Recently I had the pleasure of photographing the gorgeous Bill and Scruffle. Chatting to their human Mum ( Tracey ) about their journey both broke my heart into a million pieces and then made it absolutely sing. Bill especially had a very tough start to life but is now with the most loving and dedicated family he could ever hope for.
I actually met Bill when he was surrendered to HUHA back in 2013. I remember him quite clearly ........ because he was SO terrified.
He was 80% blind and he'd been working in cattle yards for the first couple of years of his life. Obviously being mostly blind he couldn't follow commands well. I can only imagine how frightening it would be to be around large livestock (much larger than yourself) when you can't see them clearly and you’re struggling to understand what's wanted of you.
I remember my heart breaking for him when we took his adoption photo. Working with HUHA I meet a lot of dogs who have had a hard start to life and you need to be a bit quieter, a bit gentler around them. But Bill didn't just look a little timid. He looked haunted.
Tracey said " I was volunteering at HUHA at the time. As Scruffle has hip dysplasia, we never thought of getting another dog, but on one of my shifts Bill was due to go to the vet for a check on his eyes and to be neutered. He was terrified. The only way to get him in the car was if I sat with him. At that point I knew he had imprinted on my heart.
He had his operation and it was determined that his eye sight was going to be totally gone in around 6 to 12 months. I talked to my family and I brought my husband and my youngest son to meet him. Bill loved Dave my husband, and it was agreed as long as Scruffle got on well with him, he had a new home with us. Having been a special needs teacher aide for some years and at that time recently looked after a blind / deaf child I was hoping I would have the skills to know how to adapt and enrich him and keep him safe."
On top of failing eye sight poor Bill also suffered skin allergies and a heart murmur.
In March this year the family made the decision to have Bill's eyes replaced with intra ocular prosthetics (artificial eyes). He had glaucoma and was suffering from cataracts which were uncomfortable for him and would cause him significant pain in the long term.
Tracey explained the tough recovery from this operation and again my heart was shattered on the floor. She was by Bill's side 24/7 for over 3 weeks, reassuring him and caring for him.
It's one of the things I find particularly hard when your pet is ill. You can't explain to them that it will get better, that the pain wont last……. that they are not dying. You just have to be the reassuring, gentle presence so they know they are not alone.
Now back to present day and I got to see Bill and Scruffle hooning around their garden and the beach, pure joy on both their faces. Bill is a different dog. So much more confident and enjoying his life. Tracey watches him like a hawk of course. If he is about to walk into something she calmly calls out to him, he pauses, and proceeds more carefully. You can see when he walks and runs he picks his feet up a little higher than normal so small objects wont trip him up - but you'd think he could see clearly the way he runs along the beach.
At the end of the shoot as we sat in the grass basking in the last of the sun, Bill made his way over to me and sat ( slightly awkwardly) in my lap. Such a stark contrast from when I first met him. From whispers and no sudden movements to snuggles in the sun - seeing shelter animals find their furever home is simply pure joy.