Second Chance Stories: Becca & Susan

Second Chance Stories Becca & Susan

Meet the next of our Second Chance Stories here on The Dogvine: Becca & Susan (@snaughtysusan), a rescue dog from Bosnia. Becca & Susan live in London, and this is Susan’s story about how she came to give Susan a second chance…

Tell us about yourself…

My name is Becca, and I live in East London (Hackney) with my partner, Pietro. We live in a flat with no garden or outdoor space. We have a rescue cat from Morocco, our Susan from Bosnia and foster dogs on a regular basis. Currently, we have a foster called Davy from Morocco.

Becca & Susan at home

I am a freelance Brand Strategist, so I work from home full-time. I often bring Susan to projects like photoshoots or basic consultations when they occur. I also work part-time with dog and cat shelters abroad on their branding and marketing strategies. I work with them to develop adoption campaigns for long time residents or to launch new fundraisers. When I have the funds, I visit and create months’ worth of content and then act as a flight volunteer or travel foster on my way back to London (that’s how Davy, our current foster, and our last foster, Lucy, from Bosnia, came to London).

Second Chance Stories Susan from Bosnia - Photo by The Artful Dog

Tell us about your rescue dog…

Susan (aka Big Potato or Suze) is a 6.5-year-old rescue dog from My Paws Bosnia. She is referred to as a Serbian Hound in the area she was rescued from, but most people think she looks like some sort of bloodhound or hunting dog. A lot of people say she looks like a giant sausage dog, which is what we refer to her as now (ironically). We’ve had her for just over two years now.

Susan before being rescued

Susan lived in rural Bosnia outside of Brčko for 2-3 years. She was sighted wandering around on farmland and around highways that connect Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia over the span of a few years, but she was terrified of people and would run at the sight of them.

3 years ago, she became pregnant during the late fall and wound up giving birth to puppies (4 or 5) on farmland. The farmer called My Paws, asking them to remove Susan and her puppies from their property as they didn’t like dogs and would dispose of them themselves if needed.

Susan before being rescued from My Paws Bosnia

Vesna, who runs My Paws, immediately went to pick them up. Susan wouldn’t approach adults so the young son of the the farmer had to lure her into a slip lead with food. She had mange above one of her eyes and road rash on her back legs, likely from being hit by a motorcycle or car at some point.

Her puppies were immediately adopted to the UK, but Susan waited for a year in the shelter. She was still terrified of people and becoming increasingly depressed in the shelter, so they sent her to a foster in Bournemouth.

What made you decide to rescue?

Second Chance Stories Pietro, Becca & Susan

While my family bought from breeders when I was growing up, I had always been against it. I didn’t understand how people could buy puppies born for capital when shelters (and streets) around the world were brimming with dogs, desperate for homes. But it wasn’t my choice then. I wanted to adopt, but, until a few years ago, I wasn’t in a stable enough living situation to have a dog of my own. During more stable work periods, while I was studying and working, I would foster to fill that doggy-sized hole.

My partner had never had a dog before and had no clue what to expect. He actually suggested we adopt a dog after a few years of being together because he knew how much I missed my dogs back home (in the US). He also was in support of rescuing as he had been exposed to a lot of strays while growing up and traveling with his family. He’s big on second chances and wanted to give a stray or rescue a second chance at a happy life.

Susan in Scarborough

How did you choose your rescue dog?

We had been wanting to adopt a dog for quite some time but struggled to get approved by local rescues, like Battersea because we didn’t have a garden. We started looking into other options, and adopting from abroad seemed like the most fitting choice because those rescues were more focused on finding dedicated families and less concerned with how many square metres their gardens were. 

We went back and forth with 3 different rescue organisations abroad about a few different dogs, trying to figure out if we were the right fit for the dogs they suggested. In the end, none seemed like a great match. Eventually, one of the rescuers sent pictures of three dogs who had just come over from Bosnia to foster homes. Two were puppies, and one, Susan, was more mature and looked terrified. We knew the puppies would get adopted immediately, so we asked to meet Susan (then Emie). And that was it! We spent two days getting to know her and drove her home to London the second night.

