Meet the Wonky Gang! (as Mommy Tan lovingly calls them) Peg, Ozzy, Scrappy Doo, and Spooky Boo are four very special pups who bring us their harrowing stories of overcoming the hard things life sends our way and coming out on the other end with a tail wag. These dogs and their parents Tania and Eddy are an inspirational family.
Tania and Eddy live in the UK and tell us their story of taking in four disabled dogs and making a home and safe haven for them. With Tania and Eddy the “wonky gang” have a beautiful and happy life filled with love, compassion, and kisses.
Each of the four have their own story to tell so this week’s blog might be a little longer than previous ones. All come with their own happy ending but not without pulling at the heartstrings a bit.
Chapter 1: Spooky Boo
Their first rescue dog, a female white lurcher, came to them from one of the UK’s largest dog welfare charities called Dogs Trust. She was about two and half years old when she came to Tania and Eddy’s home and it didn’t take long to figure out that she was completely deaf. Tania and Eddy who had only had pedigree dogs up until this point had to adjust how they interacted with her and trained her. They decided to teach her sign language. Tania shared with me all the different signs they use to suggest going out to the garden, or taking a walk, sit and stay, and even time for dinner and sleep. Tania said it wasn’t that difficult to teach her, “she is a very clever girl” and took to it rather quickly. Spooky Boo, the name that was given to her when she was rescued, has been with them for four years now and is a very gentle and sweet dog but not overly loving and cuddly, Tania guesses because of her being deaf, “she’s not the type to come up for a cuddle”. It took them 6 months to work through her anxiety and teach her to trust her new surroundings. But the change that Spooky Boo brought to their lives was so wonderful and gratifying, Tania said that when the time came to think about getting a friend for Boo to have at home with her Tania couldn’t “go back”. That’s when they took in their second rescue dog, Ozzy.
Where things changed for Spooky Boo and her parents was on New Year’s eve of 2015. When out for a regular evening walk Spooky Boo slipped on some wet grass and had a major fall that left her paralyzed from the waist down due to a severe spinal injury. This could have been an immediate game changer for Tania and Eddy but they were dedicated to their Spooky Boo and once it was confirmed that she was not in any pain they did away with the option of euthanizing her and took on the courageous challenge of making sure she had a quality of life worth living.
They began their 8 month journey, which I am pleased to report ends happily. Spooky Boo went from paralyzed, not being able to walk or wag her tail, and completely incontinent to being in control of her bodily functions again, get herself up and about the house, and playing around with her canine siblings again. Tania shared with me some of the trials and tribulations of rehabilitating a paralyzed dog including daily exercises, lots of research, and getting creative. They have a Facebook page (For the Love of Spooky Boo) dedicated to Boo’s recovery journey where you can get tips, suggestions, see the progress and watch videos of Spooky Boo’s rehabilitation journey. Tania said aside from the two pages of physiotherapy exercises the vet handed them when they brought Spooky Boo home, they didn’t know much. They learned about wheelchairs for dogs, rehabilitation techniques and tools, and lots of other things all through internet research. Tania said, “it’s difficult because until you have a disabled dog you can’t understand the day to day needs”.
Tania mentioned how the Petzi Treat Cam was an important part of their recovery process as well. Tania says the Cam “has been a god-send”. They had won it at a charity event just a couple months before the accident. After 3 months Spooky Boo started to get on with her rehabilitation, they were still doing exercises at home but she also had her hydrotherapy once a week. Eddy and Tania were starting to spend more time away from the home, after having changed their work schedules to be around for Boo during the time she needed them most. The Treat Cam made the transition much smoother. Tania worried she might break a leg or something else, if she attempted to get up on her own, without the strength or control to fall she would not be able to catch or protect herself. Tania expressed “thank god we had this and it was here and all set up, made a huge difference.”
People tuned-in to the Facebook page and offered suggestions and support, some monetarily, some by sending dog accessories, and many by words of encouragement and thumbs ups. My suggestion is to scroll back to see where Boo started with her injuries and then look at the latest post or video, it is impressive. You could never imagine a dog to have such a strong will and spirit to persevere and all with bright eyes, a tongue hanging out, and big doggy smile.
Chapter 2: Ozzy
Tania and Eddy’s second rescue dog came from Spain. Ozzy is a Podenco cross who was born and raised in a rescue shelter for the first 18 months of his life. He didn’t have much interaction with people and had no knowledge of the world outside his concrete enclosure. He was very frightened when they first got him. Things like the inside of a home, a TV, stairs, and even a falling leaf outside were enough to trigger him. He hid under their bed for the first 3 months of living with them. All they could do was leave out food and water and hope that he would one day emerge. They knew they had to “just leave him to come out in his own time, once he felt confident”.
He did eventually start to come out from under the bed little by little, then would come as far as down stairs, then venture to sit next to his parents. He was even originally scared of being out in the back yard even though it was a closed fenced off space. Tania says of working with Ozzy, “We know what he can and can’t cope with and try and push him a little further but have to take it in tiny tiny steps.”
3 years later he is still scared of many things outdoors and being on a walk without one of his canine siblings can be overwhelming for him, “kind of agoraphobic,” says Tania. But inside his safe space and home with his parents and siblings he is a “happy, bouncy fella now. While Ozzy still will only let four people touch him; Tania, Eddy, and his foster parents, he’s still made a lot of progress. For instance, he loves being out in the garden now and will often refuse to come back in, “this is my territory”, Tania shares, “He’s come such a long way.”
