Two of our team were at Ballinasloe Fair, in October 2022, when they spotted two dogs tied to the bumper of a car, waiting to be sold or exchanged. Both looked scared but as they got closer they could see the look of absolute terror in the eyes of one, as he tried his very best to get under the car away from us. His body shook, he urinated and his eyes continued to look around widely, in sheer terror. After a chat we had both dogs in the care of Galway SPCA. They came back to Heathlawn and were christened Dandelion and Burdock.

Burdock, the smaller springer boy, had broken the hearts of our team that day on Ballinasloe Fairgreen. The sweetest little boy but one with a very deep rooted fear of people, noise, movement and of the world. Over time he started to trust and became a boy who loved a cuddle but who never fully let go of his past. His greatest fear was were people he didn’t know.

He also had no idea how to walk on a lead and, even when he did learn, it was a constant daily struggle to stop him strangling himself (lead or harness) on a walk as he was immensely strong. We knew that Burdock would appeal to many people but we also knew that he needed that extra special person who would understand his traumas and allow him the space and time to adjust. It took us 251 days to find that special someone, but we did find her.

Joyce had put in an application to adopt Burdock after the heartbreaking loss of her previous spaniel boy. Her application was filled with love, compassion and, sadly, heartbreak not just of her dog but Joyce and her family had also suffered the unbearable, unexpected loss of her son too. It was an application that touched our hearts but was Joyce going to be able to see past Burdocks fears?

We arranged a meet and greet for Joyce and Burdock and it went exactly as we predicted, with Burdock sitting in the corner terrified. But Joyce had with her a very special aura, one of peace, tranquility, understanding and, above all, a desire to help heal a heart that appeared as broken as her own. We managed to get Burdock and Joyce out on a walk and again, as predicted, Burdock took off like ten bulls with Joyce being dragged behind due to his strength and the fear to get away from someone he didn’t know. We waited, expecting Joyce to return with a No. Instead what we heard was “Can I come back to visit him again this week?” And back Joyce came, still Burdock trembled in the corner but this time Joyce had already made up her mind. “I’d like to give him a chance if that’s ok?”. The sweetest words for any rescue to hear.

A staff member delivered Burdock to Joyces home. He was a huge flight risk which is something we knew Joyce understood and was prepared for. It wasn’t easy sitting in Joyces home watching Burdock tremble and shake at his new surroundings, new people and it’s at that moment rescuers have to harden their hearts and prepare themselves to walk away from a dog who so desperately wants to come back with them. Never turn around because the fear, confusion and pain in the dogs eyes at that time will break you. This was Burdocks chance.

Joyce kept in touch every day and her positive updates, even though there wasn’t much to be too positive about in those early days, gave us hope. Just keep him safe and lets hope the trust will come, is all we could say. But Joyce saw Burdock’s need to be understood and loved and every day she let him know his heart would heal in time, just like hers would too.

It has been 7 weeks since a terrified Burdock went home to Joyce and they have come such a long way together. There is still a long way to go and maybe this is as far as Burdock will ever come but he now loves and trusts Joyce and her family. Burdock has blossomed and, whilst still a nervous dog, he has had his heart healed by one of lifes kindest, gentlest and most understanding ladies. Two beautiful souls who found one another and who seemed to understand that they needed one another to help them heal and overcome their own versions of grief. Who sat side by side in silence, yet who also spoke to one another with their hearts and, with an understanding of how this journey together, would help them heal ❤️

Joyce, you brought us hope on that first day that good, kind and forgiving people exist and you continue to inspire us with your positive outlook on life. We thank you deeply ❤️