Jake when he first arrived at Blue Cross
Jake was dangerously thin when he first arrived at Blue Cross

Starving and all alone, Jake was found helplessly wandering around a woodland.

Nobody knows how such a sweet dog ended up like this, but by the time he arrived at our Burford rehoming centre he was one of the most emaciated strays the team has ever seen.

With his ribs and hips protruding, he weighed just 25.4kg when he was first picked up by the local dog warden – just two thirds the bodyweight of a healthy black Labrador his size.

The eight-year-old was so thin that he was unable to regulate his body temperature, so needed to wear a jumper at all times. And he had suffered muscle wastage on his back legs, which left him even weaker.

Jake with new owner Jackie
Jake with new owner Jacqui

Amber Cooney, Animal Welfare Assistant, said: “We’ve seen worst cases in females that have had puppies, but Jake is definitely one of the worst cases we’ve seen in a stray male dog.”

Rebuilding Jake’s strength from so little was a challenge, and one that needed to be done slowly; food needed to be gradually introduced to avoid causing other health complications.

Alicia Fay, Animal Welfare Assistant, explained: “He had three meals a day so that he put weight on gradually, and he was fed with puzzle games so that he didn’t wolf it down, as his stomach wouldn’t have coped.”

Due to his leg problems, walks also needed to be approached with caution; short and on-lead to ensure he didn’t run around and do more damage while we built up his fragile muscles.

Jake playing ball with his new owner

Jacqui, who had recently retired and was missing the company of dogs after losing her two Labradors a few years earlier, said: “He settled in on the sofa straight away. He has got the loveliest nature.”

Together, Jacqui and Jake love to explore new places and have lakes and the Blackdown Hills on their doorstep.

As Jake is largely deaf, Jacqui was initially nervous about letting him off lead – but the special bond they now share means that she can do so with confidence as Jake will always look back to check that she is still there.

“I have had the most amazing walks with him,” said Jacqui. “He loves to go on walks and visit new places. I’ve got a friend on Exmoor, who has four spaniels that Jake loves so we often meet up with them there for walks.”

Jake waiting on his doorstep
Jacqui says Jake has the 'loveliest nature' and they enjoy many walks together

Jacqui continued: “He’s brought me great companionship. I love to walk and so having him has been brilliant as it means that I’m always getting the map out and looking for walks. And it has been good for him too. I get a lot out of our walks together and he does as well. You just don’t have the motivation to do it unless you have a dog.”

Jake is also a big hit with Jacqui’s grandchildren, who live next door with her daughter and son-in-law. They have hours of fun playing with Jake in the garden and he’s never short of someone to throw his tennis ball.

“He loves children, so much so that if he sees children when we’re out you have to hold him back as he just wants to follow them,” said Jacqui.

Jake clearly could not be happier and, for the team that cared for him at his lowest ebb, it’s a wonderful end to his sad tale. Amber added: “It’s really nice to see him from how he was in kennels to now, with such a lovely home.”

Jake in the long grass in field next to home

Understandably, Jake hated to be left alone after his ordeal– and wanted to be around people at all times.

“He was really stressed in kennels,” said Amber. “He really didn’t like being on his own. He loves people and loved having cuddles, so we gave him as much time out of kennels with us in the offices as possible. Although he was older, he was still very active and loved to play with his tennis balls. He was lovely, a really good boy.”

Alicia added: “He was also really good with other dogs, so he would regularly go out with other dogs to keep his spirits up. He had lots of doggie friends here. And the volunteers walked him loads as he was so sweet.”

Jake was making great progress at Blue Cross, but he was struggling to put on weight due to being so sad when he was in his kennel and suffered a further setback when he caught kennel cough.

Jake outside looking into the camera
Jake became stressed in kennels as he hated being alone

What he really needed to fully recover was a loving home and, after 25 days in our care, he found just that with Jacqui MacMaster in the rolling Somerset countryside.

And seven months on, Jake is thriving – unrecognisable from the sad, skeletal dog that first arrived at Blue Cross.

Despite a bout of pneumonia, he has hit his target weight and his hind legs are getting stronger by the day, helped along by regular hydrotherapy sessions and the many walks he enjoys with Jacqui by his side.

His unwavering love for tennis balls has continued, and on the day Blue Cross visits, Jake is bounding through the long grass of a field beside his home on a farm, playing fetch with his favourite toy.

— Page last updated 7/11/2019