Chapter 3: Peg
Their third rescue dog came to them by way of an appeal on Facebook. This appeal was for a three legged, one eyed dog who was rescued from a kill shelter in Romania. Appropriately named Peg, Tania speaks so admirably about her, she describes her as “a cuddle bum, very calm…we are lucky we have her”. Peg was on death row in a public kill shelter in her home country, these kinds of places will keep a dog for only 14 days before euthanizing them. Tania mentioned there are YouTube videos of these types of public shelters that will tell you everything you need to know about how badly the dogs are treated. “Horrific viewing” Tania describes. Where Peg was kept was particularly bad, however, there was no food or fresh water for the dogs and living conditions were overcrowded and filthy. They were so bad that when Peg was rescued she had a terrible infection in her paw and eye. The infections and wounds were so advanced because she had gone without treatment she had to have both amputated immediately, there was no saving either.
Peg came home to Tania and Eddy only a month after her amputations. So she was still learning how to walk as a “tri-paw” and adjust to having a blind side. Tania explained that over time, in order to work with a new center of gravity the one leg will start to adjust more to the center than on the one side in order to keep balance. It only took Peg a couple of months to adapt and make the new adjustments. “We forget she has one eye it’s only when we come up on her from her blind side [she’ll startle]. She carries on like a dog that you would think doesn’t have problems…She didn’t bother about it so we didn’t,” Tania says with a smile, “…Despite everything she still has such a spirit and love of people. I find it amazing because she’s suffered some amazing things.”
Tania told me a story that really seemed to sum up Peg. When they first got her home they were worried about their steep stairs so they would carry her up and down whenever needed because they thought she wouldn’t be able to do it. Three days after she first came Tania couldn’t find her, she searched everywhere, and was concerned that maybe she had gotten out of the house somehow. And then she found her sitting on the bed upstairs, sun bathing. Tania says “we couldn’t want for a better dog, she’s absolutely brilliant.”
Chapter 4: Scrappy Doo
Last but not least is Scrappy Doo. The littlest of the wonky gang, weighing in at 3 kilo (about 6.5 LBS) but seems to run the house like he’s the opposite. The appeal for Scrappy mentioned his size and Tania nd Eddy figured since he wasn’t a big dog it wouldn’t be an issue, they wanted him immediately, and the gang grew to be the fantastic four that they are today.
Scrappy also came from Romania but belonged to an elderly 80 year old man with dementia. The man was unfortunately put out on the street and made homeless. While the neighbors were able to make arrangements for the man to be taken in they had left Scrappy to fend for himself on the streets. Scrappy has no lower jaw or teeth, so his tongue hangs out which means he can’t eat like normal dogs do. “Given his disability, he wouldn’t have lasted long on the street” Tania states. She explained to me how he eats from a saucer or plate instead of bowl and uses his tongue to lap up his food.
Scrappy Doo is a feisty “old chap” who will growl and stand his ground to scare off his bigger siblings. But ultimately he is a lap dog and loves sitting with people, warm snuggles, and kisses. He is now doing well in the UK with his whole happily wonky family and enjoying his retirement (he is around 12 or 13 years old).
Chapter 5: Tania
Tania truly is an inspirational dog mom. She found her cause with the rescues and hasn’t looked back since. The more Tania and Eddy worked with Spooky Boo and Ozzy the more they started to get involved with rescue dogs and disabled dogs. Tania made a career change and now works for a rescue charity called Angel Watch Rescue and Rehome. It all started a couple of months after they had brought home Peg. Tania and Eddy put a lot of energy into rounding up donations of money or dog collars and other accessories for the rescue workers to take back with them to the dogs in Romania. Their original reach out was on Facebook and other social media to whoever they knew personally as a husband and wife team but they weren’t really getting anywhere. When they asked for advice from the rescue workers they suggested they join the charity’s efforts and the rest is history. Now Tania is the webmaster and involved in fundraising and home-checks.
Her home-check work is extremely important work. She goes to homes of potential adopters and talks with them and checks on the home to make sure it is a safe environment for a dog, but also to make sure that these potential dog parents understand what they might be able to expect with taking in a rescue dog. She devotes her time to these families and wants to help them succeed like she and Eddy have. Tania advises patience, sometimes it can take up to 6 months to see progress on an issue a dog might have, it takes work and love. The goal is, of course, to give these dogs a permanent home. It can be difficult to find a foster home for disabled dogs so they are committed to finding people who are willing to work with a dog on their issues or disabilities, and not give up on them. “These dogs will make great pets but you have to let them learn to trust again,” Tania erges.
Unfortunately animal cruelty in places like Romania, where Peg and Scrappy came from; Spain, where Ozzy came from; and Germany is a real problem. In the UK there are considered efforts being made to save dogs and cats from these places. Because there are no quarantines for animals coming to the UK from Europe, animals can move freely with a pet passport. In Spain, they will use hunting dogs for one season and then be done with them. The way they try to get rid of the dogs are beyond horrific, throwing them off cliffs, or taking them far from home and breaking their legs so they can’t find their way back and leaving them for dead out in the middle of nowhere. As mentioned before, watching the YouTube videos of conditions in Romania will tell all. Tania shares, “Three year ago I started to realize what was going on in other countries, I didn’t know anything about it. Once you do start to realize, you can’t go back.”
Unfortunately, Tania and Eddy realized that four rescue dogs was quite a full house for them, because I’m sure it would be just as easy to want to take in all the dogs out there and give them a nice and loving home. Tania shares that the biggest and most difficult issues they have had to work with are really the mental illness ones. Even with the long journey that has come so far but is not over yet with Spooky Boo and her accident, they consider themselves so lucky to have their special group of four. “With my wonky gang it’s their pure joy of life, [that makes me smile], because they are all rescue dogs and now they have this future, they have this life, with food and love, they have everything they didn’t have from the very beginning. It makes me smile looking at them every day, knowing they are going to be taken care of for the rest of their lives.”