This little lady, is Koko, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Of all the breeds I have come to me, ridgebacks have really been high up there in quantity (cockerpoos are probably number 1). Koko is my 4th. Now I know that doesn't sound like many to have in my care in the 9 years I have been doing this, but they are not a particular common breed, not like the cockerpoos are. I see them as more specialised. You don't just buy a ridgeback because they are cute and fluffy, you get one because you REALLY want one. You HAVE to REALLY want one to understand them and their care and their behaviour.
Their heritage story is that they were bred to protect villages from lions. They were seen to be fierce, savage and loyal. Afterall, they were strong enough and tall enough to kill a lion! A lion! But in reality the only part of the description that is true, is that these stunning, proud, supermodels of the dog world are super duper loyal. I think they spread the story themselves between the other African animals, telling tall stories about how their great uncles, grandads, aunties, cousins mate killed a lion once, and the legend stuck! These dogs, as clumsy and sometimes dipsey, as they are, are lovely, gentle, incredibly proud and as I said, super duper loyal.
So let me tell you about Koko.
She came to us because we had had experience with other Ridgebacks. We first had Lloyd, then Skylar. Now we have Bolt, and of course Koko. Koko is atypical; she has to check you out first, work out who you are, can she trust you, what do you smell like, can you keep her safe (that's right, can I keep her safe). Koko is quite shy and very reliant on her lovely owners. Like many dogs over the past couple of years, Koko suffered with the lack of ability to socialise with other dogs and people when she was a pup. All down to the joyful Covid-19 epidemic! So staying with us for Koko, was going to be a bit of mountain to climb.
I formed a plan and that was to just take it slow. We had time to do what we needed to do, it was just about putting that plan into action. We started with me meeting her on her own ground (her house) so she could meet me on her own terms. The next step was to bring her, and her family, to our house, and let her just visit. My intention was to not let her meet anyone else, in order to do it step by step and not overload her, but my plan was ruined when my own dogs busted into the room like they were throwing her a surprise party!
Anyway, we got back on track and I did a few walks with her for Koko to get used to me and trust that I would take care of her and get her back home safely. Then we progressed to traveling in the car and coming back to my house. This took a couple of tries because Koko was anxious and overwhelmed. I couldn't sit in the back with her whilst Koko travelled, and it was a huge experience for her to do that with me, but we got there after a few short trips.
Next came her staying over for a trial night. I have to admit I was over cautious with her; I didn't want to spoil her chances of settling and relaxing. We did everything step by step, and followed her lead. And guess what, whilst she was anxious to begin with, she loved a good snuggle and relaxed. When the morning came she greeted me with a yawn and a stretch, ate her breakfast and I took her home.
Then it came for her to stay. I was feeling very positive about her stay, but was prepared for her to be anxious and stressed. She was both of those things at the start but they started to fade away far quicker than I anticipated. I could take her in the car too, to places to meet other dogs, she would sit with other dogs on the sofa and even lie down together. This wasn't even at the end, but a few days in!
We did our best to take her lead, let her learn to trust us, take each step at a time and go with her direction. Which is pretty much what I have done with the other Ridgebacks I have looked after. Koko was a lovely house guest who had magic powers of snuggling up to me and making me go to sleep! It took time to settle her in with us, ready for her stay, and it was worth it as it worked out lovely when she stayed. She was a pleasure.
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