Written and photographs supplied by Patricia Cullen
Professional photography by Bálint György
This is not so much a story of rags to riches but rather a story of hopelessness and despair to joy and freedom.
I was in a dark season of my life when I was offered the opportunity to rescue a sad, little one-year-old bag of bones that had endured much cruelty and neglect in his short lifetime.
Bobbi’s owners were poor labourers who left him tied up with wire, in the absence of rope or chain, on business premises. He existed on scraps and was usually left on the premises alone overnight.
Many people were involved in changing what seemed to be a totally hopeless situation for this sweet puppy into a wonderfully happy life. The first was Chris Keenan, who untied the wire and allowed Bobbi the freedom to run and play and also provided dog pellets for him to eat. Bobbi’s life improved for a while until his owners took him to start harsh and cruel training for dogfighting.
This was when Chris contacted Marizanne Ferreira and they set about rescuing Bobbi. I’ll never forget the day Bobbi came to live with me – he sat on the seat beside Chris, his spirit broken, his eyes dull and lifeless, and he was past caring…
His first taste of the good life was having his own bed – a round, padded doggy doughnut, a purple blanket and a fluffy stuffed rabbit. He loved Fluffy’s company and systematically chewed off his eyes and pulled out the stuffing. By the time Fluffy travelled with Bobbi to Hungary, he was but a shadow of his former self.
My teenage daughter decided that a new life deserved a new name, so we renamed him Ringo. My other daughter arrived with new doggy toys for him and he knew they were his – he chewed some of them but always kept them near and was very proud to show them off to visitors.
It wasn’t an easy road building up Ringo’s trust as he had no expectations and no idea of how to behave. He was anxious about eating or drinking and cowered if you looked at him. A warm, safe environment, regular meals, daily walks on the beach and lots of love slowly brought him back to life as he grew in confidence. His first friend was a fat little Jack Russell whom we met regularly on our early morning walks – this friendly little chap taught him to chase a tennis ball and the two would charge up the beach together, each one always knowing which was their ball.
Ringo was good with children right from the start. After being with us for a year, we held a family get-together; there were lots of kids playing and laughing with him and he wagged his tail for the first time… what a joy!
Teaching and training Ringo was a nightmare and quite a journey. At one stage I thought he might be deaf… but in fact, he was very stubborn and just doing his own thing. He met his match one day when he developed an aversion to a man flying a microlite low over the beach. Ringo chased after it and no amount of calling or trying to restrain him helped. The pilot, in turn, took offence at being chased by a naughty dog and kept coming back and teasing him… I’m not sure who gave up first, but Ringo was totally exhausted and could barely walk the following day.
In 2018, I received a marriage proposal – my husband likes to joke that it was the only way he could get Ringo! Despite the exorbitant costs, we wanted our three rescue pets to come with us to Hungary. Ringo was already friends with Benji – a feisty miniature Schnauzer mix – but Rusticat – a confident, streetwise ginger – was a different story. It took three weeks of traumatic encounters until finally the black and ginger noses rubbed together and an unholy alliance was formed.
The three pals travelled first class via Amsterdam to Budapest where we were waiting for them. Benji was shivering and terrified, Rusticat was scrunched up and terrified, and Ringo was wild-eyed and terrified. However, they slowly adapted to their new life. They found the winter snow scary at first, then exciting. Two-and-a-half years down the line, Ringo and his fellow furry friends love life in our rural village in Hungary and have all developed their unique characters. They enjoy two daily walks where they’re free to romp in the beautiful countryside.
Included in the mix is a new addition, sweet Sophie, who came to us when her owner could no longer keep her. Ringo has given us many grey hairs with his ungovernable nature and has fallen hopelessly in love with a Hungarian Vizsla named Luci, who likes him but has many other suitors. He’s chased the neighbourhood cats, one of whom lured him into an abandoned barn where he got stuck and we had to get help to cut the locks and get him out, and he’s strolled along the thermal overflow stream in Heviz, among many other adventures.
Life is never dull with this crazy character around, but we love him to bits and will never forget how desperately sadly his life began.