From my Dog World column ‘Crossing the headlines’ (10th December 2014).

Moving home should be a time full of happiness and excitement but our recent experience of it has been severely lacking in these particular elements; instead it has been a time filled with complications, delays and unforeseen problems – many of which could have been so easily avoided.

And the stress started many months before the actual move for, if you happen to own dogs, it starts the moment people express an interest in viewing your property. The seller has to remember that there are a number of (in my opinion) strange people out there who simply don’t like dogs and so when selling a property it is always wise to remove any trace of canine.

Chewed skirting boards have to be repaired, every stray hair has to be cleaned off the furniture and all dog toys and beds carefully hidden from view and, of course, on each and every viewing, the dogs have to be out of the house. So, for months I have pounded the local streets with dogs in tow (in all weathers) as strangers wandered around our home and umm-ed and ahh-ed at our rooms and decor before coming to the conclusion that the ‘pitch of the roof wasn’t quite right’ or that the bedrooms/garden/front room were ‘too big/too narrow/too wide/too small…’

Intrusive viewings

Then, finally, two couples put in an offer within days of each other. Our prayers had been answered. We would no longer have to endure the intrusive viewings or the mad dash around having to hide every trace of dog. Was it now time to exhale and maybe crack open the bubbly? Well, not quite… the most gruelling part of the process was only just about to begin.

We decided to opt for the ‘cash buyer’ as by then we had found ourselves the perfect house and were keen to move in as quickly as possible. The estate agent assured us that the whole process should take ‘no more than six to eight weeks’.

Thrilled, we sat back and excitedly began to plan out our new life in Devon.

We had pooled resources with my recently divorced mother and bought a house in the country set in 2.5 acres of grounds. It was a chance to live the ‘Good Life’ – something we could never fund on our own. And, with the pooled resources came our ‘pooled dogs’. My mum’s three (two middle-aged Dachsies and her new Boston pup, Lola) and, of course, our Mini Smooth, Alfie, along with our new Standard Smooth boy, four-month-old Bodie.

The weeks began to roll by… and every time we phoned our solicitor/estate agent the assurances came thick and fast that ‘everything was on target and there was nothing to worry about’  and, then, out of the blue, came the first query: “Did we have a guarantee for the Velux windows?” And this was then followed by 15 other similar requests all before a three-hour full survey was taken on one of the wettest days of the year which meant pacifying five dogs as yet another decidedly spooky looking stranger probed and poked into every conceivable crevice with a dazzling array of bleeping gizmos that all seemed designed to provoke bouts of uncontrollable barking.

A few days later the dreaded survey came back…and thankfully our house had passed with flying colours. Now, at long last, we could relax and plan for our new future… couldn’t we?

A letter then arrived outlining numerous further questions such as “were we liable for chancel repair” (despite living five miles from the nearest church) and could we “ensure that the loft and eaves would be cleared and swept clean…” All these tedious questions were slowly worked through and answered one by one and on receiving our reply we were finally told the next step would be to exchange contracts.

At last the phone call we’d been waiting for came through, “Mr Connor, we are ready to exchange… are you okay with that?”

Of course I was elated and happily agreed. At last things were finally progressing… our new life was in clear sight… and then the bombshell dropped.

With a week to removal day we learned that the exchange of contracts hadn’t actually included the house we were going to buy! The owner of the house we were intending to buy from was informed of the situation (and quite understandably said he couldn’t possibly move out with such short notice) he would need ‘at least ten days… maybe two weeks’.

A frantic exchange of phone calls between the solicitors began and we were duly informed that the buyer of our home was “determined to move in on the agreed date… and if we didn’t move out we would be liable to penalty”.

Homeless

So, in less than a week, we were effectively going to be homeless with five dogs. What on earth were we going to do?

Our removal people were incredibly understanding and offered to load the van and hold our belongings in storage for the required ten days. That was an immense relief for us but it still didn’t help us with our dogs. I then thought of using a temporary holiday let. Frantically I began searching the internet for suitable properties and the story was frustratingly similar. Most had a ‘no dog’ policy and the ones that would accept dogs would at a push take two dogs and at a cost of between £20-£30 per dog, per week.

I then found one that would take all five dogs…at a cost of £20 per dog per week… a bargain I thought… until I saw the ‘accommodation’ on offer. The ramshackled place was set on a busy main road and consisted of four rather squalid rooms.

However beggars can’t be choosers and at the very least we’d all be together. I was just about to book it when Marc said, “Hold on a minute, I’ll ask some local show dog people if they know of anything suitable.” Now, I’m not a fan of the modern age or Facebook but I was astounded by the response our plea for help generated from the show dog community.

The kindness of complete strangers has been truly staggering. We had several ‘adoption’ offers for our dogs ‘until we got back on our feet’ but thankfully that drastic measure wouldn’t be necessary because within an hour two locals had put the word out and a very dog-friendly holiday cottage owner took pity on our situation and offered us one of her properties – a gorgeous cottage in glorious Mortehoe. The usual ‘two dog’ policy was waived and we were even given our necessary ten days for the price of seven. The dogs have a secure garden to do their essentials and miles of the most stunning coastal walks are literally on the doorstep.

We are still receiving offers of help and someone has even offered ‘freezer space’ for our raw food!

In a year that’s been filled with stories of bullying, bitching and other nasty occurrences within the show dog community, it is heartening to know that in times of crisis our people are always willing to ‘step up to the plate’ and give much needed assistance.

Dog people truly are the ‘Salt of the Earth’.

I would like to wish all Dog World readers and their dogs a happy and peaceful Christmas and a very successful 2015.

Read more on Dog World’s website http://www.dogworld.co.uk/product.php/127658/

Advertisements