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26 October 2020

adopting a puppy via underdog international

alternate title: introducing peanut.

but first, a bit of background. i am the biggest dog person in the world. instead of getting broody for kids in my late twenties and into my thirties, i became broody for dogs. when my mental health really took a battering a few years ago, one of the things that genuinely made me feel better and helped pull me out of my black hole of despair, was spending time with dogs. i joined borrow my doggy (basically a dog-sharing app for those not in london!) and was a friday walker for monty the cavapoo for almost three years before moving away, and leaving my fluffy pal behind.

i've always wanted a dog, but was realistic that it would be a lot of work, and i certainly couldn't have a dog in a small flat in london. i grew up in a country where dogs had big back yards to run around and explore, so didn't think it would be fair on the dog to be in a small flat with no garden. also: time. i had none. none to spare, anyway. i was away from the flat for ten hours a day, four days a week, and travelling at every opportunity. i had absolutely no spare time to look after a dog.

my dream of being a dog owner was put on the backburner until the summer of 2020, which will never fondly be remembered, but will now for me for other reasons.

with the news that we would not be returning to the office until the new year at the very earliest, and even when we did, it wouldn't be full time again, i found myself at home a lot. like, always, actually. and then, with travel restrictions in place, and no-one really to travel with anymore, that too was put on hold. for a moment in time, all my reasons for not getting a dog, had disappeared, and there seemed to be a window of opportunity i'd never had before.

couple that with some new friends i'd made in my neighbourhood this year, all with dogs, all who work from home regardless of global pandemics, i felt that actually.. i had quite a good network of people around me who would support me if i was to consider getting a dog. they would take walks with me, share concerns with me, have doggy dates with me.. and in the case of one in particular, share details of the perfect adoption agency with me.

adoption was always my preferred method of getting a dog. i feel the same way about if i was to have kids one day: there are too many unloved ones already in the world that need homes, so why add to that. i tried all the classic uk charities like rspca, blue cross, battersea, etc, but had no luck. in some cases i just never heard back as they were "too busy" due to covid, and in other cases, was rejected as i don't have a house with a garden. there were too many rules about who and how you could adopt a homeless animal, and being a good person with a big heart and lots of love to give just didn't cut the mustard.

until i came across underdog international.

my friend claire had adopted through the charity last year, and had nothing but glowing things to say. i had a look at the dogs they had available, fell in love with two, and sent off an application form - expecting a similar result to the last few times. except this time, the response was far from similar.

with a week of my application, i received an email from eve - the head of adoptions - thanking me for my application to adopt, and telling me i was an ideal candidate for their program. i don't think i have ever been an ideal candidate for anything in my life, but it felt good to hear those words in this scenario, let me tell you! eve's email also revealed that the pups i had shown an interest in were not suitable for the environment i had to offer (they needed pup friends to live with and somewhere less than urban), but that she would find me the perfect pup in no time at all.

maybe two days later, a dm popped into my instagram account from eve, introducing me to peanut. a four month old terrier mix who was currently in foster care in cyprus, but would be ready to fly in a few weeks once he'd had all his final vet checks and jabs. what did i think? well, based on the few pictures she sent, i think it's safe to say i fell in love immediately, and by the end of that day had paid my deposit on little peanut, and began preparing for the homecheck i had to have before i could proceed with adoption. it's also fair to say i went a little mad preparing for his potentially imminent arrival, and bought far too many things for a puppy that actually may not be mine. i digress.

the homecheck was held via skype and was with another of the underdog volunteers, etta. the call was basically to sound me out, to make sure i knew how to look after a dog, that i had considered food, vets bills, insurance, where i would walk a dog, how i would treat a badly behaved dog, and where i had the opportunity to ask questions of her of the dog, and general dog-owning things i maybe didn't know (or hadn't yet asked google). the call was great, really positive, and etta told me at the end of the call that she saw no reason why i shouldn't be approved by eve, but that i'd find out in a few days...

a few days became a week or so, and with my absolute lack of chill, that stressed me out a lot. i was preparing for my birthday trip to italy at the time, too, and i was finding it all a bit distracting, not knowing if i'd be a dog momma soon too, or not. i had made it clear in my homecheck and in my application that i would be on holiday in late september, and ready to adopt from october. though, i think there was a miscommunication somewhere along the way because one friday afternoon in mid september i received another dm from eve basically saying that, when she had said he would be ready to fly she really meant that he was booked on a flight, and he would be arriving in three days, and could i make that work? so, not really the "approval process" i was looking for, rather the most stressful friday afternoon of my life - making arrangements to find a way to collect a puppy from a services in rural surrey, cancelling holiday plans, arranging for flight refunds and the rest of it, but basically.. peanut was coming home with me!

i have to give claire more props here, as she was with me the whole way through the process, and was so committed in fact that she even offered to drive me to collect him from cobham services the following monday. that day was even more stressful than the friday, with delays to the transfer from flight to van (the dogs flew from cyprus to greece, then to cologne, before being transported via chunnel to the uk in a transit van). what started as a 10:30am pick up on monday soon became a "will let you know when they are en route" to a "you should get ready to leave soon" to a "they're parking up now" to a: i am now in possession of a dog, after sitting in the services for a few extra hours.

and on the car ride home, it no longer mattered how random and stressful the communication had been, as i was united with the happiest, cutest, most perfect puppy called peanut, and that's all thanks to underdog international and their volunteers. i have to note, that during this time of stress and uncertainty, eve and her volunteers were in the middle of a rescue mission of fifty dogs from the chinese meat trade, and were arranging flights and homes left, right, and centre, and that any and all miscommunication was underlined by good deeds and acts of kindness, and genuinely decent human beings saving dogs from the worst of humanity. 

i couldn't do what they do, and i am so grateful for what they have done for me, and peanut. welcome home, golden boy, you are perfect.

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