“I found myself laughing when Wally was running in the garden and, I thought: ‘That’s the first time I’ve done that since losing Martin’.”
Those are the poignant words of Gai Cox, who rehomed dog Wally from Blue Cross after her beloved husband of 34 years passed away, followed by their dog, Basil, a year later.
At her darkest time, the lurcher became the mum-of-two’s shining light – and for Wally, Gai was his.
He arrived at our rehoming centre in Bromsgrove, West Midlands, in March last year with his brother Gromit, having been found straying, frightened and hungry.
Nobody knew what trauma lay in the siblings’ past, but while resilient Gromit quickly grew in confidence, all Wally could do was hide and quiver in his shadow.
The only way to build his independence and trust in humans was to get him used to spending time away from Gromit.
“The two brothers were so different,” said Claire Spiers, Animal Welfare Assistant. “Gromit was much more confident, and a new family soon fell in love with him and took him home.
“Wally was much more timid. He had probably had a traumatic experience when he was a stray, as he had very little confidence with new people.”
The now four-year-old dog started to make good progress and showed great affection for his trusted circle of people but remained petrified of strangers – particularly men.
He would cower in the corner when meeting potential new owners, leaving the sweet boy struggling more than most pets at Blue Cross to find a home; more than 100 days, in fact.
Claire said: “I felt so sad for Wally. Every day he hoped to be picked out by someone who would make him their forever companion. Yet his hopes were dashed, time after time.”
But when Gai walked through the door, she could see past Wally’s fears and into his kind eyes – and knew that they needed each other equally.
Gai said: “He has helped me massively. I don’t know where I would have been, given the situation I had found myself in. We’ve helped each other.”
She continued: “At the start, he was really scared of men – walking him, he was just on edge. He was even scared of the television if there were pictures of men. But within a week, he got used to the TV.
“He comes into the office with me every day. He’s still worried by men but is much better now.
“When we first got him he didn’t really like going for walks, he was quite scared. But now he really loves going for a walk - as soon as you say the word he’s at the front door wagging his time.”
Soon after rehoming Wally, Gai’s daughter Millie went to work as a vet with wildlife in South Africa for three months and found huge comfort in seeing the lurcher helping her mum to smile again before departing.
Wally has now been living with Gai for more than a year, and he is unrecognisable from the shell of a dog he once was.
“We just had to help him find his feet,” said Gai.
He provided particular support to Gai during lockdown earlier this year. She said: “He’s so happy all of the time, he always seems to be in a good mood, with a waggy tail and a smiley face.
"You can’t ever feel down when you’ve got that in your life.”
She added: “We’ve made a huge difference to each other. I can’t believe that for a dog that was in that centre for such a long time, what an amazing dog he is.
"He’s so sweet to everybody, he’s the kindest dog – and to think he was overlooked for all that time, I just find that staggering.
“Every day I know I’m so lucky to have him. Apart from being a bit scared of men, he’s just perfect. He’s an amazing dog.”