compassion is commonplace.
I still have moments where it catches my breath to think how close Panda came to having no life at all when I find myself getting emotional about the potential loss of a dog that has become such a funny, loving, soppy, foolish and utterly irreplaceable part of my small family. There are so many thousands of dogs like Panda whose lives hang in the balance, all of whom would bring joy, laughter and loyalty to whoever was trusting enough to take them in.
That’s why I’m so grateful for opportunities like this one. It’s thanks to the support of organisations like Butternut Box, and all of their amazing customers who recognise the importance of giving back, that we stand a chance of fighting against the tidal wave of cruelty and neglect. Every penny raised throughout this campaign will go towards ensuring that even more amazing, one-of-a-kind, giant-hearted souls, are given the chance to find the love and safety they deserve.