Stray dog Maggie overcomes her fears

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Maggie jumps onto the sofa, nuzzles her new owner for attention and then rolls over to ask for a tummy tickle. It’s a sight that was unimaginable a year ago.

This was a girl so unsure of human company that she avoided any kind of interaction and would look to bolt or cower in her kennel if someone so much as looked her in the eye.

Although her background is unknown, we suspect that Maggie had never lived in a home or experienced human kindness before arriving at our Lewknor rehoming centre in Oxfordshire back in November last year, after being found as a stray.

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Maggie was terrified of everything when she first arrived as a stray at Blue Cross, but our team helped her to build confidence and she's now in a happy new home.

But while she was petrified of people, she was comfortable in the company of other dogs.

And eventually, the confidence she found alongside her canine friends helped her understand the meaning of human love and affection.

Rebecca White, Animal Welfare Assistant at Lewknor, said: “We were amazed to see how much her personality changed.

“She started to become interested in play and became a lot more confident with familiar handlers; especially Animal Welfare Assistant Suzanne Warne, who put in a lot of time and commitment to help Maggie.”

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But then our team faced a new challenge: finding an understanding home with patient owners willing to support Maggie on her journey to overcoming her fears.

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Maggie couldn't be happier with her new owners Nicola Barone (pictured) and her husband John.

Six months passed, and she became the longest standing resident at Lewknor.

Although the team had made enormous strides in preparing Maggie for a bright future, she was constantly overlooked due to her anxiety issues.

That was until Nicola and John Barone came along. They read about Maggie on the Blue Cross website after their son Dominic spotted a Facebook appeal to find her a new home.

Nicola said: “We’d lost our other dog and we weren’t going to get another one. But after about a month I felt so miserable because that was my life; I love to go out walking, so I really missed that. We decided we’d quite like a whippet-type, and Dominic saw her online.

“The picture looked pretty bleak because of her problems, but we went to see her and then visited three more times after that so she could get to know us. But she showed us nothing, no sort of interest. She wouldn’t make eye contact with us or anything. There was no interaction.

“She wasn’t unhappy, she just wanted to do her walk with us and that was it. She had such a rapport with the kennel staff that she only really had eyes for them.

“I was beginning to wonder if she would ever come round to us.”

But they didn’t give up on her and in April, after 172 days in Blue Cross care, beautiful Maggie set off with Nicola and John for her new home in Wolverhampton.

Rehoming Supervisor Jess Mead said: “I remember showing Maggie to the family, who were absolutely lovely and so patient. They also showed a lot of commitment, visiting from a fair distance and had another dog within the family which was another magic ingredient for Maggie.”

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Life as a pet wasn’t an easy adjustment for her, but one that she is now happily settled into thanks to Nicola and John’s tremendous hard work, as well as support from other dogs in the family.

“When we got home, she went to her bed and sat away from us,” explained Nicola. “At first, she would just look around at us. We would sit on the floor and then gradually she would come and sit next to us, but you couldn’t make a sudden move or anything because she would be off like a rocket.

"After a couple of weeks she let us give her a cuddle. But it was always on Maggie’s terms.”

But now, Maggie can’t get enough attention.

“She loves her cuddles now. She really is a hands on dog, loves to be with you,” said Nicola.

It wasn’t just a case of Maggie getting to know and trust her new owners – she also needed lots of reassurance in the world outside the home as she is frightened of most things.

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Nicola said: “At the centre, Maggie couldn’t be walked through the car park or near cars as she was so scared. But we live on a road, so it’s difficult.

“At first, we just used to stand outside the front door and watch the cars go by. She wouldn’t go any further, so I used to pop her in the car to take her to the field round the back of our house.

“Then, as she gained confidence, I started getting up at 5:30am so that I could take her out when it was quieter. Gradually we’ve been able to build it up like that.”

Although she has come a long way, Maggie still has things she is afraid of and Nicola and John are working with a trainer to help address her anxiety so that they can eventually let her off the lead outside of enclosed areas. The couple even hope to take her to dog agility classes soon.

Dominic’s two dogs, Nancy and Florence, as well as Nicola’s sister’s dog Marvin have also been instrumental in building Maggie’s confidence.

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Maggie has come on leaps and bounds since arriving home with Nicola and John, and the couple even hope to introduce her to dog agility soon.

“Maggie just loves other dogs. She absolutely feeds off other them, and is so much more confident when she has another dog around,” said Nicola. “In the early days Marvin used to come over just so we could get Maggie out of the gate and down the road. She is very fond of him.”

Although challenging, helping Maggie settle into her new life has been a rewarding experience for Nicola and John.

“Maggie has brought us so much joy; she is just a delight to have. We weren’t sure at first whether it would be too much for us to handle, but we’re so glad we took the chance on her.”

Rebecca added: “Everyone at Lewknor is amazed at how she has progressed. The hard work was worth it and we are all so pleased that she’s found the home she deserves.”

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— Page last updated 10/11/2016