Dexter is my pride, my comfort, and my joy.
He is my wonderful, incredibly gentle yellow Labrador. He was thirteen months when we first met; his original owner had dumped him at the council pound.
Thankfully, a local 'pound puller' brought him out and he ended up at the rescue All Dogs Matter. I'd been in touch with them and had registered my interest in any Lab boys that came their way.
Within twenty-four hours of Dex arriving with them, I was there ready to meet him. He appeared with a rope lead round his neck, and was way too thin, but he was without a doubt the most aristocratic, beautiful dog I had ever seen in my life.
Once the lead was removed, he raced around the yard, then flopped down beside me and put a gentle paw on my knee. I was smitten. He came home with me later that day and has been by my side ever since.
As Dex hadn't been at the rescue for more than a day, nobody knew that he was in fact a highly reactive dog. Anything 'strange' sent him into a panic - and the list of triggers was seemingly endless. Tall men. Vans. Men carrying things. Anyone wearing a hat. Anyone sitting on the ground. Motorbikes. Horses.
It was impossible to complete even a short walk without Dexter getting spooked and kicking off - his default response to any triggers, was to lunge forward, barking frantically the whole time. As he was already 33kg of pure muscle, this could prove challenging...
I tried three different training classes. Each one was worse than the last. Eventually I decided to research training methods myself and fortunately there was a lot of help available online.
I began doing lots of training with Dex at our local park, which led to other owners coming over and chatting. My dedication to Dexter was probably easy to see and someone asked me if I'd take care of their dog while they were away - and that's how Dexter's Dogs began :)
I was also very lucky to have help from a former police dog handler called Nicki - a fellow Lab owner on an online forum kindly put me in touch with her. Nicki gave me the best piece of advice I've ever heard. When I asked her, during one battle of wills between myself and Dex: 'So who is meant to be in charge here then?' Nicki replied:
'You and your dog are a partnership.'
That made total sense to me and to this day, remains the wisest thing anyone has ever said to me with regard to dogs!
Five years after Dex arrived, I did some fostering for a few rescues. One of my foster dogs was a traumatised, totally shut down young dog from Romania. I have never - before or since - met such a terrified dog. It was heartbreaking.
Pearl was only meant to stay with me for a week - but there was no way she was going anywhere. Seven years on, and I'm happy to say she is now a confident, playful little minx!