Charlies Story

The RSPCA have recently released figures for 2006 that indicates that cruelty cases are still on the increase despite the much trumpeted run up to the Animal Welfare Act.

The cases of cruelty investigations, of which in the majority are cases of neglect are up a hefty 10.5%, however the actual convictions are down 20%. Which really does not make much sense?

These cases are typified by the plight of Spot, a Dalmatian owned by Sarah Ann Johnson from Cleethorpes, who pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to her dog.
She was banned from keeping dogs for 10 years and given a cursory fine.

The dog was found in an emaciated condition, tethered on a short lead, the ground around the dog was strewn with faeces. The dog had not been allowed contact with humans and other dogs and will probably have behavioural issues for the remainder of its life.

There are many aspects of cruelty; some are more horrific than others. Like the dog that had to eat its dead companions to survive, the owner Susan Poynter, 30, from Peckham was given a derisory 150-hour community punishment order and banned from keeping an animal for 10 years.

She stated when her partner went into to hospital she could no longer stay at the premises they had shared, and just simply moved out and left the three dogs to starve. They were there for many weeks before the smell drove neighbours to complain.

All cases of cruelty are unacceptable but some are not just stupidity and ignorance, but outright sadism. Engin Karaaslan from Tottenham, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to his five-month old puppy Rocky when he appeared before Highgate Magistrates. The court was told that the dog was found with blood-soaked stumps where his ears should have been. Karaaslan claimed he had cut the ears off because one of them was hanging off after a fight with another animal a week previously. He stated he had used a pair of household scissors to remove the ears.

There are many forms of cruelty and abuse, some are less obvious than others as these may form mental torture, and in some cases the neglect is just stupidity and ignorance. However in other cases the injuries caused are because of a sick mind.

Many serial killers have a history of animal abuse before turning their evil actions onto humans. Let’s face it, if you can inflict pain and suffering onto an innocent helpless animal, then you are capable of anything. I read somewhere that the murderers of Jamie Bulger were abusing animals when they were very young children.

As a behavioural therapist, I get to see the fallout and aftermath of these very sad cases. This leads me neatly on to Charlie. Charlie once lived with his brother, but his brother didn’t survive, he died of his injuries. Charlie is a Jack Russell/Dachund cross; he looks like a stretched limo version of a smooth coated Jack Russell, with Queen Anne legs and a very cheeky grin.

However that grin was not always apparent. From the age of 3 months onwards Charlie and his sibling brother was subjected to constant abuse from one member of the family. Apparently he had a drug habit that the parents were not aware of and because of the habit, anger, frustration and violence spilled over onto the puppies.

After every attack these dogs were taken to the Vets, and the explanation for the injuries ranged from the dog was dropped when bathing or it jumped off the balcony or was hit by a bike. The parents paid for all the treatment believing the stories of their 17 year old offspring.

Charlie’s sibling died of a brain haemorrhage, therefore this person’s spite and vindictiveness fell on the one remaining dog. The injuries that this little puppy suffered over this period were horrendous. It included his leg being fractured and snapped out of the hip socket, all his ribs systematically broken at least three times. At one point he had black eyes and blood coming out of almost every orifice and a head swollen to almost twice the normal size. He has pins in one of his hips.

In the end the Vets and the nurses had very strong suspicions that these injuries were not accidents, and confronted the family who were in total denial and did not believe that their child would ever do such an act.

One brilliant vet nurse started a campaign to try and get the dog away from this family. On occasions she would drive to the house and sit outside crying, that is how concerned she was for the young dog. Finally poor Charlie was so traumatised that he could not cope with humans, he defecated and urinated and sometimes vomited when people approached him, such was his fear of further pain that he withdrew into himself.

Because of the toileting problems the family decided it was all too messy and agreed to allow Charlie to be taken in by the nurse who was so concerned about him. She cared for him and nursed him back to health at her own home and at her own expense. After meeting him and hearing his awful story I decided to treat and rehome him with me.

He was suffering from what I suppose you could call the doggy equivalent of post traumatic stress disorder and was terrified of anything and everything. I am not a fan of mainstream drugs such as Prozac, Selgian and other types of psychotropic drugs. I believe they just mask the problem rather than help in a curative capacity.

I much prefer herbal and natural remedies. Some of the flower remedies can be helpful as can skullcap and valerian and serotonin, up lifters such as vitamin b6. I am afraid the jury is firmly out on homeopathic and the crystal and distance healing brigade. I am totally unconvinced as to the veracity of these alternative therapies.

Charlie is one of life’s survivors, he has a depth of spirit that is uplifting. I took it very gently at first gradually introducing him to positive and friendly people, who all had great treats (supplied by me) I would sit in quiet areas of our local park and encourage people to quietly approach but initially not make eye contact, and throw a treat in Charlie’s direction.

This progressed to sitting outside of pubs and cafe’s then after about 2 months we progressed to the inside of quiet places, then onto busier and slightly louder establishments. Each visit was carefully orchestrated. I would go there first and explain the situation and supply all the people with treats and told them not to loom over or crowd him or make too much eye contact. If the place was rowdy or raucous I gave it a miss. This also progressed to games of fetch, of which he is a fanatic and will play all day.

It is surprising how many people are willing to help in these cases when you explain why you are doing it and give them a brief history of the dog’s background.

It took six months of careful desensitisation and each day you could see the confidence growing, the tail starting to lift then a slight wag was apparent. He has now made a full recovery, his confidence has soared, once again he loves and trusts people, his tail a constant blur is testament to his ability to cope with everything life has thrown at him. So despite a traumatic start he has overcome his horrific start in life and is now one of the nicest and most loving dogs I have ever owned.

I will never ever rehome him, he is with me for the remainder of his days. He sees me as a sort of anchor and gets somewhat anxious if I have to leave him for long periods of time even though he has the other dogs and my family.

This year he went to Crufts as a PAT dog and is now the resident PAT dog at the “Shooting Stars Children’s Hospice” where as they say “every moment counts”. The children there have created posters and drawings of him; he brings untold pleasure to their lives. The pleasure he gets out of it is also apparent, his love of people beams out of him and his adoration of children is almost incandescent.

Unfortunately not all dogs are so genetically sound that would allow them to overcome such a horrid beginning. Even with an ideal environment, early socialisation and the perfect owner, this may not be enough to help some of these hereditary unstable dogs. Their genetic temperament can and will determine how much improvement in personality and social skills the dog can achieve. But just take it one step at a time, do not rush, give the dog time to come to terms with the positive aspects of life and you will see some improvements in any dog.

If you were uplifted and at times saddened by Charlie’s story, then you may wish to make a small donation to The Shooting Star Children’s Hospice. This wonderful hospice needs all the help it can get

It is always prudent to discuss any medication herbal or otherwise with your Vet before embarking on any treatment program

Visit Stan Rawlinson (Doglistener) Web Site



Stan Rawlinson (Doglistener) is a Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer who has owned and worked dogs for over 25 years, starting with Gundogs then moving on to the behavioural and obedience side of Pet Dogs in 1996. He now has a successful practice covering London, Surrey and Middlesex.

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Submitted: 15 Jan, 2008 (Edited 13 Feb, 2010)
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