Winston first came through our doors in 2016 by chance. The Bulgarian bus arrived with our intake and we were there and then asked to look after him for a couple of weeks for the rescue who had brought him over until they could pick him up. We had no choice as he had no other option.
The only dog I’ve ever been frightened of…
When he got off the bus I nearly had a heart attack myself. I had never seen such an enormous dog. He was also very frightened, underweight and untrusting of anything. We were handed some sort of sedative, I assume, and told – if he’s funny with you just give him that. Well…. Looking at him from a far sitting in the corner of the garden with his blood red eyes looking like something from a horror film I refused to even go in the garden (in case he was “funny” with us). Lou had little fear and spent the day winning his trust. So much so that his loyalty showed immediately. Lou went out onto the main field so Winston just takes down the garden fence in a few bites to get to her! I watched from the kitchen window (in horror to be honest). It didn’t make me feel any more confident about him.
Being huge and skinny, having had his ears and tail cut off he had been bred (we learned later) as a Moscow Watchdog (I’m glad I didn’t know this at the time) and villagers in Bulgaria said he was cursed by the Gypsy’s and were trying to hunt him down to kill him. The vet actually saved him – using a dart gun as he wasn’t sure if he was people friendly but all reports of him playing with tiny dogs and everything showed he was fine. He was prepped for travel. We knew none of this, nor that he was coming to us for a bit until his big self got off the bus that day.
Fast forward a couple of weeks I had watched him and overcome my fear – realising his true self was the most misunderstood ,gentlest soul who had had horrific treatment continually and just wanted to feel safe and like someone was on his side. He was a pleasure to have around and loved it here playing with all the dogs, even our big ones seemed like tiny dogs next to Winst. When his people came to pick him up we were so worried they wouldn’t “get him”. We warned don’t misunderstand this boy and don’t be hard with him (some people think big dogs mean they need dominant controlling owners), he needs gentle, kind treatment as he can easily be misunderstood. His fears needed to be managed and he was going away from the place he’d bonded with and learned to feel safe. We were teary but glad he had somewhere to go hoping he would be safe for life.
Months later we hear Winston is in doggie prison ..
After months of him going were shattered to learn that Winston’s owner had been using a shock collar on him!!! Need I say more!
While out of a walk the owner had activated the shock collar when Winston went over to see a dog – which resulted in Winston attacking the dog (never once has he ever shown aggression to dogs). I cannot imagine the fear and confusion he felt. As a result, Winston was putting in kennels and a destruction order was put on him and it was taken to court. Noone would go into him he was showing fear of people in the kennels (no surprise).
To learn this had been what had become of him broke us. It was looking unlikely he would get let off. We got involved to help save Winston again. We had to prove that he was dog social from the time we had spent with him so sent tons of videos and pictures of him with the other dogs and we also told the court that we would take him back into our care if the destruction was lifted.
Someone was looking down on him that day as against what was expected Winston was released and as agreed came back into our care. I personally could not have coped with the injustice had that been his end there would have been no more tragic a story. Anyway – once “free” the rescue who brought him over didn’t want anything to do with him anymore and made us sign him over so there would be no come back on them… not a problem for us.
Winston was almost broken..
We were so happy that Winston was allowed to live but what we didn’t bank on was the change in him from the boy who had walked out of our door months before. The mental damage that the shock collar, the time in kennels etc was heart breaking to see, he was now wary of everything and he didn’t trust people at all (no surprise after all he had been put through). He must have been so afraid – no one was there for him – it literally breaks me to think about it now. Many months of rehabilitation, time and patience to try and undo the psychological damaged which he had been left with, thanks to many people who helped with his care, walking him, helping him realise not all people are bad.
Winston enjoyed the simple things in life. A lot of people think that because of his size he was a big confident dog but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He was just a scared boy who needs lots and lots of love and reassurance.
Winston loved nothing more than snuggling up with you for you to hold him tight and show him some tlc. He would play with you for hours and give him a teddy or a bone and its was like all his Christmases come at once. He was a forever puppy at heart.
That this could have been allowed to happen to him is a disgrace we are just glad he got his third chance. All he asked for is a place he feels safe and someone to love him and we spent the rest of his time doing just that.
Earlier this year after weight loss and lack of appetite we had to go to a specialist. Due to his “breeding” – he had a common heart condition that meant he would die without medication. His meds saw him restored to full fitness and we were over the moon. We knew it was borrowed time and that one day his heart would give out but he was loving life again and it was as though nothing was wrong. But these over sized dogs have such short lives and once again people are responsible for intervening in nature and causing unnecessary suffering and problems to dogs through breeding.
Sadly in the last few weeks of his life something changed. He went off his food and his weight dropped, he wasn’t himself and became wary of people – we had him booked in on Wednesday (the soonest we could get him in) to see the specialist hoping a change of tablets could sort things. Saturday night and the firework drama saw him fly into a panic and in minutes his heart gave out.
Getting used to their loss…
He will never bound in the door again, running straight to me to bury his big slobbery chops on my lap for head cuddles. He was our big baby who just wanted to be with us.
If I stayed out late he would be there with me, even skipping dinner, till he knew I was in safe. There will never be another like this boy. To think I was afraid of him and what may have happened to him if he hadn’t been saved by that Bulgarian vet that day – well he has taught us more than any other dog. We feel totally honoured to have had him in our lives and will miss him forever. He has left an enormous sized hole in our hearts and in the rescue.
To know we will never watch his clumsy play, get pawed by the biggest paw in the world, have to hide from the flying drool every time he shakes, life won’t be the same now and we need to get used to it.
We know he had so many people who loved him, our team, those who have walked, fostered and just anyone who has really met and spent time with him will realise what an incredible soul he is. We had a handful of people who sponsored him – sending us £1 a week to help with his food and meds bills. Thank you all for that. It means so much – you all enriched his life.
He never knew how big and strong he was, I used to have to go and save him sometimes as the smaller dogs would pick on him (scared by his sheer size) – his friends will miss him and he was fantastic as a play buddy for our bull breeds and Valentino (another lifer here).
He was incredible and he felt loved by us all as I hope these pictures show. His transformation shows the potential these dogs have for moving on and recovering from the abuse. We can learn a lot from them.
He was the most loyal dog I have ever known and I will miss that more than anything.
We never know how much we need them and always think they need us. Once again – left with the shock that we never realise quite just how much we love them and what they mean to our lives, till it’s over.
Please share and sign this petition – hoping at least something to encourage change can be done in his memory.