Willow – adopted after 9 months of rehabilitation!

Willow the Saluki X Lurcher was found abandoned with a tail injury in April 2021, she was around 4 years old. After a spay operation and tail amputation at another rescue she arrived here with us to begin the search for a forever family.

Willow worked really hard with her support volunteers over the 9 months that followed, her perfect adopters eventually found her after hearing Emma Bullimore speaking to one of her volunteers about her on BBC Essex!

If you would like to continue following her antics and seeing how donations from kind people like yourself have changed her life, you can find all of her ongoing video diaries on Facebook and Instagram!


More about Willow

Willow was found abandoned in Essex with a significant injury, her tail was amputated soon after and she has now fully healed. She can still wag her little stump tail!

She neeeded someone very special to see that her positive attributes are infinite, that the areas she needs help with are comparatively minimal when she is in the right environment with people who understand her.

Willow had a home assessment in foster with volunteers who she stayed with for 10 weeks, her carers have so many wonderful things to say about her. They also found all the keys to a successful cohabitation with her which were handed over to her adopters.

Willow is now house trained but initially, she had some accidents indoors whilst she learned the rules and settled in. Her previous foster volunteers did a great job following her training plan and showing her the way.

Willow is a pleasure to walk and has a loose lead unless she is taken into a situation that is overwhelming or she sees a small fluffy animal. With the know-how and practice, the understanding of her perspective and their days and walks arranged to make things nice and easy for her, her adopters are doing incredibly well managing her emotions. She will repay them tenfold in love and give them a million reasons to be proud every day.

Being a sighthound it’s in Willow’s nature to chase small furry animals so this must always be taken into account when out walking. She is trained to wear a muzzle which she is happy to do as a precaution and now has her very own custom made one, it was very kindly donated by ‘Minky Muzzles by Waggin n Craftin’!

There are some signs that she may have been actively encouraged to pursue prey animals in her past so she is now learning that her new humans would prefer if she didn’t, the counter – conditioning training she practiced at All4Paws training school is working wonders.

She needed to find a home free from smaller, fast-moving pets like cats, ferrets, poultry, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Willow absolutely loves people and human attention, everyone who has met her adores her. She has no concerns when friends visit in a home environment and greets people nicely on walks.

She hasn’t shown any concerns around children, interacting beautifully with a (heavily supervised) dog savvy 7 year old rescue volunteer who joined in with treat time at the kennels. In the controlled environment of the kennel grounds Willow walked beautifully alongside the child with an adult holding her lead, even still we felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate to test anywhere public where other animals may appear unexpectedly due to her selective reactivity. Overall we decided to look for child free homes and the perfect one came along!

Willow is very food orientated which is a big help with training, she loves liver paste in her Kong toy, Smart Bones and sausages the best! (These were sent to her via her Amazon Wishlist by kind people such as yourself when she was a kennel resident)

She also loves long walks and long naps, spending time with her favourite people and trips in the car.

Initially Willow was reactive to all other dogs and was assessed as needing to be the only dog at home. After 8 months her rehabilitation plan progressed to playing off lead in an enclosed area with 6 other dogs whilst muzzled!

The next stage was for her to practice without her muzzle and then to move forward to sessions in a home-type environment to find out if she can be rehomed with other dogs.

After daily practice and lots of introductions, all of which were documented in her video diaries she found the perfect canine companion who has welcomed her into his home.

Such an incredible turnaround for WIllow!

All dogs are reactive, it simply means that they respond to things in their environment. The term ‘reactive dog’ is commonly used to describe those whose response to certain things has become problematic in some way.

In Willow’s case, if she gets overwhelmed her reaction can involve dancing and shouting at strange dogs. This is usually just in public but she can also feel overwhelmed by views out of windows in the home too.

The most extreme reaction Willow has displayed is a rare one, there is usually a long build up of clear stress signals which gives ample opportunity for her handler to take her back to more comfortable surroundings and avoid it altogether. She will sometimes ‘redirect’, which means she nips her lead and handler through frustration. This has caused bruising in the past but not broken skin, she now happily wears her muzzle anywhere where other dogs may be around which prevents any nipping from occurring. Willow is learning new coping skills for the rare situation she gets this upset and we are thrilled with her progress but her confidence could be easily knocked, especially if her handler’s confidence takes a hit.

For this reason it was imperative that her adopters could be sure that if a situation like that arose they won’t ever become nervous of her. If you have experienced ‘reactive dogs’ before you may agree that she is currently right at the lower end of the spectrum, nevertheless we needed to ensure that her adopters had the ability to help her and stay calm in a high stress situation.

Her adopters needed to be people who wouldn’t feel embarrassed by her performance, able to proactively move her away and praise her for calming down when the concern is out of sight. Sometimes a quiet walk doesn’t go to plan and an unavoidable, unexpected, out of control dog may come into the mix. This problem is sadly more prominent than ever for ‘reactive dog ‘owners, especially with so many undersocialised lockdown pups being allowed off lead without having first learned recall.

Willow’s adopters have been fully clued up on how to choose the best walking spots and how to help her to a safer area if she begins to feel overwhelmed. Everything is managed very calmly and simply, her training plan was practiced thoroughly before her pre- adoption settling in period began. It is becoming increasingly easier to manage as their bond strengthens, she is now thoroughly enjoying attending additional weekly group classes at her local dog training school,

Willow’s progress is proof that positive reinforcement really does work!

Settling Willow into a home wasn’t easy at first,  a set procedure was created with her foster family that we knew would work with tweaks added to fit her new lifestyle. It involved consistency from everyone in her life and constant communication with the team to make sure any signs of stress behaviours are nipped in the bud before they grow.

When it came to starting her pre-adoption settling period she had already visited her new home numerous times. We predicted that there could be a week of sleepless nights but her adopters stuck to the plan and she learned her routine in no time!

Her adopters were advised that one of her stress behaviours is spending time at the window at night when she can hear wildlife, if she is consistently praised for coming away she will settle but if she is left she will escalate to barking. We are thrilled to report that the use of frosted window stickers eliminated Willow’s concern and they have been practicing her calming methods daily too.

The hard work and preparation paid off!

Willow has separation anxiety in a home environment but finds it much easier to settle when left alone in a kennel environment. This may be down to how she was raised or perhaps the routine she has come to expect.

We are thrilled to report that the use of ‘Dr Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation’ has made a huge impact on Willow’s thoughts about spending time alone. She is now comfortable in a different room to her humans overnight and feels comfortable remaining in her bed when they move between rooms throughout the day.

In time she may be able to build up to feeling happy for her humans to both leave the house without her but she will continue with baby steps to achieve that, follow our social media pages for continued updates!

There will be times when Willow’s adopter needs to attend appointments and she can’t come along, for this there are a few options:

  • The first would be care from a trusted family member or friend who can join in with training classes to make sure they’re well equipped.
  • There are many registered professionals who can look after dogs in their own homes, all of Willow’s carers and trainers are in her support group chat so the the consistency and teamwork is right across the board.
  • The third option is occasional kenelling, there is an option for day stays and sleepovers at facilities she is happy at and she is always pleased to visit. For adopters further away we need to visit and approve the kennels they plan to use and establish a rapport with their kennel team, but in this case Willow can go back to her old kennel if she needs a short stay which is great news.

It’s with thanks to your donations & support we are able to continue rescuing, rehabilitating & rehoming, giving a new life to more dogs just like our beautiful Willow.