Ursu entering my world is an on-going life experience. His presence has become so much more than taking on a feral, ‘bitey’ and traumatised middle-aged canine and watching him become peaceful and happy, though supporting him through his transformation has been joyous in itself.
I would go so far as to say that holding the faith and offering Ursu, then aged at least seven, his first and only offer of a chance in life, when everything, including all reasoned thought, said to philosophically pass him by to an inevitable sad fate, has led me to question everything I once believed. He’s opened my mind to be able to relook at long held views across a raft of subjects and rethink my ‘safe’ beliefs.
Back in 2015 I was seeking a young large bitch: Ursu was a middle-aged medium-sized male and I couldn’t love him more: a lesson to me about pre-conceived ideas and self-inflicted tunnel views. And also, perhaps to have more than one dream in life. I trained to be a ballet dancer – it didn’t work out despite advanced ballet exam success – but it took me years to realise I’d been successful anyway; just not in the way I thought I should have been.
Every morning Ursu greets me with the enthusiasm of a puppy – a fully-grown puppy with a four inch facial scar, few teeth (discoloured), wonky gait (possibly as a result of having had his legs trussed) and an insatiable excitement for raw vegetables, including sprouts. His ability to live in the present, whilst never forgetting the associations of his fears, teaches me to ‘let things go’. Revel in the bits that feel good, whilst simultaneously coping with the negatives.
Ursu has stopped diving into soil for sustenance – a sign that his diet now nutritionally satisfies him. He gives me a lick after I’ve fed him – his new life hasn’t made him complacent. Complacency can rock humans when the tide turns.
Without coercion Ursu has decided his own moral code. Below his height he will ‘nick’ any food going. Above, and he will leave it alone, even dog treats – despite it being easily accessible and left unattended. He behaves like a gentleman having been treated like dirt and in response I feel I should work harder at my own ability to count to 10 in life generally.
Interestingly, the one thing Ursu did demand almost from the get-go was love and affection, having completely shunned human contact for years. Despite having gone hungry for the first seven years of his life, bonding with a kind human – the very species that had been brutal to him – took precedence over treats in his mind. A valuable lesson to me about what I truly need and what I just want.
And despite the terrorising life he was subjected to, he doesn’t take out revenge on those more vulnerable than himself. Out on our daily walk he doesn’t chase cats, or any other animal. Live and let live appears to be his healthy motto.
He also recognises mistakes and instantly forgives. He doesn’t bear a grudge. More than once I’ve accidentally nipped his bushy tail with my foot, or caught him in a door as his enthusiasm to follow me has become mistimed. This is a dog that arrived unwilling to take a collar or a lead, so traumatised by human movement towards him that even the sight of a falling leaf could set him off screaming with fear.
I’m a volunteer in our local library which led to invitations to talk about my book in libraries around the patch, and then n various Waterstones stores and other venues, accompanied by Ursu of course. Up until then, nervous of all strangers, in the library he would somehow sense our gatherings were about him and that he had a job to do. He would literally ‘work the room’ – both approaching people without invite and gazing at them doe-eyed, and entertaining folk with his irrepressible joy of crunching on celery, resulting in donations for his fellow strays, over and above book sale profits.
And in our current beauty obsessed world, he delightfully epitomises the truth that we don’t need to be physically perfect to be beautiful. Ursu and I entered a variety of local fun competitions in his early days to help promote his book – a ‘win- win’ situation. He never won first prize, but he was up there with the ‘medals’.
I have lived abroad, worked in central Government in a variety of roles, including directly to Ministers; run my own PR business, and been a Board member of a hospital and a Trustee of a building society. But I honestly feel it is Ursu that has taught me the most valuable lessons in life. And without him, which forced me out of my comfort zone to be able to take a chance on him, I would only ever have dreamt of taking the courage to write a book.
Ursu had no concept of living with a human, even less so one that wouldn’t kick him around, and yet without coercion, he chose to let his past go. He largely worked things out for himself and made his own decisions at the right time for him, with just a little nudge and support from me. Although he was feral and frightened, he hadn’t become programmed, as we humans are liable to let ourselves become. He walked into a home for the very first time aged seven with his intuition firmly intact and with an ability to read body language and intent, unhampered by human language. He is way smarter than me about life survival. Every evening as I say goodnight to him, I know I’ll be greeted with the exuberance of a puppy again the next morning, excited to be alive.
Comment from the editor: Three years on, ‘Ursu, Never Give up on a Dog’ remains one of our best-selling books, which is a testament to his heart-warming story. His rescue, his good fortune in finding Sarah and Rob, his canine intelligence, courage, and endearing nature, plus a happy ending make this such a compelling read if a little harrowing at first. Read his story and fall in love with this kind, astute dog who, against all the odds, found safety, love and happiness. It has been a privilege to meet and become friends with Ursu. He won my heart in an instant! He is exceptional.
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