In July 2011, the previous rescue I worked with were asked to take in a lad called Minoas from a rescue centre in Greece. His history from what I understood was that he was found badly injured and needed surgery to his back. We were told Minoas was about 6 and being a shepherd cross, they were having difficulty finding anywhere for him to go as he was a big dog and came across as being aggressive. They asked if they paid to get him over could we please find somewhere for him to go to give him a chance as deep down they thought he could be a lovely lad. They also realised they did not have the experience to work with him in the long term and rescue conditions were so precious; Minoas was lucky to have a space where he was chained to a tree in the rescue (and we think we have problems here!). The lovely people at the rescue were determined to do the very best they could for him though.
We had an update in October to tell us he had been castrated a couple of weeks earlier which turned out to be quite a major operation as he was cryptorchid. All had been well but he had been tetchy and grabbed one of the girl’s arms when pulled back on the lead. They were assured he was probably just sore and his hormone levels would be fluctuating. Remembering Minoas was essentially kept on a chain 24/7 as well, he was behaving amazingly well under the circumstances.
By December Minoas was being taught to spend time in the travel crate with the aid of chicken, and had been promoted to a kennel run rather than a tree space. The plan was that Minoas would arrive the 26th January 2012 at Heathrow, and one of the ladies he trusted was actually travelling on the same flight so she could see him safely out of the Animal Reception and hand him over to me. Everybody who had supported this trip his end were now on tenterhooks and it was an emotional goodbye to Minoas at the airport in Greece.
At Animal Reception at Heathrow that evening I met Minoas’ travel companion and together we waited for his clearance. It was just as well he had somebody there he knew as he would not have come out of his travel crate otherwise, that or it was going to be a long night in their car park convincing him. Could hardly blame the lad having just been through the trauma of being on a plane but at least this way the travelling time was kept short. I explained that I would like to put a basket muzzle on him so when I arrived home it would be easier to get him out of the car as I could see he was nervous and would probably try guarding that space as well. His travel companion was adamant he would not need it so I bit my tongue and went with the flow.
Arriving back at my house it was immediately apparent that it was not going to be a case of open boot, take hold of lead and welcome! This lad had decided this space was safe and it was now his and he was not letting anybody in he did not know. At this point I had to make a judgement call, get firm and muscle in or take the time he needed so he could learn to trust and realise he was safe. I chose the latter, so nearly 3 hours later, with a lead contraption built around him whereby he was still secured in the boot if I opened it, but able to have a lead to stand on, yes stand on, not get hold of, as he came out, Minoas finally decided that having let me into his space he was now ready to come out and explore. He was very nervous of me going towards his neck area but this is common with dogs that have been chained.
From here on I had no problems handling him and Minoas came into the house and after a walk round the garden, he was given dinner and allowed to settle down and chill out. I had been given all sorts of advice to heed to from the Greek rescue such as not to stroke him, avoid eye contact and be firm but at the end of the day I had let my instincts guide me. The next morning I was greeted with a waggy tail and Minoas was jumping around all excited. I let him out into the garden off lead which is when I got the first photos of him in the UK. He had totally accepted me as his handler and spent much of the day asleep under my desk as I worked with his head on my foot to make sure I didn’t go anywhere without him.
The plan had been that Minoas would come and spend a couple of days chilling with me and giving me a chance to assess him, and then I would take him to the kennels we used in Cornwall being the calmest and most ‘open plan’. Plus he was not impressed with my smaller and hyper male lad and vice versa! With the experience of the couple who run the kennels, I knew this would be the best place for him to completely unwind and get some much needed socialisation. The hopes were that we would then find him a foster home or forever home of his own. We knew it would not be an overnight affair but the kennels in the UK were 5 star luxury compared to what he had known.
