How and why the tiny puppy came to be in the cardboard box in the car park, amid an icy winter spell, we simply don’t know. Was he an unwanted gift, dumped like rubbish just weeks after Christmas, or was he part of a litter left unsold?
But what we can be sure of is that this Christmas, the once-abandoned dog will be warm, happy, and surrounded by love.
“He’ll be here at home on Christmas Day,” says Katherine Stubbs, Hamish’s owner of almost a year. “We’ll put a tree up and he’ll be here celebrating with all four of us; my husband, our son and daughter, and me. We open presents after lunch, and he’ll be getting lots of those! On Boxing Day we’ll be visiting my sister and her family and he’ll get lots of presents from them too; he’ll be so spoilt!”
The Stubbs family are looking forward to their first festive season with Hamish, and the difference a year has made to his life is not lost on Katherine, who adds: “It’ll be his first Christmas with us but he was born in November, so who knows what his Christmas was like last year.”
Hamish was utterly bewildered when he arrived at Blue Cross Lewknor rehoming centre in Oxfordshire, on a bitterly cold January day. At seven weeks old the ball of fluff should have been a pristine white, but he was mucky and sad. He had been left all alone in a box with a soiled blanket, a filthy toy, and some food, but no water, so he was terribly thirsty.
Where a pointy and alert right ear should have been was a stump, with a wound showing a clean cut had been made across it.
Someone, we believe, must have chopped off part of the tiny pup’s ear. And that wasn’t the last of it. His tail was missing; we suspect that it too had been deliberately removed.
Laura Smart, Blue Cross Animal Welfare Assistant at Blue Cross Lewknor, says: “It’s so sad to think that someone could have left such a lovely puppy outside in the cold and all alone, especially with the injuries he has, at such a young age. It’s so lucky that he was brought to us when he was.”
We had named Hamish after the painter Vincent van Gogh, who famously had only one ear. We took him immediately to the vets to examine his wounds and give him the painkillers and antibiotics he needed. Laura remembers: “He was a little overwhelmed initially and quite thirsty, but it didn’t take long for his sweet, cheeky, playful character to soon shine through.”
A kennel is not the best environment for a dog as young as Hamish was. He needed lots of human company, and so we placed him in foster care while he recovered from his ordeal. Foster carers Sandra and Chas Brooks took him for check-ups with our vets, and they got him ready for life as a pet by introducing him to the sights and sounds of a home, as well as slowly introducing him to doggy things such as being comfortable with being brushed and handled. But like anyone who hears Hamish’s story, they couldn’t help thinking about his past.
Sandra says: “You never know when someone does this sort of thing. They might have seen something going on and wanted to take him out of that environment. You never know the full story. That ear to me looks like it was done earlier than the tail. A dog couldn’t have done that; it would be a tear, and that’s a clean cut he’s got. It looks like a scissor cut. It’s barbaric, and it’s just cruel.”
While Hamish was recovering from his ordeal and preparing for a happy life, the Stubbs family had just begun to feel ready to welcome a dog into their home after losing rescue westie Kirsty at the grand age of 16, two years previously. Having rehomed Kirsty at six years old, the family were thinking they would get another mature dog, but when they saw Hamish at their local Blue Cross rehoming centre they decided the hard work involved with raising a puppy would be well worth it.
So small was Hamish when he first came home that he slept inside a cat bed. The friendly young chap has slotted into the family brilliantly and loves to play with other dogs, people and toys. His favourite is a fox toy that the Stubbses bought him as a welcome home gift, and he also has a fondness for a westie toy that once belonged to Katherine’s daughter, which is also called Hamish! He chases balls around the garden and enjoys exploring on walks and cuddles on the sofa; life is just a joy.
To rid the youngster of any negativity associated with his past, a name change felt appropriate, and because of his breed, only a Scottish name would do; Hamish suits him perfectly.
Thankfully, the young dog seems to have put his sad start to life behind him. Katherine says: “When we first had him I was really paranoid when I would get a knife out to chop carrots and that sort of thing, because I thought ‘what if it reminded him of what happened to his tail and his ear?’, but he wasn’t worried at all. He doesn’t like you touching his face, and I do think that maybe that comes from what happened to him. He was, and is, quite mouthy and I understand that comes from not being around other puppies at that early stage.
“We’ve met quite a few people on our walks who we’ve told his story and they’re just amazed that anyone could be so cruel. It’s really horrible, there’s no way you can say there’s any reason or justification for it. It’s just cruel and nasty.”
But Hamish’s past can be left there. He doesn’t have to worry that he might be hurt or abandoned any more. This Christmas he’ll be spoilt rotten with presents, and he will know he is part of a family who love him dearly, and that is the best gift of all.