A fresh start to heal broken hearts

When Buster and Harvey’s beloved owners died within 10 months of each other, the dogs simply couldn’t cope. Their owners’ daughter decided that the only way to help mend their shattered souls would be a fresh start, and found our Home Direct scheme to be a "lifeline"...

“Saying goodbye for the last time and watching them drive away was just heartbreaking, but I knew I had done what was best for the boys, not me,” said Rebecca Shaw of her late parents’ beloved dogs, Buster and Harvey.

The inseparable canine friends had enjoyed a life filled with love and adventure with her mum and dad, Ralph and Elaine Sellwood, but when the couple passed away within 10 months of each other, the dogs’ world fell apart.

Despite her own grief, Rebecca didn’t think twice about stepping in as she too loved Buster and Harvey dearly, but after three months it became clear that they were struggling more than ever adapt to life without her parents, and in April 2016 she was faced with a devastating decision.

Golden Labrador Buster and black retriever Harvey with their late owner Ralph Sellwood.

“Harvey was with mum when she died and stayed with her. Then he would sit on her side of the bed every day after that, with Buster on the floor beside him as he was too big to jump on. They were mum’s sidekicks,” Rebecca said.

“Ten months later dad went into hospital and he never came home. Buster and Harvey never stopped looking for him and mum. They would check every time they heard a car, the phone ring or a knock at the door.”

Rebecca, who had just become a new mum, tried moving the best friends into her own home, but black Labrador retriever cross Harvey, now 11, didn’t get along with her cat and she ended up back at her parents’ house with the dogs in a desperate bid to help them settle.

Unable to cope

“But things just didn’t get any better”, she said. “At the beginning it was fair enough, but when it was still happening three months down the line I knew that it couldn’t carry on. Harvey had even started chewing all the fur off of his front legs as he was so distressed. I didn’t want them dying of broken hearts.”

After speaking to her vet, Rebecca, who had got Harvey as a puppy before leaving home, reluctantly decided that the best thing for the dogs was a fresh start in a new home.

Harvey had even started chewing all the fur off of his front legs as he was so distressed. I didn’t want them dying of broken hearts." Rebecca Shaw

“It took a long time to make the decision to rehome them. I was with the vet and I just sobbed and sobbed. I desperately wanted to keep them, but they were used to a lifestyle where my parents were at home all of the time and they had very active lives going out walking with my dad.

“I work full-time as a nurse so I just couldn’t give them the same. It wasn’t fair on them.”

Buster (right) only has one eye and is partially blind in the other, so relies on his best pal Harvey to show him the way in life.

But Rebecca was adamant that the dogs could not go into kennels while they found a new home. Nor could they be separated – not only because they are the best of friends, but because golden Labrador Buster, now 10, is partially blind and relies on Harvey to show him the way in life.

“Buster became partially sighted because of diabetes and they really do look out for each other. They are the Laurel and Hardy of the dog world!” Rebecca said.

Thankfully, Blue Cross’s Home Direct scheme – through our Thirsk rehoming centre – was there to step in, and allowed the dogs to remain with Rebecca until a perfect home could be found for them together.

“The Home Direct scheme was a lifeline as it meant that I was able to look after the boys as best I could for as long as I could, and see them through until they found the home they needed,” added Rebecca.

Thriving

And that home was with Beverley and Graham Adams. The couple, who had just lost their golden Labrador Ben, heard about Buster and Harvey’s heart-wrenching story through social media and knew that they could give them the home they deserved.

The dogs are now thriving in their new life on the edge of the Peak District National Park in Staffordshire where they share the sofa with deaf black Labrador Barney, 12, who is a former Pets as Therapy dog, and cat Ziggy.

“It took Buster a while to find his way around because of his blindness but he settled in quite quickly. Harvey took a little longer; although, at the time we thought he was okay as we didn’t know what he was really like. He was very subdued and quite on edge at first but we were so pleased when he stopped chewing his legs and the sores began to heal,” said Beverley.

“Now we’re seeing the real Harvey; he’s a super dog and he knows that this is his forever home.”

Buster and Harvey in their new home with Beverley and Graham Adams.

As ever, Buster and Harvey remain inseparable. And since Buster, who needs injections twice a day for his diabetes, has had one of his eyes removed, he relies on Harvey even more.

“Harvey is always looking out for Buster, it’s lovely to see. If Buster wanders off too far, Harvey will go and get him and guide him back,” said Beverley. “And when Buster had problems with his eye, Harvey kept licking it and was really concerned. We call him Florence Nightingale!”

Barney, who had missed the company of his pal Ben, also has a spring back in his step thanks to the doggie duo. “Barney was lonely without Ben, but since we’ve had Buster and Harvey he has got his mojo back,” said Beverley, who has two Blue Cross ponies called Hollie and Florence.

And Harvey has struck up an unlikely friendship with the couple’s cat, Ziggy, who he now enjoys playing with – and even barks to alert Beverley and Graham when his feline friend wants to come in at night.

But it’s not just Buster and Harvey’s lives that have been turned around, Beverley and Graham’s have too.

“They’ve brought so much fun, love and laughter with them. They just make us smile every day and everyone thinks they’re adorable. And Buster, despite not being able to see, has such a good quality of life. He doesn’t stop wagging his tail,” Beverley added. “We love them both, they get lots of hugs and they give a lot of love back too.”

Meanwhile, Rebecca finds comfort in regular updates on Buster and Harvey’s progress, and feels that her parents would have been “proud” of the decision she made for them.

“They are fantastic dogs and I really do miss them – I’ve had some heartbroken weeks,” she said.

Buster and Harvey with their new friend Barney, who is deaf and a former Pets as Therapy dog.

“I so desperately wanted to stay in touch. So when I get the updates it brings a tear to my eye but also reassures me that I did the right thing. It means I can also help with any medical history questions. And my son Elliott, who was inseparable from Buster, giggles when he sees the videos of them."

“Although they’re not my dogs anymore, I still feel like they’re part of my life,” Rebecca added.

Rachel Gudgeon, Home Direct Coordinator at Thirsk, added: “It was an extremely difficult and brave decision for Rebecca to rehome Buster and Harvey and we stood by her throughout this process. We had some highs and lows when finding them both a home but when Beverley and Graham showed interest we were over the moon.

"The day they went to their new home was very emotional for everyone; Buster and Harvey's story will never be forgotten by all of those involved.”

Our Home Direct scheme

Home Direct saves the pet the stress of staying in kennels as they’ll go straight from one loving home to another. The pet – whether it’s a cat, dog, horse or small animal – will stay with its current owner until we can find a new home for them, rather than bringing them to one of our centres.

When we’ve found a potential new owner we’ll arrange for them to visit the pet at home or for the pet to come to one of our centres for the introduction. We’ll be there to make sure everything goes smoothly. If it’s a good match, the pet will then be rehomed.

The scheme also frees up more spaces at our centres and with our pet fosterers so we can take in more pets that have been found as strays, abandoned or suffering from neglect.

Find out more about our Home Direct scheme here.

— Page last updated 18/08/2017