As part of ‘A Dog is for Life not only for Lockdown, the Notebook magazine campaign with Dog’s Trust, Nicola tells the harrowing story of how he saved the life of his beautiful dog Buddy.
“It was April 27, 2009 when my friend Sally and I decided to go on a trip to see a foal he had seen for sale on the Internet.
Sally ran a stable with her husband Rob in Leicestershire, where I had spent most of my teenage years living and working with horses.
It was a bit of a mission to drive along the M1 in the pouring rain.
To see this foal, we had to cross tiny B-roads and muddy streets, but Sally was the type of person who went further to offer an animal a new loving home.
When we got to the address, we both had a funny feeling in our tummy.
It was clear that it wasn’t a real paddock: it was the darkest and scariest place I had ever been to.
Two shady-looking men came out and showed us the six-month-old foal. I was horrified to see that he seemed half hungry and full of worms.
There was not only one, but two. We quickly delivered the money and pushed the nervous foals into our trailer.
Just as we were about to leave, I saw an animal wedged on the back of a rusty metal case.
I sneaked over to see if he was still alive.
The poor creature, crushed inside a cat-holder, was breathing weakly.
His sad eyes were only slits in his bony and bruised face. Trying to keep them open seemed to cause him intense pain.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
His fur had worn away, showing his skin as thin as paper on the bony ribcage and face.
His mottled flesh looked like it had been scratched. He was barely alive.
This poor dog had been trapped in his waste and obviously had no food or water for days.
But what really struck me was the terrible smell – a combination of rotting meat and feces.
Her small paw pads were burnt and raw red in her own urine. It was incredibly sad.
I haven’t thought twice about saving him. I wrapped it in a towel and brought it back to our 4×4.
His legs bent from under him as I carefully placed him on my knee. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was covered in mange: a nasty infection caused by mites hiding under the skin.
I had to save this poor creature from these horrible people. “I got you, buddy,” I said. The name got stuck. We abruptly got out of that hell hole.
I knew exactly who to turn to when we got home – Ian, the local vet, who had been taking care of the horses in the stables for years.
He examined it immediately. Sitting on the exam table in veterinary practice, Buddy looked like a bag of bones.
Ian has confirmed that he is a Staffordshire bull terrier, probably not even a year old.
I watched Buddy as Ian checked on him. You would think he would be afraid of me and the environment, but I think he was relieved. The way he looked at me made me think he was grateful to be saved.
The vet diagnosed him with demodectic mange.
Since he had been left in his own mess, he had had secondary infections and his skin was rotting.
Armed with a bag of antibiotics and Ian’s care instructions, I took Buddy home.
That first night I bathed him gently in the kitchen sink, then I didn’t sleep a wink, constantly checking if he was breathing. Seemed touched and go sometimes …
We took it all slowly. I presented him with small chicken dishes or scrambled eggs so as not to annoy the stomach and I gave him enough exercise in a lot of sleep.
If I’m honest, the Staffy breed didn’t always attract me.
I had in mind that they were aggressive dogs. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
He is the most loving, kind and loyal dog I have ever met.
The following year Buddy got stronger and his infections cleared up. I also tried to socialize him as a puppy.
He was my number one in life and he soon won the hearts of those close to me.
At the stables, Sally’s mom Phyllis, whom we called grandmother, had a special bond with him.
Instead of running in the fields, playing with other dogs, she would rather curl up on the sofa with her grandmother.
When she was diagnosed with diabetes, he wouldn’t leave her part until she had her insulin. It is very intuitive.
When it came to finding me a partner, it was “love me, love Buddy and my horses too.”
I was lucky to meet Jon through work and he took us as a package. Finding a man who was happy to love us meant the whole world.
Of course, we had Buddy as the guest of honor at our wedding in 2013. He had a special photo suit – my great aunt who has since passed away, made him become a fancy collar to match my bridesmaids.
Our family life of three went smoothly until Buddy was diagnosed with cancer in March 2015.
It happened the same year I had two miscarriages. It was a very traumatic period. In a way, being sick has shifted attention from me.
I channeled every emotional energy I had for him to improve. And after numerous cycles of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he made a recovery in October 2015.
The following autumn I became pregnant with my son Toby, who is now three years old. (Since then we have had another baby, Harvey, seven months old.)
Before Toby’s arrival, we took another dog, a springer spaniel named Susie, who was rescued from a puppy farm where she was a breeding bitch for three years in a shed.
I haven’t worked on my magic yet, she can be nervous, while I can take Buddy anywhere and do anything. He is so well behaved.
I feel I have to thank Buddy very much.
I have experienced so many things in my life thanks to him: we have been to canine shows like Crufts and have won awards, met celebrities like Martin Clunes and Christine Lampard and we have a fantastic circle of friends that we met through Buddy, with whom we go on vacation twice a year.
Who would have thought that the poor neglected dog I had first seen in the cage could change my life for the better?
The buddy has become quite a celebrity. In addition to being popular in our neighborhood, he has 30,000 followers on Facebook and I recently created an Instagram profile for him.
Buddy has been a constant in my life for 11 years. No matter what day you bring, it’s there for me. I don’t know what I’ll do when he’s not around. I keep telling him he has to live forever.
The blockade was tough for all of us: we all lived one above the other.
But Buddy taught me resilience and strength, supporting me with a slightly raised ear and a comforting rod. I couldn’t love him more. “
Nicola Saving Buddy’s book: The Heartwarming Story of A Very Special Rescue is now available. Get 20% discount on the savings partner (RRP £ 8.99) with the SB7 offer code. Call 01256 302 699 or order online CLICK HERE (Free P&P for orders over £ 15)