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Our Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Dog

December 2001- my husband Brian and I found ourselves travelling over the Pennines into Lancashire to meet the Rhodesian Ridgeback called Marley. The visit had been arranged by the Midlands & Northern Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Society. Marley, a three year old male was living outside in an outbuilding and we understood his owner was having difficulty controlling him and a complaint had been made about his behaviour. "Spend some time with him and make sure you want to take him", advised the Society. Marley turned out to be a large but extremely thin, and underweight with every bone showing, dog. We decided to take him for a walk and as we stood outside Marley refused to walk. "What are we going to do?" I asked my husband. "We are supposed to spend sometime with him." Looking at the dog he said firmly "We are taking him home."

After having a word with the owner, we travelled back home with Marley lying on a blanket on the back seat of the car. He never moved and made no sound. As I was driving I asked my husband to gently poke him to make sure he was ok. "Stop worrying, he's OK". My husband assured me.

At home we had a large dog crate ready for him inside the house, decorated with a Christmas ribbon "to make him feel at home" said the Grandchildren. He downed his evening meal very quickly and then settled in his cage and fell asleep. At about three in the morning he began whining; thinking he might want to relieve himself, I opened the back door. He just came to the door, sniffed the air for a moment, then went back to his cage and snuggled down for the rest of the night.

We fed him three meals a day for the next few weeks until he regained some of his weight. We had plenty of help and advice from Melanie, our local co-ordinator for the Ridgeback Rescue Society. Melanie, who came out to see Marley had already loaned us the dog crate and various items we might need. She gave us a contact phone number and has kept in regular touch ever since. We are very grateful for all the help and support Melanie has provided.

Marley settled very quickly and is now very much part of the family. The only trouble we had with him in the beginning was when we walked him, he would sit down and he would refuse to move. We still don't know the reason for this, but with help from our son who has trained dogs he now walks for miles.

We soon found Marley had a very good temperament and loves children, our grandchildren adore him. Very small children can come up to him to pat him and Marley stays very still when they are close to him. He gets on well with other dogs and loves to play although he doesn't like trouble. If another dog barks at him he's off. He does have some vices; for example he tries to outrun trains that pass the park. Thankfully he never goes too near them. He likes squashed good on the pavement and is very "iffy" with cats. Marley also stands by the garden fence begging from our neighbour. He whines so she can hear him, until she comes out to feed him and apologises for keeping him waiting.

Because of Marley's temperament I decided to volunteer him to become a PAT Dog. I contacted Pets as Therapy and he had to pass a very rigorous test to qualify. He passed the test and is now the PAT dog for Pontefract General Infirmary, visiting every week. Marley has also worked with a Clinical Psychologist and a child with dog phobia. It was very successful and to see the child running with Marley in the park at the end of the sessions was very rewarding.

Madeleine Wainman.

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