Ziva's Story: Love, patience and perseverance against the odds

When Iain first came to visit, he couldn’t even look at Ziva without her getting upset. But after three months of visits, and a lot of patience and kindness from Iain, it was clear they had both fallen in love.’ – Rachael, Kennel Assistant

Ziva is a German Shepherd, Collie cross who arrived at the Home in April 2021. When she first came to us, she was an incredibly anxious dog who was nervous around new people and especially terrified of men.

Ziva was so constantly frightened that even getting through a vet check-up was a challenge for her.

Our kennel team worked intensively with Ziva over many months using rewards-based methods to gradually introduce her to new experiences and build her confidence. One member of staff told us,

When an application came in from Iain, who had previously had dogs with very similar behavioural issues as Ziva, the kennel team were optimistic that they would make a good fit.

Iain lives on the Isle of Bute and was undergoing cancer treatment at the time. Twice a week for at least three months, he made the trip to Edinburgh to visit Ziva at the Home.

He told us, ‘Rehoming Ziva was something great to look forward to amidst the difficulty of my cancer treatment. I enjoyed the train journey through to Edinburgh, I enjoyed the whole process.’

When Iain saw Ziva on our website, he was reminded of his previous dogs, A German Shepherd named Aisha and an Australian Sheepdog named Jade. Iain had experience looking after anxious dogs as Aisha had a very similar temperament to Ziva, she was nervous around people but had plenty of love to give once she got to know you.

Ziva playing in on the grass

Iain was aware when he started coming to visit Ziva, that it would be a long process and that her fear of men might be too strong for her to be able to be successfully rehomed with him.

But he was patient, dedicated, and willing to work with Ziva at her own pace.

Our dog trainers started by walking beside Ziva with Iain a few metres behind, and they slowly tested how closely he could approach her before she got upset. After a few weeks, Iain and Ziva were able to walk alongside each other.

Then, they moved into the paddock where Iain sat calmly with a bunch of tennis balls, Ziva’s favourite toy, and rolled them to her until she started to relax and play. Slowly they began to bond and trust each other. Rachael, a Kennel Assistant, remembers the day that Ziva hopped up to join Iain on the sofa in the training room, ‘She snuggled into him, it was just amazing to see!’.

After nearly three months of visits, Ziva was excited to see Iain when he arrived and the kennel staff were no longer needed.

Rachael recalls standing at the side of the paddock, watching the two of them playing happily together.

She said, ‘Iain was so good with Ziva and so patient. When it came time to take her home, he had to take her on the ferry so he called ahead and made all the right arrangements to make sure it would go smoothly. He knew what to expect and how to be there for her.’

Ziva wearing a muzzle and giving a paw to someone on a sunny walk by the sea

Since they went home together in June last year, Ziva and Iain’s bond has only grown.

Iain has kept up with her training and she responds well to his commands. He lets her off the lead in a few safe spots and says that she has a real zest for life; ‘She loves chasing seagulls, she has such an inquisitive nature, loves hillwalking, running on the beach. She loves to be free’.

Ziva has also been a support to Iain through challenging health problems. He is diabetic and tells us that she has even started to alert him when his blood sugar levels are too high or low. Caring for her keeps him motivated on days when he feels tired and low.

Iain believes that ‘My time and experience with my previous two dogs has helped me to be the right person for Ziva, to make her feel better and more comfortable. And she’s doing exactly the same thing for me.’

Ziva and Iain’s story is a heartwarming tale of patience, love and perseverance against the odds.

Dogs like Ziva need intensive training and support and without the generosity and support of our donors, we would struggle to provide this for them.

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