Susan in Haggerston

Tell us about the rescue/shelter you adopted from

Susan is from My Paws Bosnia. My Paws is a small rescue in Brčko run by a woman named Vesna. She runs the whole organisation together with her husband and their in-laws. She has two young daughters (under 3) who are at the shelter with her every day.

She traded her future career and life abroad to move home and start the shelter, which now houses 65 dogs, max and about 10 cats. She works extremely hard to make sure the dogs and cats are well-fed and taken care of. They’re constantly building new structures, repainting, adding hay to enclosures for warmth, etc. Her life revolves around keeping them happy and healthy.

She manages to get 2-3 of her dogs sent abroad (EU and UK) most months, and every once in a while, someone local adopts one of her dogs or cats. Her goal is to “clean house” on a yearly basis, excluding some resident dogs who, due to their breed and size, won’t be adopted outside of Bosnia.

She also organises spay, neuter and release clinics multiple times per year. In addition, she goes door to door to locals with dogs and cats who are allowed to wander and offers to spay them free of charge. This is a constant effort as many of the street dogs in the area come from roaming dogs and cats with owners.

Second Chance Stories Susan 5

We actually went to visit the shelter with Susan in January. We were able to volunteer for 2 weeks and bring a foster back with us. Susan was able to see her old buddies (some of which are still there, unfortunately), and we were able to see where she came from and understand why she is the way that she is.

How easy was it to get your rescue dog to the UK?

Easy! After we filled out our application, we were given a few options who were already being fostered. We went to meet her, decided to adopt, and drove her home. We paid the adoption fee via bank transfer (online), all of which went back to My Paws to enable another dog to travel abroad, and that was it.

What did you think about rescue dogs before adopting?

Second Chance Stories Susan from My Paws Bosnia - Photo By The Artful Dog

We both have soft spots for rescue animals, in general. But my partner had no experience aside from meeting my dogs back home and seeing videos on The Dodo.

What do you think about rescue dogs after adopting?

I still love them and would only ever rescue, as opposed to buying. My partner now adores every rescue dog he meets and is very supportive of rescue work and fostering. He now knows the challenges that come with adopting a dog that has lived as a stray and experienced trauma, so he is even more understanding and always trying to convince people to go the route of rescuing or adopting a dog in need of rehoming. Since adopting Susan, we have both become a lot more involved with various rescue organisations abroad (Morocco and Bosnia). We also foster regularly now as we didn’t know the value before adopting. If Susan hadn’t gone to a foster home, she’d probably still be at the shelter, so she’s given us the inspiration to try and do the same for dogs like her when we can. 

Susan with her foster sister

What is your message to anyone who is thinking of getting a rescue?

Make sure that you’re willing to put in the work and not just infatuated with the idea of “rescuing” an animal. I think social media and accounts like The Dodo can create this idea that rescuing will result in instant gratification and a quick bond. Sometimes, it does work this way, but often, there are many unexpected challenges to overcome as you get to know the unique character of your dog. For us, the adoption process itself was easy, but it took a lot of work and stress (working through reactivity to people and dogs) to get to where we are today. And though I want to demystify adopting a rescue, I think setting real expectations are so important in order to avoid dogs being passed between adopters and fosters over and over again.

Susan enjoying her new home

Susan was my first rescue who was terrified of every sound, person and animal. Trying to help her feel comfortable in a chaotic city like London wasn’t easy, but throughout the process, she taught me to slow down and to nourish what I am feeling, even if that’s fear or anxiety. We spend so much time just sitting together outside, observing the world around us, which is something that we too often forget to do living in a city like London. This always calms her down if she’s feeling especially jumpy or stressed by other dogs. 

Second Chance Stories Becca & Susan playing

What are your favourite things to do in London with your rescue dog?

