In 2015, thanks to a combined effort by a local council pound and animal welfare, Lillie found her way to GSRRR. Nine months prior to arriving with us, she and her partner had been rescued from deplorable conditions, both having been locked in a trailer for over a year. Unfortunately, both dogs had suffered such severe neglect, that a veterinary decision was made that it would be kinder to put her male counterpart to sleep.
Due to red tape, Lillie unfortunately had to be held in council kennels where due to both a lack of manpower and severe time constraints on those in charge, she was left in limbo.
When Lillie arrived with us, she had completely shut down. She would pancake to the floor in an attempt to make herself appear as small and as submissive as possible. When we got her into our large outside run, she backed herself into a corner, and this is where she stayed for a number of days. It was difficult to get her to eat or drink and she was extremely shy of humans. She showed signs of a dog that had no human socialisation whatsoever and was almost feral in her mannerisms. Any kind of human interaction raised her stress levels immensely and it was nearly impossible to touch her.
With a lot of patience, we eventually managed to get Lillie out of her corner. As she was such a nervous dog, we considered her a severe flight risk, so any field excursions that were to be had were on lead. Dogs like Lillie are very quick to reach their fear threshold. Sudden movements or noises that may seem mediocre to another dog will send dogs like these into full flight, so no risks could be taken. She had no recall and did not trust any of her human caregivers. If she got any kind of distance away from us, it would be extremely difficult to get her back.
As we’ve already seen in a number of other cases, human shy dogs like Lillie seem to do better when they’re allowed to be around other dogs, so one of our first priorities was to get her integrated and used to the rest of the guys.
We soon paired Lillie up with one of our working males, Weeman, in an attempt to get her more settled and less stressed. As we often find in cases similar to Lillies, buddy systems like this are extremely beneficial as these dogs look to their own kind for reassurance and cues on how to behave. As Weeman is an extremely human friendly dog, he showed Lillie that there was nothing to fear from the humans who were around her and she ultimately started following his lead. Weeman also helped us in getting Lillie in and out of runs as he would come when called whereas Lillie would follow him. If we attempted to call her on her own, she would become extremely suspicious and anxious. He also encouraged Lillie to eat as she felt more secure in his presence and relaxed enough to be able to enjoy her food.
Lillie soon started greeting her human caretakers just as any “normal” dog would and due to us being able to call in her by calling Weeman, she found new freedom and was allowed to run around as she pleased.
After a time we started to separate Lillie and Weeman and Lillie started going out on weekend leave with our foster carer Michael, in order to see a bit more of the real world and to get her used to living in a home environment. This proved extremely beneficial in Lillies rehabilitation as it gave us the opportunity to work on her house-training , street training and lead-work. Michael worked extremely hard with Lillie, taking her to beaches, events such as fundraising days and the police dog trials in Stormont.
In May 2017, Lillies former owner, George Hugh Richardson from Randalstown, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering and an admission of failure in ensuring that the needs of the dogs under his care were met. He was banned from keeping dogs for life and was ordered to pay all kennelling and veterinary fees that were owed from the dogs’ time of seizure.
Lillie ultimately ended up with two foster carers, with Michael taking her over the weekends and Cliona taking her during the week. After a time, Cliona also started taking Weeman home with Lillie. This step proved to be the ultimate key to Lillie’s rehabilitation. Weeman had lived with us at the kennels for a very long time as he had not yet found who he felt was his forever family and was happier to remain at GSRRR with Ray. He very quickly took to Cliona and her three boys and because of this Lillie, who had up until that point had shown indifference, ended up following his cue and doing the same.
Lillie still comes to visit us at the kennels and she is no longer the shy, reserved and shut down little creature who came to us way back in 2015. She seems to have finally settled and has become a little dog with a big character and presence. (She’s still doesn’t stray too far away from her Weeman however.)