He is my one and only, Pauli, the Croatian dog by Lara-Andrea Beck

Adopting a dog should always be a well-planned and thought-through process, well… at least in theory. This is the story of how I adopted my dog Pauli from Croatia. Let’s start from the very beginning:At the end of 2016, I was going through kinda hard times (breakups can screw you up big time). I was not in a good state to say the least. On the day of New Year’s Eve (which I wanted to spend alone), I wanted to go to the shops, when all of a sudden a big black dog came along and followed me. I was looking around to try and find his owner, but couldn’t find anyone. So I knocked on my neighbour’s door (as I knew they had dogs). They told me that he’d belong to a guy in our street so I went there. What I saw there let my heart sink. The garden, as well as the house were full of trash! And then the owner came out of the open front door and said something like “There you are you shitty little bugger.” I told him that he had such a sweet dog and that he listened to me perfectly well. The next thing he said hit me unexpected: “You wanna have him?” I politely explained, that there was no room for a dog in my life at the moment (24 years old, living alone, full time working). So heavy hearted I dropped “Bobby” off and went home. But I could not stop thinking about him, so I called my mom to tell her everything. Long story short: We came to the conclusion, that I needed a dog in my life to get back to my feet. I called my landlord to ask if I could have a dog in my flat (yes, no problem) and my boss, if I could bring a dog to work (yes, no problem). Then I immediately went back to that place to tell the owner that I’d be happy to take Bobby. But at this time he decided that he could not give him away as he was such a big part of the family by now. I was really sad about that, as I grew accustomed to the thought of having a furry friend in my household. (A few months later, I learned that Bobby has been brought to a shelter after all and I was so angry!!).

So after this, I decided to look for dogs on the internet. It was clear quite quickly, that a German shelter would not let me adopt a dog, because of my lifestyle, even though I would be able to bring my future friend to work with me.

I drove to my parents to spend New Year’s Eve with my family after all. There I was constantly looking for dogs on the internet but it didn’t “click” with any of those.

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On New Year’s Day morning I was sitting on my parent’s couch and knitting socks (yes, I’m a granny in a young woman’s body), when my mom called me to her office. And there he was! Pauli. A furry puppy, as sweet as it gets and I was sure: HE’S THE ONE! My mom found him on a rescue page. There were five pictures of him as a puppy. One cuter than the other and I was totally in love. He was described as 10 months old (so I knew that he wouldn’t look like that sweet puppy anymore, but that didn’t matter to me) and also they described him as almost fully grown with 38cm. I thought: Ok Lara, a small dog might be easier to start with, so 38cm is perfect.

Why I had this dialogue with myself? Well, my parents always had large dogs, all my life I was surrounded by large dogs and was way fonder of them than of small ones. But I thought it would be sensible to start with a smaller one…

I wrote an email to the rescue organisation to ask weather Pauli was still available and awaited the answer as a small kid is waiting for Christmas. But I didn’t have to wait long though – The answer arrived within 30 minutes: Yes, Pauli is still available for adoption. They sent a questionnaire for me to fill out, asking about my whole life situation. I immediately sent it back and within two days a visit from someone from the organisation to my home was appointed. As there was already a transport organised for the 14th of January with dogs from Croatia to Germany, it all had to be quite spontaneously, as they didn’t want Pauli to wait any longer to get out of the shelter with 450 dogs and only 5-6 people to take care of them (amazing, right?!). The lovely gentleman stayed for two hours looking at my flat, my garden and asked about a million questions. After the visit, he called the lady who I had email correspondence with, to tell her that I was fit to adopt Pauli. YEY!!!!

image1 (2)There were still 12 days to go until he would arrive. SO MANY THINGS TO DO! Those were such exciting days I can tell you. I went and bought a harness (one of these security harnesses the dog can’t get out as I didn’t know how scared he would be), a collar, a little doggy bed, toys and so on and so on. I had so much fun preparing my home to be doggy heaven! 7 days to go… 4 days to go… 2 days to go… THE DAY HAD ARRIVED. And what happened that morning? Of course… it started snowing like crazy for the first time that winter and the pick-up point was 300 km away from home, past some mountains, where the snow would be even worse. Oh well, never mind. In the morning I cooked some chicken to take with me as a little welcome gift for my new (hopefully) best friend.

I packed the transport box and my mom into the car and we started our road trip a little earlier because of the snowy roads. The rescue organisation kept in contact with us, to tell us about their progress on the road as they went through the mountains of Austria, where (of course) there were heavy snowfalls as well.

In the middle of our trip we were contacted by the organisation, if we could possibly take another dog with us, as the new owner was stuck on the motorway because of a mass accident and she came vaguely from our direction. We figured that we should be able to fit two boxes in, if we would tilt the back seats (oh how naïve we were at this point).

image3We arrived at the pick-up point, which was near a dog shelter, at about 7pm and it was -6 degrees. The transport with the dogs was meant to arrive at 5pm but during the afternoon it was quite clear that they wound not make it in time, due to the crazy snowfalls. Needless to say: We were cold. VERY cold! We spent our time waiting with talking to the other new owners and the time went by in slow motion. I just couldn’t wait any longer to welcome Pauli into my life.

At about 10pm the transport finally arrived. My heart was about to jump out of my chest and I (even after 1,5 years) can still feel this excitement today!

So I took the harness and collar for my 38cm dog and went to the transporter to wait for the boxes to get out. Pauli was the first box that was taken out. I wondered why it was such a huge box. Not long though… they opened the box and inside was a huuuuge dog that was as far from 38cm as Dwayne the Rock Jonson from being a petit man. I asked them if they were mistaken with the box as Pauli wasn’t actually meant to be a big dog. Well, they were not. I was. Pauli was a big dog after all. I guess the universe decided that a big dog was better for me, as I liked them more anyway. He was so scared and confused after being taken out of his usual environment and being put in a box for 16 hrs straight, that even my cooked chicken couldn’t lure him out at first. It took a while before we managed to get him out. He only had a collar on and my stuff was (of course) waaaay too small for him.

