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2021 - An incredible journey for our rehabilitation dogs

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

What a year it’s been! We’ve made so much progress with some of our rehabilitation dogs that it’s still a bit of a surprise when we watch them on the group walk. Thanks to real dedication on the part of Laura and the volunteers most of these dogs are now available for adoption. Here are some of their stories.


Flash is 7 years old and arrived in 2019. These days Flash has a rather aristocratic air about him, trotting along on his lead with head held high. Things were very different a few years ago. He was terribly nervous and suspicious, didn’t like to be touched and took to hiding in various rooms. We worked on building his confidence and towards the end of 2019 he began to relax enough to venture out into the paddock and mix with the other dogs. The volunteers were another issue. Reach out your hand to touch him and he’d duck, deftly moving out of the way. We continued to work on his confidence, using puzzle games and general training, and desensitising him to the lead. We spent much of the year doing lead practice and he eventually became more accustomed to having the lead on. Unfortunately half way through the year there was a setback. One of the disadvantages of a kennel free rescue is that all the dogs mix together and this can sometimes lead to disagreements. It seems one of the newer dogs scared Flash and he retreated to the kitchen. And there he stayed, refusing to venture far and taking a backward step in his training. BUT we persevered and despite one or two further setbacks he finally began walking up the road on the group walk. Not only that, he loves it, has good recall and is, on the whole, impeccably behaved.

In fact, he’d be the perfect dog for a house proud family, he manages to keep himself clean when all the other dogs are covered in mud and delicately jumps over any puddles that are in the way. Can’t get those pristine paws wet!


Angel also came to us over 2 years ago. Like Flash, she was very nervous of her surroundings when she first arrived and kept well away from the volunteers. Gradually she settled in but remained wary of being touched. She would accept treats but scurried off if there was even a hint of contact. Her confidence grew and she began to play. She had a few favourite volunteers and she would allow them to stroke her but generally continued to be nervous of people. Trying to get a collar or lead on was virtually impossible, despite many hours spent lead training. However this year everything changed, with some outside help (thank you Kelly) we managed to get Angel walking on the lead.

She remains somewhat anxious, but the improvement is astounding. A calm, consistent approach with plenty of encouragement (and treats) has given her the confidence to join and enjoy the group walks. We had thought that she would become one of our sanctuary dogs and call Holbrook her forever home. Now she is reserved and will hopefully go to her new home soon.


Sissy joined us from a foster home about 2 years ago as the fosterer could no longer keep her. She was a little subdued at first as she’d been with her foster mum for over 3 years and had developed a strong bond. She was rather more reserved than expected but she soon relaxed – to a point. She was happy to be stoked by some volunteers and accepted treats but there was no way we were getting a lead on her. The lead work began. We let the dog choose to put their head through the loop in return for a treat. Sissy became more relaxed with the lead being put on and taken off. She was still particular about who could make a fuss of her, some volunteers couldn’t get close. Then about a year ago she began approaching people and nudging us with her bottom for a stroke (you take what you can get!). The change in her was heart warming. She’d run around, doing a little dance and running up to people for cuddles. Her lead training progressed and she started taking a few steps with it on. Over the next six months progress was slow with a few setbacks (getting through the gate turned out to be particularly daunting) but eventually we managed to get Sissy up the lane, walking on the lead AND, more importantly, she was happy to do so. She is now a regular on the daily walks and is up for rehoming. It also appears that she’s pretty keen on the boys, first Bouncer, she now seems to have transferred her affection to Solly. Evenings usually find them cuddled up, nuzzling each other. Well actually Sissy is more of the nuzzler with Solly soaking up the adoration as though it is no more than he deserves.


And lastly Poppy, the only one who is not up for adoption but who, arguably, has made the most significant progress. Poppy spent much of her earlier life in a small cage. When she arrived at Holbrook she was petrified. She spent many, many months hiding in a cubbyhole and the majority of volunteers didn’t even know she existed. She waited until everyone was out of the way before venturing out. Gradually she came out more during the day but would soon scuttle back to her hiding place when anyone got too close. She was used to being confined and that’s where she felt safe. We respected that and just gave her time. We have posted on facebook regularly in recent months, providing updates on her progress, a sign of our delight in seeing her so happy and relaxed.

One of our most patient volunteers is trying to get her used to touch, a very messy exercise involving all the dogs favourite treat, pate! Most of the time she mingles with the other dogs, even tackles a few puzzles, before retiring to her place in the kitchen. No longer hidden but right in the middle of things (and woe betide any dog that thinks about taking her spot!).

It’s hard to put into words what this has meant to us but there have been a few tears along the way, particularly on the first walk when we were accompanied by Flash, Angel and Sissy.

❗️❗️❗️ Did you know that Holbrook's future is uncertain! Read more about it on our 'The Future' page

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