Adopting the puppy

It occurs to me I should write this down before it is lost to the vagaries of my memory. 

Theo was left in a box with fifty euros and his two siblings outside a tiny rescue project, Little Friends, run by a couple of people on the Greek island of Lefkada.   He was about one week old, and probably bred for hunting.  Possibly the owner took the pup(s) he wanted from the litter and gave away the rest.  

Little Friends took them in and fostered them with another litter of pups of a similar age that they had also taken in, who had arrived with their mum.  So although they lost their mother at 1 week, they were fed and raised by dogs, rather than handfed, which should help them develop much better social skills.  Certainly Theo's doggy skills seem to be excellent: he is a confident, relaxed and friendly pup. 

There is no way to know what his parents were like, but the rescue feel that the pups looks like Greek Harehounds, a type of dog that is apparently locally very common as a hunting dog in Greece, but rarely seen elsewhere.  I'd never heard of them until recently! 

The box o' pups might be just convenience, but it might also be that the owner did not want to have his bitch spayed : when that rescue takes in pups that are handed in, they do so on condition that the mother is spayed.  They also organise spay and neutering for stray / street dogs: even if they can't find homes for all of them, they can at least try to keep the numbers down and ensure the dogs are healthy.  Since rabies, leishmania and babeosis are all serious diseases that are found in Greece, this is good for everyone, human and canine. 

Because his parents are unknown, there is a small chance that Theo might develop leishmania one day.  It's transmitted by sandflies that don't occur in the UK, but it is a condition that can be managed.  I did a lot of research into leishmania when I offered to foster a Greek dog a few years ago, and feel confident about that. If Theo does turn out to be unlucky, I know people who are experts on the condition and won't just have to rely on the local vet.  

I was a bit wary of adopting from Little Friends at first.  There are a lot of  people importing dogs from southern and eastern Europe into the UK, ranging from small dedicated organisations who take a lot of trouble over finding homes that are well-equipped to take on a particular dog, to (a few) people who basically are in it for the money, and are really dog traders importing fairly large numbers of dogs with minimal checks and iffy health.  And all the official sources about getting a puppy will tell you, of course : always see the pup with his mother,  never get a pup that is delivered to you, definitely never get a pup via hand-overs in service station car parks! 

So I checked out Little Friends with other rescues based in Greece, and asked a lot of questions about how they operate.  I am very confident they are one of the good ones.  They really could not have worked harder to make sure that Theo had the very best start in life.  He even travelled from Greece in a camper-van with a volunteer that he already knew well, and practiced sleeping in the camper-van before they set off, so as to keep the upset of the journey to a minimum.  And they are definitely not in it for the money.

Usually, Little Friends rehome puppies via a partner rescue in the Netherlands, where the stray/unwanted dog problem is almost zero, but apparently the Dutch don't care much for hounds, so they advertised Theo and his brother and sister for homes in the UK , via the Facebook group Friends of the Greek Harehound (Hellenic Hound). That is mostly occupied by people who have adopted hounds from Greece, whether as pups or as older street dogs.  I had already asked questions about the harehound type there, and was pleased to hear that they like a good run, are clever but somewhat independent and obstinate, and very sleepy in the house. So far, this is just what Theo is like, but we will see as he grows up!

I get the impression that Greek Harehounds are worked rather like lurchers are here in the UK, except that they are scenthounds rather than sighthounds.  They hunt in small groups — two or three together, rather than as a pack —  and are known for their speed.  People keep telling me that Theo looks a bit like a foxhound, a beagle, a basset and a bloodhound.  It will be interesting to see how he grows up.   Harehounds are supposed to be around 20kg: if Theo is that size, he will be about the same weight as Rosie, but much less leggy.  He has a very long back at the moment, and fairly short legs.

We have a similar problem with surplus sighthounds here, of course, to the greek harehounds.  I could easily have adopted a lurcher from a UK rescue, even a puppy.  There are plenty of them around. Though we don't really have 'street dogs' as such, we certainly have people who will happily breed 8 or 10 pups because they want one, then dump the rest in rescues, and even more people who will cheerfully buy a puppy on impulse and then  find they don't have time for him once he's a year old, is big and needs lots of exercise.

But my Rosie is not very keen on other sighthounds (she seems to have decided now that the number of sighthounds required is 1, ie, her. I don't know why, because I had two lurchers when I adopted her and she loved them both.  But that's definitely a thing.)  I do like the houndy independent, likes a snooze, temperament a lot, so I was already tentatively looking at scenthounds: hence my presence in the Greek Harehound group. Years ago, I fostered dear old Darwin Coonhound, and he left me with a longing for a dog with a squishy face, long ears and an enthusiastic attitude...

I was keen to adopt a pup this time too. I've adopted and fostered a fair number of adult dogs, and they are all lovely, but my last puppy was when I was 4 years old! And since our livingroom carpet is currently severely knackered and needs replacing, this seemed like the ideal time to adopt a pup who would need house training and might chew things...  Though, so far, his house training is going pretty well. He had already had the basics at his foster home in Greece, of course. They really did a stellar job. He walks nicely on the lead too.

Because Rosie and our cats are all a bit nervy and awkward, I very much wanted a pup that had lived with cats from a very young age, that had had really good socialisation from the start. Well-socialised young rescue pups do turn up in the UK fairly often, but if you add the 'had lived with cats' bit, that does make it a bit harder.  Hence: Theo! 


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