Last Christmas Poppy was a shadow of the happy, outgoing dog she is today.

After being found abandoned as a puppy she spent the festive season with Blue Cross dreaming of a home to call her own and hoping that the world outside her kennel would stop seeming so scary.

The red setter-cross-Labrador was just four months old when she was found roaming the streets with her sibling, and had clearly missed out on much of the socialisation that puppies of that age need.

Such a traumatic experience so early on in her life had left the young pup uncertain and afraid of many things.

Between three and 12 weeks of age, a puppy should encounter a wide variety of people, situations and other animals – after that point, a dog will approach new things with trepidation, as was the case with poor Poppy.

But thankfully, she came to our Hertfordshire rehoming centre just in time and we were able to help her overcome her fears so that she still had a promising future ahead of her as a happy pet.

Kirsten Findlay, Rehoming Supervisor, said: “Poppy was worried about lots of different sounds. She would alarm bark and her hackles would rise at seeing new things or people and it was sometimes difficult to recognise her trigger. So she needed very gentle exposure to things that frightened her to prepare her for life as a pet.”

The team gradually learnt what Poppy was scared of and adapted her to new sounds, people and things in the centre’s sensory garden, using toys and treats to make all of the experiences positive.

Poppy stands with Tom and looks into the camera

Time outside in new areas, which initially daunted her, was made enjoyable with reward-based games and she was also buddied up with other sociable dogs for her walks to get her used to interacting with her own kind.

Poppy soon started to show signs of a transformation, and after her seeing her on the Blue Cross website, Danielle Betts and Tom Pratt came forward to offer her the perfect new home.

“It was incredible how quickly Poppy began to overcome her fears with help from the team,” said Kirsten.

After 30 days of carefully tailored training, Poppy left Blue Cross as a dog fast building confidence – and hasn’t looked back since. She is now thriving as a happy, inquisitive and content member of Danielle and Tom’s family.

Poppy opens a Christmas present
Poppy is gearing up for her first ever Christmas in a loving home.

Danielle said: “She settled in straight away. She was so excited about being in the house. We haven’t had any problems with her, really, we’ve been very lucky.”

Despite being found with her sibling, who was also rehomed by Blue Cross, one of Poppy’s biggest fears during her time at the centre in Kimpton was meeting other dogs – but the training she had has paid dividends.

She has become firm friends with Danielle’s mum’s pomeranians Rupert and Boo, and is happy to meet other new four-legged friends when she’s out and about.

“She’s fine around other dogs now. She was very vocal at first but she’s got used to it,” said Danielle. “My mum has a cat and she’s getting on okay with her too, she doesn’t seem to be fussed. She wouldn’t travel very well in the car at first either but she’s fine with that now too.”

Poppy enjoying a walk through woodland

Thanks to the socialisation she had around ponies while at the Hertfordshire centre, Poppy is also calm around Danielle’s own horses and spends lots of evenings at the stable yard with her.

“She’s such a good girl. She might be as mad as a box of frogs – she’s all legs – but we love her, and she’s everything we hoped that we would find in a dog and more. We’ve got everything with her, including the recall, which is so surprising given what she had gone through at such a young age,” said Danielle.

Tom said: “We couldn’t imagine life without her now. We’ve only had her a year but it feels like it’s been 10 already. Our lives are better with Poppy in it.”

“It’s weird to think about what our lives were like before. With Poppy we go out walking every day and at the weekends we’re mainly outdoors with her. We wouldn’t have it any other way now and it’s made us spend more time together,” added Danielle.

Poppy sits on a sofa with Danielle and Tom
Poppy with Danielle and Tom who now can't imagine life without her

Kirsten said: “Everyone here is chuffed to hear that Poppy is doing so well in her new home. Her transformation has been incredible. We wish her and her new family a very happy Christmas.”

In stark contrast to last year, Poppy can look forward to Christmas Day in a warm home being showered with love.

Danielle said: “We’ll have a nice walk with the other family dogs and we’re going to absolutely spoil her. I don’t know what toys we’ll get as she has a very large teddy collection already and there aren’t many animals she hasn’t got, but she will have lots of presents.”

“It’s upsetting to think about how different things were for her this time last year but it’s really rewarding to know that we’ve been able to give her a better life and we look forward to many more Christmases with her,” added Tom.