I tried to take him for a little walk before putting him into our box and in our car. That wasn’t possible. He was so in panic that he tried to get out of the collar by jumping and twisting backwards. Too scared to lose him, we put him in the box in the car, put the other dog in the box and in the car, and drove off immediately. All good! Well, was it?!

It didn’t take a minute before that very large, not 38cm dog, went ballistic in his box. Sooooo aggressive until he broke the box, jumped on the tilted backseats and sat RIGHT behind my head.

Mum and I were so stressed out and decided that we couldn’t drive 300km in blizzards with a possibly aggressive dog sitting right in my neck with me on the steering wheel (hell, no!!!). It kinda felt like a near death experience. So we stopped and tried to put him at least back in the boot and put the backseats back up to have at least some kind of protection from that viscous appearing doggo. My mum got out of the car, so I had more space to move Pauli around. That didn’t work as he just wouldn’t move. We decided to drive back to the pick-up point to borrow another box from the rescue organisation.

image2Only trouble was: He wouldn’t let my mum come back even near the car without going mental, barking and growling really aggressively and protecting the car. At this point we were so bloody stressed out. I said calmly to my mum ”Just get in, he won’t do anything. Just trust me.“ God knows why I thought that large dog wouldn’t attack mum. But she got back in fine and we drove back to get another box, which was no problem at all, at least until we started driving again…

Within a minute, this very large got totally aggressive again and ripped out the door of the second box and jumped up on the back seats right behind my neck again. At this point mom and I were near a mental breakdown. There he was again, this massive and (possibly) very aggressive dog, sitting right behind my back while I was driving. But I decided to just go ahead and drive like that. I was shit scared and expected an attack any second. Well… of course, that didn’t happen.

That large, not so aggressive dog lay behind me for 3 hours and didn’t move AT ALL. I stroked him for most of the time, stretching my arm behind me, always aware that he might bite me. But he didn’t. Other problem: We had to drop off the second dog somewhere along the way and I was so scared that Pauli would go mental again, when he was alone without the other one. I called the lady and warned her, that it had to be done quickly as I didn’t want to lose my new dog next to a motorway.

Said and done, we dropped off the second dog at a fuel station along the motorway and started the final leg of our road trip. Our plan was to go to my parents’ house to let him have a stretch in their garden, which is basically as secure as Fort Knox, due to having a very “creative” dog themselves. But how on earth was I supposed to drive home alone with that large, panicking dog?! How was I meant to get him into my flat all by myself?! Even thinking about that almost had me in tears. I was just so stressed out from the whole situation.

It was only 40 minutes from where we dropped off the second dog, to my parents’ home. Pauli continued to do…well…nothing to be honest. He didn’t move and he didn’t make a sound.

When we arrived at my parents’ I went and got a harness and another leash from my mom’s dog. Even if it wasn’t a security harness, I thought it would be better than just a collar and after all we were about to enter Doggy Fort Knox. It’ll be fine I thought.

image4And then everything changed. The aggressively panicking dog was waaaaaay off being aggressive or in a panic. He was just happy. Running around and rolling in the snow for the first time in his life with nothing but pure joy. Even now, here in front of the keyboard, 1,5 years after this has happened, I sit here crying like a baby. But those tears are tears of happiness and joy. I will never forget that moment, when everything looked like it would work out. That moment, there in Doggy Fort Knox at 2 o’clock at night. I gave my mom the two leashes so I could have a cigarette after those torturous 4 hrs. My mum tried to take Pauli through the garden, but he wouldn’t leave my side. Even though my mum was in the car with him. Anyways, we still had to make the last step of our journey: Driving home to my place. So I put him in the passenger seat of my car and he (again) didn’t move and didn’t make a sound. We arrived at about 3 o’clock and everything went very smoothly from there on.

After that car drive, Pauli has never ever been scared or panicky AT ALL. To be honest he is basically scared of nothing, other than the vacuum cleaner (but seriously, those are machines from hell, aren’t they?!). He behaves like a completely normally raised dog. After 16 hrs of driving from Croatia to Germany he just didn’t want to be in that bloody box anymore. I have never since tried to get him into a transport box. And as I said, he is just the happiest dog ever. A big shout out to the 5-6 people taking care of up to 450 dogs every day of the year. They appear to do a fantastic job! Pauli has the greatest trust in humans! (Pauli’s back story: he was found with his 3 siblings and without his mother near a river, when he was not even one month old and then directly came into the shelter).


From day one, he has never peed (or worse) in my flat. Well he puked a couple of times, but haven’t we all at some point? He could stay alone almost immediately. He loves every dog. No matter if big or small, chubby or skinny… He loves people, including children. And most of all: He loves cats. But for other reasons I guess… My parents’ 17-year-old, hand-raised cat, has to be protected any time we come to visit. Whoopsie….

Adopting Pauli was the best decision I have EVER made. We are inseparable and do lots of fun stuff together: Going to work (I know right? So much fun he he), going on hour-long hikes, he accompanies me when I am riding, we go swimming in lakes and much more.

I can recommend adopting a dog to everyone! They are so thankful. And just wonderful, wonderful dogs!

I cannot imagine my life without Pauli anymore. He is my one and only, my rock, my everything.image7Written by Lara-Andrea Beck

 Do you have a special story with your dog to share with the world?

Send it to saraortinleon@gmail.com with some photos!


Author: SOL

Nomad with my rescued Zambian dog living in a Landcruiser"98

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