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In the final episode of the series, we meet Maggie, a nine-year-old doberman who has been brought to Battersea after her owner died. Like many dogs of advancing years, Maggie has a few health issues. She’s lost an eye and has a problem with her hips. It is already hard to find a home for older dogs but Maggie’s health problems will make it especially difficult.
Head Of Dog Training, Ali says tearfully: “I just really feel for her. We’ve all fallen in love with her. We might not be able to re-home her.”
But big softy Ali makes a decision: “I’ve decided that I’m going to foster Maggie. I think Maggie would like to come home.”
Last year Battersea took in over 1300 strays from dog wardens alone. Nancy is a two year old Labrador cross, brought into Battersea, heavily pregnant and extremely nervous. As with many strays, it’s impossible to tell what she has been through.
Back at Battersea, Nancy’s kennel is surrounded with some makeshift curtains to give her some privacy and help her adjust to her new surroundings.
Head Vet Sean says: “We just want to check her over but she’s very anxious and we don’t want to set up bad associations. If I start pulling her around I think it will set things back, so we’re just going to take it slowly.”
The team have no idea how many puppies Nancy is carrying or when she is due, so they are surprised one morning to find that Nancy has safely delivered six puppies by herself, in the night.
Paul pops into clinic to meet the puppies but Nancy is still so nervous that she won’t let him into her kennel. Paul decides to come back later.
Paul then meets Mr Pickles, an excitable, effervescent, one year old beagle who loves to wind people up. Beagles are extremely clever hound dogs and need firm training as puppies.
Mr Pickles is adored by the Battersea staff but his behaviour is a real problem. He’s been rehomed twice and then returned because his new owners found him too much to handle. Paul has his biggest challenge to date when he tries to teach this naughty beagle some manners.
With the help of Head Dog Trainer Ali and tasty packet of sausages, Paul is determined to help Mr Pickles. Ali teaches Paul to use single commands and his body language whilst training him.
The problem is, Mr Pickles needs more time and attention than anyone at Battersea has to give, as there are 500 dogs that need looking after. Paul pledges to spend as much time with him as he can but what Mr Pickles really needs is an owner.
A week after being brought in to Battersea, Head Vet Sean has an update on doberman Maggie’s health and reveals that she has a condition called Wobbler’s Syndrome which can cause problems with her back legs.
Paul asks: “Is anybody going to take a dog on with all this?”
Sean says: “You’re absolutely right. She’s of an age, she’s had an eye taken out and she has neurological condition, which can be quite serious and progressive. The surgery is complicated and the outcome is uncertain so I think things are stacking up.”
Maggie needs a test to establish how far the Wobbler’s Syndrome has progressed. This could be the end of the road for her but in the meantime, she’ll continue to stay with Ali.
Ali says: “I’ve fostered so many (dogs) since I’ve been here and every now and again, one just really gets you.”
Two weeks after Nancy delivered her puppies, the whole family sadly come down with Parvo virus and have to be quarantined. Parvo can be fatal and all puppies at Battersea are immunised at six weeks but Nancy’s puppies are just two weeks old. Their immune systems are not fully developed and to further the problem, Nancy is also ill.
Sean says: “Nancy hasn’t eaten for nearly 48 hours and her milk is starting to dry up because she’s not taking in any nutrients herself. We’re topping up the pups with IV fluids and supplement feeding her to take the strain off her. Because she’s still very anxious there are only one or two people she trusts enough to go into her pen, which doesn’t make the treatment any easier. It’s a bit of knife edge, where we are right now.”
Several days after contracting the virus the family are thankfully on the mend. Paul comes into clinic to meet one of the puppies and immediately falls in love.
Sean has an update: “We’ve really turned a corner today, we’re so happy. They’re much brighter in themselves and they’ve actually all tested negative this morning. We’re just delighted with the result because even a week ago things looked very shaky.”
Finally, Paul gets to meet the puppies.
Paul says: “It doesn’t get any better does it? Put me in a room full of puppies and it’s Christmas. This should be on the National Health, it’s so good for the soul. This is dreadful temptation, I’m in big trouble now.”
Paul is then given the honour of naming the puppies making it even more difficult for him not to get attached. He chooses the names Ronnie, Charlie, Reggie, Tiger and Buster, in honour of his former doggy friend.
After finishing her mummy duties, Nancy relaxes and Paul finally gets to spend some time with her. Six weeks after arriving at Battersea, Nancy has blossomed into an outgoing and friendly dog.
It’s perfect timing as couple Wendy and Brian have come to Battersea to find a new Labrador. Wendy says: “We’ve been re-homing dogs for about 29 years. We both feel they deserve another chance at life. A happy life.’
Will Nancy be the next dog lucky enough to be re-homed by Wendy and Brian?
And several families are lining up at Battersea’s doors to find a new puppy to love. Will any of Nancy’s pups find themselves a new home?
Paul has continued working with Mr Pickles, with mixed results. But Battersea have found another option which might help this energetic trickster. Chiefglen Training School in Kent have a swimming pool which can be very therapeutic for naughty dogs. After a swim and a massage, Mr Pickles is looking the calmest Paul has ever seen him. He hopes that Mr Pickles could now finally be re-homed for good.
Two months after moving in with Ali, Maggie is has become part of the family.
Ali says: “Maggie’s doing absolutely fantastically. She’s relaxed, she seems really, really happy. She’s got the whole package, four new brothers and sisters. She’s got me and my Dad. And we’re absolutely delighted with her. It was a good result. She has got Wobbler’s but we’re controlling it with medication. We’ve have no idea how long Maggie has got but for me, every day is a bonus with her.”
Maggie’s story shows you can still form a very special bond with an older dog.
Paul O’Grady is back where he belongs, at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, meeting the latest residents to trot through the front door. From assisting vets during surgical procedures, to hand-rearing puppies and helping to train a naughty beagle, Paul is determined to get his hands dirty like never before.
Paul meets the dogs who come into the home needing treatment, training and ultimately new homes. Every dog has its own story and each dog needs a new place they can call home.
There is nowhere quite like Battersea, which is tear-jerking and uplifting in equal measure. And although Paul immerses himself in the positive work the charity do, he is also forced to confront the heart-breaking reality of stray dogs deserted on the streets and those left starving and mistreated.