When I went to Paris to help NoToDogMeat greet and acclimatise the first two rescue dogs to arrive in Europe from China since the pandemic I had no idea that we would be adopting one… Writes Hayley O’Keeffe
But when Debbie’s forever home sadly fell through at the last minute, I just couldn’t bear to think of this brave pup not getting the home she deserved.
We live in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, with a home which backs on to the popular Wendover Woods beauty spot, we also have a garden so I knew that like our dogs Lemmy and Evelyn, she would enjoy a life filled with walks, nature and love.
But the move felt scary, while Evelyn is a Romanian rescue, she was brought over as a puppy by the Home2Home charity, so we had no experience of working with a traumatised dog. Plus, our two tiny terriers have a strong bond, and I was afraid that there might be trouble settling in.
But Debbie needed her loving home, and myself and husband Peter were determined to give it a shot.
On the day that Debbie was due to arrive in London I was already there, after manning the NoToDogMeat stand at the Piccadilly Animals Fair the day before. I also work as press officer for NoToDogMeat, and the charity had been booked to appear on GB News the next morning in Paddington.
It was a tense wait at Julia’s house for Debbie to arrive, and together with our beloved ambassa-dog Felicity, she was brought in the NoToDogMeat van on the Eurostar from the Paris accommodation where she had been acclimatising since the move from Beijing.
But when she arrived and I saw Debbie’s smiling face again, I had a sense that everything would be ok, it was also great to see Julia and Felicity and we groomed the dogs for their TV appearance before getting an early night ahead of the breakfast show.
At the television studio Debbie and Felicity were amazing, cool, calm and collected and the slot helped to raise donations for other dogs like them.
Presenter Eamon Holmes absolutely loved meeting the furry pair, and Julia spoke eloquently about the ongoing fight against the dog meat trade, and the rehoming programme.
And then it was time to head back to Wendover, and we all loaded into the van to make the journey to Debbie’s forever home.
While I had been away at the weekend Peter had been preparing the house, and had bought new beds for Lemmy, Evelyn and Debbie which would come out when Debbie arrived as a treat. We had also read up on how best to introduce them, and with butterflies in our stomachs, Julia waited on the meadow behind our house with Felicity and Debbie, while I went to get Peter and the pups to meet their new friend.
Meeting on the meadow was the perfect solution, and Lemmy and Evelyn treated Debbie and Felicity like new friends, we then all walked back home, and when the dogs came inside they didn’t bat an eyelid.
The biggest challenge we have encountered since Debbie has arrived is not Lemmy and Evelyn at all, they all get on like a house on fire and have formed strong and respectful bonds.
The main problem we had initially was Debbie’s complete mistrust of Peter, who to her represented all of the men who had cruelly mistreated her in China during her life in the dog meat trade.
There were some sad moments, Peter is such a dog lover, and is used to our dogs wanting to cuddle and play, but Debbie remained aloof and fearful for nearly two weeks.
The breakthrough came one day, when Peter arrived home from work. Debbie ran to the door with the others to greet him and gave him a lick on the leg. It was a wonderful moment and she has been a happy member of the family ever since.
Debbie absolutely loves her walks in the woods, and makes us laugh by kicking up the dirt after she has had a wee, sometimes all over Lemmy and Evelyn!
Sometimes she just lays in the strangest of places, I am looking forward to winter as she likes to lie in doorways, a perfect draught excluder that may save us some money on heating bills!
But, in all seriousness, we are so excited to give Debbie a new home, and by sharing her story, Debbie will help raise money for other dogs to come over from China too.
Debbie is a very special dog, and it is through the selflessness of NoToDogMeat shelter manager Anna Gan that she is here. Debbie is Anna’s favourite dog, and when the rehoming programme started up again, Anna put aside her own feelings and put our pup forward, knowing she was destined for a better life. Anna is such a hero.
NoToDogMeat currently has 750 dogs in its Chinese shelters, and all of them need loving homes which are not always possible in China because of size restrictions and an unwillingness to adopt.
Debbie absolutely loves Wendover and can’t believe that she now has a garden to laze around in, she also loves a little piece of cheese and having her tummy tickled, a far cry from the Yulin Dog Meat Festival where she was almost slaughtered to become soup.
She loves being the centre of attention at events too, including last weekend’s Aylesbury Vegan Fair, where she wore her NoToDogMeat bandana with pride.
Last week, Debbie also took a big step, when she attended the newly opened Clips grooming parlour at Dobbies Garden Centre in Wendover, where caring stylist Courtney Hearsum provided some much needed coat care, a first experience for the brave canine.
We have been completely blown away by Debbie’s strength and resilience. She has been so willing to try new things, and it’s wonderful to see her interact with her safe and happy life in such a wholehearted way. Courtney at Clips was fantastic and understood that Debbie needed patience and kindness, and now she looks a million dollars.
We have never once regretted adopting Debbie and she is such a kind and loving dog. Meeting dogs like Debbie put a face to the meat trade. These aren’t just ‘meat dogs’ they are loving and faithful companions and they deserve better.
You can find out more about Debbie’s progress on Instagram by going to @debbiehairydog
To find out more about NoToDogMeat, to make a donation and to learn about adoption go to www.NoToDogMeat.com