Susan loves public transportation (overground and bus), so it’s always a joy to take her anywhere on trains and buses. She’s just so excited when a big, red bus pulls up and opens its doors to her.

She loves the Regent’s Canal so every week, we do a long walk starting at London Fields to Victoria Park via the canal. She loves checking out the houseboats and watching ducks, so I try to take her on this walk, specifically on weekdays, to avoid bike congestion on the canal. This way, we can take our time and even sit on the edge of the canal. I love to see her sniffing the boats and birds. She’s just so happy in that environment! And there are tons of great dog-friendly places to stop along the way.

This is oddly specific, but shortly after we adopted Susan, we met the owner of Rouge (Lei) through some work I was doing. We would often stop by Rouge on our weekend walks to help Susan socialise (this is when she was terrified of people) in an indoor setting. Rouge is very peaceful and the team is very gentle and welcoming to dogs. Susan became obsessed with going to Rouge and now expects any overground trip to take us there. 

Susan in Bluebells

So now, as a tradition, every Friday morning, we walk from London Fields through Hackney Downs to Stoke Newington. Susan leads the walk there from our doorstep as she’s determined to get to her friends at Rouge. We go before they open, so when we arrive at the door to wait for Lei, Susan starts standing on her back legs and jumping with excitement. She doesn’t do this for anyone else.

Stoke Newington, in my opinion, is one of the best places to take dogs. There are so many dog-friendly shops and cafes and two great parks: Clissold and Abney Cemetery. We love to shop around, get dog ice cream, and end the day by sitting in one of the parks and watching people and dogs go by.

Second Chance Stories: Becca & Susan

Second Chance Stories Becca & Susan 4

Thank you, Becca & Susan, for sharing your Second Chance Story; we love how Susan has blossomed so much from when she was in the shelter and been instrumental in your & Pietro’s growing love of rescue dogs.

We also foster regularly now as we didn’t know the value before adopting. If Susan hadn’t gone to a foster home, she’d probably still be at the shelter, so she’s given us the inspiration to try and do the same for dogs like her when we can“.

It really is much harder to visualise the future and adopt a dog who’s looking terrified in a shelter (and who may be overseas) than when you meet them more relaxed here in a home in the UK, so please consider fostering if you can’t adopt right now. Remember, fostering saves two lives…the life of the dog you welcome into your home and the dog who now has a spot in the shelter instead of being left on the street or, worse, euthanised.

Rescue Dogs of London

In the days that led up to our inaugural Rescue Dogs of London & Friends Meetup in Kensington Gardens this past Sunday, 12 May, together with Miss Darcy’s Adventures, we have shared Second Chance stories and will share their stories on Rescue Dogs of London until the week of National Rescue Dog Day on the 20th May.

Rescue Dogs of London & Friend Sponsors

With thanks to our Rescue Dogs of London Event Sponsors:

  • WagworksWagWorks is the happy place for city dogs. Dog daycare, dog grooming, training and vet services in West London.
  • Biome9Gut microbiome test and health report for dogs. Unlock the complex biology of your dog’s inner world using cutting-edge AI.
  • PAWD DRINKS: PAWD DRINKS is a range of preventative and functional liquid health supplements for dogs scientifically designed to target common health-related issues.
  • The Rockster: Rockster quite simply has established a new standard in calibre of ingredients, dog nutrition and palatability never seen before in the industry. Hailed as “more than just food”, Rockster is the only Bio-organic dog food in the world that is certified as a superfood in its own right, having transformed the lives of many dogs.
  • Raven Imagery: Renowned dog photographer Andrew Richardson from Raven Imagery captures stunning portraits of pups against a backdrop of the capital and beyond.
  • Darcy’s BakeryDarcy’s Bakery is an artisanal dog bakery specialising in catering for parties, events and brand collaborations in Central London.

And the wag-tastic goodie bag partners: Beautiful Joes, Caboodle, Wunderdog Magazine, James & Ella, Pawer Water and Project Harmless

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