Minoas slept in the back of the car down to the kennels. I sometimes wondered if I had a dog in the back! We stopped half way and he got out and had a drink and did his business and jumped back in no problems. The kennels gave him a double sized kennel because of his past and I took the blanket he had with me and piled it on top of the others on his bed. He was friendly and happy to meet everyone there. They couldn’t believe his age because he was so bouncy and playful!
The rescue in Greece were thrilled:The update from the kennels after a couple of days was that Minoas was eating well and loved coming out into the big run to play and watch the world go by. This was going to be done for a few days and then he would start being taken for walks around the field and in the woods. Within a few days he was running free in the kennel’s fields. He was not stressed in any way and had great recall. Minoas settled into the routine really quickly. The kennels gave him a pig that oinks and he took it everywhere with him. It went out to play and was put to bed when he went back into his kennel.
After Minoas had a few weeks to truly settle in, he had the once over from the vet. The vet said he was actually a lot older than 6 and was probably 10 plus. When being groomed it was also discovered he still had some stitches in his back, presumably from his original surgery. To think the poor lad had been through all this at his age made the fact he was safe and happy so much more important. So we now started looking for a home for him.
Minoas had claimed his kennel as his space, as we knew now was his trait, so the kennels would regularly move him to try and prevent this. As he had done all along, he quickly bonded with his handler/s but would bark and snarl at anyone else who tried to enter his space. Outside of his kennel he could be a teddy bear. He was not interested in other dogs in the slightest and actually preferred to have an empty kennel next to him.
We had an older couple who lived locally who showed an interest in Minoas and were more than happy to do several visits to get him used to them with the hope being he could one day go home with them. Unfortunately during this time, Minoas had some form of fit and was in such a state nobody could enter his kennel. The kennels described it as a kind of stroke as he seemed paralysed down one side. The vet was called and all checks were made but nothing seemed obviously wrong and no conclusions could be drawn. Within a few days he was on the way back to being his old self.
On my departure from the rescue, the rescue decided for reasons unknown, to deny any working arrangement/agreement with the kennels where Minoas was and he, along with several other dogs were basically abandoned by them. Their treatment of the dogs during this time was no better than many of the people who palmed their dogs off to rescues in the first place. I had kept the people involved with the Greek rescue updated all the way through as to start with we had no idea what the other rescue was planning. We had thought maybe they would move the dogs but they chose the route of denying the dogs were their responsibility, which was rather strange as they had been paying the bills for months.
At his age, and with the added problem of not knowing what caused this episode, it was decided that it would not be safe for Minoas to go into a home environment. Who could know if he had other small episodes at times, and what would happen if he had another and went beserk again in this way. Whilst we would never like a dog to spend its life in kennels, Minoas was happy and settled and had actually never had life so good. He was also devoted to the kennel owners, especially the man. All of this was relayed back to the Greek rescue who totally understood our decision and were just happy that we were prepared to let him live out his days in a place where he was so happy. The founder of the rescue was also kept updated and did not dispute the decision at the time stating it was difficult to find homes for older dogs anyway. I have seen him on a number of occasions since he arrived and he always looks fit and healthy and happy in himself, but no way am I allowed into his space!
I assured the people in Greece I would not let Minoas go anywhere as it would not be fair on him, and so for many months now GSRE has been paying to keep this lad safe and settled. Whilst we get a very special rate for Minoas, and he wants for nothing, obviously it is not cheap keeping a dog in kennels long term, but as long as he is enjoying life, that is where he shall stay.
In January 2015 we went to court against German Shepherd Dog Rescue to reclaim the costs for Minoas and the other dogs they had disowned. The judge ruled that the dogs had legally belonged to them and therefore awarded us all costs to the 31st December 2014. This was a staggering amount which we were able to put back into our ‘pot’ to help other dogs.
Today was Minoas’ birthday, and at 4.30pm, Uncle Chris went up to the kennels for a let out to find Minoas had gone to sleep with his oinky pig beside him on his bed. He is now over Rainbow Bridge with his favourite toy running free.