I began to feel my age. All 50 years of it!
Brin was rather like having a toddler in the house and he knew no bounds..or boundaries!
Sofas were leapt over, tables jumped on and the inevitable chewing of tv remotes and cordless phones were some of the never-ending lists of sampling by his exploring teeth.
Three stair gates were placed around the house as he took to ‘guarding’ the stairs if any members of the family, apart from me, tried to pass. We also had to partition the cat away from him as their first meeting did not bode well with huge staring eyes from both sides and the licking of lips from Brin.
We also had a gate on the kitchen door, giving him full access to the garden, but that proved no match for a afghan mutt who could put Olympic pole-vaulters to shame. Brin would not tolerate being left and the gate would come crashing down as we tried placing it higher each time. The base of his sleeping crate became quickly destroyed so further layers of blankets had to be placed inside to cover the exposed metal. Fourteen harnesses were shredded and one nifty bite would see the end of so many leads that I eventually lost count.
Television was carefully monitored as he would fly at the screen if any dogs were barking, cats meowing or birds singing. In the evening, while trying to relax, Brin would have to have a lead on while he sat by us as he would often jump all over the place if something spooked him and more than once he tried to jump through the window after his reflection.
He became my shadow and wherever I went he was there.
Cards and gifts soon arrived to welcome him home and the local paper featured him once more as I really wanted to thank everyone involved in raising the funds to help.
Brin would explore the garden inch by inch and it was on the second day that the full extent of his ‘lifesaving sniffing skills’ came in to play.
Watching him from the kitchen window we saw him exploring an area of the garden where a newly planted pear tree was waving in the wind.
Suddenly, as if in slow motion, the tree gracefully tipped over followed by flurries of mud flying high into the air. With a wave of horror I realised what he was doing and what he had found. Four month earlier we had said goodbye to our elderly cat Marilyn and buried her just behind the rose-bed. I had not banked on seeing her again so soon, but Brin had it seemed, and running up the garden I made it just in time before he had removed her completely.
I am fortunately blessed with a strong stomach, through caring for many injured and sick animals over the years, but this was something else.
Three times I had to re-bury her due to Brin insisting that this really was something exciting to do and on his fourth attempt to resurrect her I decided that it would be safer to cremate her instead!
Digging became a massive occupation and at night it would prove a real challenge to get him indoors.
In Afghanistan the dogs would dig huge holes to sleep in for warmth and safety. Brin was still learning and it was amazing to see his old habits return. I would sit quietly in the dark and talk to him sometimes for up to an hour for, if I approached him too quickly, he would run off and the process would start all over again. He would dig a deep hole and sit as flat as he could and this was usually right at the back of a flower bed full of heavy foliage. Nothing would bring him to me and I would slowly inch my way up to him, stopping when I could feel the tension mount.
Once I had the lead on him all was fine and he was happy to trot back indoors and into his kennel where a small pile of snacks were waiting. This process of digging and hiding away at night took 12 weeks to totally fade away but I was willing to go through it with him and not force him to do anything he felt unsure of.
It was going to take time, patience and consistency for he had learnt so many ways to survive on his own and I was not about to take control of a dog just because I was cold, tired and often soaked through with rain.
In fact, I admired him deeply.
Despite having a full stomach and a cosy bed he still carried with him the burden of what went before and in some way, though all the changes he had endured, there was an insecurity that remained deep-rooted and ingrained. Maybe he felt that change would come again and so held on to his learned tactics just incase…what I did know was I loved him dearly and, despite the growing exhaustion of caring for a dog who already had physically pushed me to the limit, I became even more determined to let him know that nothing bad was ever going to happen to him again…