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The 18th November was Willow’s one year anniversary of living with us!

We had taken a long time to decide whether to get another dog after Jay, my beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, passed away aged 11 1/2 in 2017. I’d had Jay from a puppy, but this time we wanted to do it differently and adopt a rescue dog rather than buy a puppy.

Jay, the most handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback ever

Whether vegans should have “pets” is a controversial topic as the idea of placing an animal into an unnatural environment such as your home, and expecting it to abide by your way of living which may go against many of it’s natural instincts, is not very vegan in it’s essence. However, there are hundreds of animals that, through no fault of their own, have been denied a comfortable and kind life, and are currently stuck in rescue centres and kennels around the world. We think that providing Willow with a loving home, somewhere warm and dry, that is safe from harm is better than her living in a cold, draughty kennel on her own with no interaction or ability to express her true self.

Check out Earthling Ed’s recent video on why we should adopt and not shop for our companion animals.

Willow came to us a timid but gentle dog from the South West German Shepherd Dog Rescue. She was already named Willow, which was definitely a sign that she would end up in our family, as we have a massive willow tree in the garden of Crotchet Barn, and The Somerset Levels are renowned for their willow production and craft. For the first couple of weeks she just sat in the corner of the room, and watched every move we made. She was extremely cautious of Andy, which made us think perhaps she had experienced some abuse from a male in the past. She was scared of going through doorways, so we had to carry her in and out of the house to start with…..into the cold, November nights, where she would cower in the cover of darkness. Likewise, she didn’t like getting in the car. However, time and patience and kindness soon started to make a difference, and she gradually came out of her shell more and more.

After a year, Willow is a very different dog now!! She is so inquisitive and intelligent. She is a hunter extraordinaire too!! Her kill count includes pigeons, mice, rabbits, blackbirds and ducklings. Initially, she struggled to catch the rabbits in our garden (of which there are many) but she has spent hours sitting quietly watching them, learning their habits and entrance/exit points, and she now catches one or two a week!! They keep coming back though! Although we feed her a vegan diet at home she certainly isn’t missing out on meat as she eats everything she kills too, and we are happy to let her do this as this her natural habit. We feed her Yarrah Organic Vegan dog food (both kibble and wet tins) which provide a fully balanced diet in terms of macro and micronutrients, and we add extras like banana, rice, apple and vegan dog chews too. There is growing evidence that omnivorous animals such as dogs can thrive on a vegan diet, and this mix of vegan food provided by us (which fits our ethics and values) and meat caught by her is perfect.

Willow is now a fully fledged member of the family – in fact, she probably runs the household!! She has free roam of our garden and field, and a walk twice a day (at least), although now the wetter weather is here, she seems to like sleeping in front of the fire more than exploring. We have achieved some basic training with her including recall to her name and to the whistle (which is invaluable when she decides to go off exploring further afield on a walk than might be considered socially acceptable by other dog owners!!)

She can do a few tricks too, but still isn’t that interested in playing with any toys despite ongoing efforts to engage her with this. That’s ok though, as whatever makes her happy is good with us. She has many nicknames including Gummidge (after Worzel and her habit of gummidging in the hedgerows), Bear (as she likes to sit back on her hind quarters and rest her front paws on us, like a bear), Nudgely (as she nudges us quite forcefully with her nose when she wants some attention), William (because why not!) and Hufflepuff (because she is quite expressive with her breath, rather than her bark….although she is finding her voice more and more now).

Willow, the wolf dog

We look forward to what Willow will teach us over the next twelve months, and how different she will be again, as she continues to grow in confidence and character. We just love having a cuddle and stroke with her (which she enjoys too, and nudges us to continue when we stop), and we will start to explore more and more as a pack.

Do you have any companion animals? What are they like in their characters? What do you think about dogs eating a plant based diet?