​In full bloom

Dog Blossom sits on her new owner's lap

Blossom was one sad and lonely little dog when she arrived in Blue Cross care, but now she’s blooming marvellous…

Abandoned, afraid and alone; its likely Blossom hadn’t eaten in quite a while before she was found.

The young dog had been found wandering all by herself and she was ever so skinny.

Her skin was red raw and covered in sores, and she had no fur left on her body. Although we care for pets in need every day, we were shocked to see how badly Blossom had suffered from neglect.

Poor Blossom looks sad as she stands in our paddock with no fur covering her body
Poor Blossom looked very sad and sore on her arrival at Blue Cross

As soon as Blossom arrived, we made her as comfortable as possible and began to settle her in.

Vanessa Margrave is an Animal Welfare Assistant at our Burford rehoming centre in Oxfordshire, where we cared for Blossom.

She said: “As soon as I saw her she broke my heart. She was so young.”

We think Blossom was only about a year old when she came to us.

Skin and bones

Blossom was suffering from severe mange, which is a highly contagious condition. Because of this, we had to keep her away from the other dogs at our centre in case she passed it on to them.

Unfortunately for Blossom, this meant keeping her in our isolation unit and preventing her from playing with other dogs, which wasn’t much fun.

Animal Welfare Assistant Vanessa Margrave with Blossom
Animal Welfare Assistant Vanessa Margrave gave Blossom lots of love and TLC to help get her back on her paws

Vanessa wanted to make Blossom’s time in ‘iso’ as comfortable as possible so she visited her every day, even on her days off, so the timid dog would see a familiar face each day.

Vanessa said: “Blossom just needed love. I sat on the floor with her and all she wanted to do was curl up in my lap.”

We made sure the skinny dog got good, nutritious and tasty meals to help her reach a healthy weight.

Onwards and upwards

On Blossom’s second day with us we took her out to our paddock to assess her condition. It was early summer, and she seemed to enjoy the warmth of the sun on her back.

She was feeling a little sorry for herself while in isolation, so we were pleased to see how much she revelled in being outdoors.

By day three she was already feeling a bit better and had begun to settle in; making friends with members of our team, but she was still very itchy and would need help to understand that people can be kind.

Vanessa explained: “It took a good three or four days for her to get to know me. When I had to leave the iso room, I left a jumper of mine in with her so she could have something that smelt familiar to reassure her when she was on her own. I also gave her lots of treats to help gain her trust, and she loved them!”

Blossom was worried by people and would bark with alarm when those she didn’t know came near. The poor girl didn’t know who she could trust.

To help her understand that people aren’t scary, our team used a positive training method called Behaviour Adjustment Training, which helped to build her confidence.

My skin was terribly itchy. No matter how much I scratched at it, I just couldn't make the pain go away. I feel so much better now though. My skin is soothed and I'm so happy to be loved! Blossom

The more confidence Blossom gained, the cheekier she became. We were thrilled to see the personality shine through.

Vanessa introduced Blossom to toys, something we don’t think she had ever known before as she didn’t know what to do with them or how to play. She was worried by squeaky noises, so we focused on playing with tennis balls. 

Vanessa added: “Blossom soon discovered she loved to chase them, but she wasn’t too keen on bringing them back!”

Blossom the dog has no fur left on her doby thanks to mange
After lots of medicated soaks, Blossom's fur began to grow back slowly but surely

In time, she became less sensitive to the noises and sounds outside.

Road to recovery

Blossom’s skin problem was so serious when she arrived that her body was hot to the touch.

Tests revealed she had mange, which left her constantly itchy.

By the time she arrived in our care, she had scratched at her skin so much that her tiny body was covered in sores. 

The mites had infested her paws too, so she would bite at them to try and relieve the irritation.

She didn’t know it, but this was only making the situation worse by prolonging the healing process and causing her more pain. Her paw pads were swollen and they were a bright, burning red colour.

Vanessa said: “We gave Blossom a special soak every other day to reduce the itching and the swelling of the skin. Alongside this she had medication to get rid of the mange.

“Poor Blossom scratched herself so much she was bleeding, which was awful to see. She must have been horribly neglected to have got into this state.”

Each bath took between 20 and 30 minutes, and as her skin began to calm down, we were able to reduce the number of soaks she needed to twice a week, and eventually just once each week.

Stress can make mange worse, so - while making sure she couldn’t pass the condition on to the other pets in our care - we brought Blossom into our office area so she could enjoy company during the day. This also helped her get used to different sounds, voices and people, and prepared her for life as a pet.

By her second month in Blue Cross care, Blossom’s fur was noticeably growing back – at first down her back and then slowly across the rest of her body. Her paws were no longer cracked, red and sore. 

Vanessa said: “When I saw her fur starting to grow back, it was just magical!”

By month three she was like a different dog. 

After months of hard work by the Burford team, with help from medication, Blossom was finally ready to begin her search for a new home – and she’s fallen right on her paws.

Dog Blossom enjoys an afternoon stroll with her new owner

Home sweet home

Dog Blossom chases the ball in her garden
The young dog now loves to play with squeaky toys and balls in her new garden

Blossom is now well and truly part of the Holmes family, and spends her days getting all the love and attention she deserves from Ian, Karen and son Dominic.

Following the sad loss of their dog, Buster, two years ago, the family had been without a dog for a while.

Ian Holmes said: “We deliberately didn’t have a dog for a bit of time because we missed him.  I don’t know what changed our minds, but we decided two years was long enough and every time I walked past someone else with their dog I just thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have a dog?’.”

Ian and Karen had always given a home to dogs with a sad background, so they were in no way put off by the thought of introducing a neglected stray to their pack.

Ian added: “She’s settled in extremely well. She comes to me, usually! We’ve become very attached.

“We’re just giving her as many experiences with people and other dogs as we can.”

Blossom is no longer scared of squeaky toys, and it’s a joy to watch her playing with them. 

She has discovered a taste for chewing Karen’s shoes – her best shoes – but that hasn’t stopped the family from becoming besotted with their new pet.

What’s in a name?

Dog Blossom snuggles up on the sofa with her new owners
New owners Ian and Karen are besotted with Blossom

It’s not uncommon for new owners to change the names given to pets by rehoming centres, which can give them a new identity and help them begin a new stage in their lives.

But the Holmeses decided to stick with Blossom, and for good reason.

Ian said: “We couldn’t change her name. She had been given it because despite her past, they knew Blossom would bloom into a wonderful dog, and she has.”

— Page last updated 14/11/2016