Dressage School

Introducing Shadow

companion happy dog meet shadow national pet day shadow the dogs trust west highland terrier Apr 11, 2022

Last week we welcomed Shadow into our home. He already had a place in our hearts after we met and got to know him at The Dogs Trust through their Adoption Programme. 
New readers may not know the story of Archie our first Westie who Mum met through work or Freddie who we heard about in a dress shop. Mum was wearing a green sweatshirt with an embroidered Westie. The owner said “My friend has just welcomed a litter of Westies you must have one…” Archie had been rather lonely and they ended up being great mates. Losing them in turn though five years apart was truly devastating. Neptune too grieved the loss of his dearest friend. 
I had been looking but not looking for a dog and after losing Neptune I paused my search. I was reading my emails and stopped to read the Dogs Trust message about Dogs in Ukraine. Whilst on the website, I idly wondered if there might be any Westies needing a home.. they are rarely on The Dogs Trust list and everyone is looking. 
There was a Dogs Trust advert sometime ago where miniature toys represented Dogs searching for their owners. The scene would then show the potential owners finding the toy and travelling to The Dogs Trust to be connected to the dog that was waiting. It made me cry every time. I’m welling up typing this! I have a miniature toy made by Joules that I picked up in a tack shop, back when I had Archie and Freddie. I always used to wonder if somewhere that Westie was indeed waiting for me? 


Not long after I’d applied for Shadow and to my utter surprise I got a phone call. Asking me if I’d like to meet Shadow after hearing his history and if I could make three visits to start with to see if he liked us? 
At 14 months old he was quite shy, possibly confused and understandably wary. We agreed that our first meeting would be a walk where we tagged along. This went so well we went into the real life room and sat down to see what happened. He accepted both Mum and I and we promised him we’d be back in a couple of days. We were sad to leave him behind and hopeful that he might like us on the second visit? 
He remembered us and we played a hearty game of chasing the ball around the Astro turf and he bought it back to us in equal measures. Full of tail wagging and Joie de vivre! It was time to go to the real life room and find out if he was happy to be alone with us.. An hour flew past. We continued the playtime and clearly tired, he played a quieter game on the sofa with Mum before falling asleep. 

We discussed with the team bringing him home on the next visit providing he passed the vet check. That was as nail biting as a trot up and we couldn’t be there .. It was a long drive, though now familiar after two visits. Would he want to come with us? Would he like his dog bed and travel crate? Would he remember us? We were treated with a freshly bathed and fluffy Westie who was wagging his tail and full of beans. He accepted the situation and whilst we could tell he was anxious he wasn’t distressed. Watching him explore our home and his garden was brilliant. Mum and I were more overwhelmed than he was. We were tired too and uncertain. We all looked at each other and then he drifted off to sleep on the sofa next to me. When he woke it was playtime and he quickly learnt to jump up and down from the sofa, established his communication for “I’d like to go out” and “I need to go out look at the garden” and “I need to go out to toilet.” Thank goodness we already spoke some advanced Westie. He drank well and eating was no problem. 
He has the typical Westie ears that act like radar for anything that moves! 

He settled quickly into a routine, our lifestyle is not complicated and soon became predictable for him. Shadow started the week visiting a coffee shop at a quiet time in a private room, made friends with the baristas and by day three was wagging his tail and squeaking enthusiastically when he recognised our destination. His travel crate takes up the entire back seat and in true Westie style he’s fascinated by sun spots, shadows and the gentle movement of the car seems to soothe him. Perhaps that’s how he got his name? It is a little sad that we will never know and that he can’t tell his early story. On the other hand he’s writing new chapters with us. 


Car travel is acceptable and he has started learning the area, already huffing when Tesco fuel station was closed and we had to detour to Sainsbury. Possibly realising tea time would be delayed. Watching him learn about new places that equal walk or leg stretch is joyful. He sniffs the air the same way as Archie, Freddie and his Highland Ancestors and is very aware of things that move through the undergrowth. 

I’m confident that we can build a sustainable relationship and hope that Shadow really does believe we qualify as his forever home. Adoption is not a fairytale however positively I craft the blog, of course there have been moments when I wondered if I had done the right thing. It takes time to build any relationship, his triggers are baffling. One day the hoover is fine the next it surprised him and he wants to attack and those cute little eyes speak volumes of his fear that we might react in a way that he doesn’t like. This is perhaps where years of animal experience comes in handy. Clear boundaries based on positive reinforcement, choices, respect, unconditional positive regard, patience, tolerance, acceptance, recognition that neither of us know how to communicate yet and perhaps most importantly a sense of humour. Shadow like all animals I have known and loved really appreciates play and laughter. We have our phone a friend in The Dogs Trust post adoption helpline. We haven’t needed it yet and every morning we are greeted with a waggy tail and gratitude that he sleeps right through. He likes sleep, I think after the routine of kennels our enthusiasm for play is wearing him out. He’s young, he’ll get fitter and we can only hope he accepts our need to nap later on!