Ex BBC journalist says pet psychology soothed 'terrified' rescue dog

Ex BBC journalist who adopted ‘terrified’ Romanian rescue dog says turkey scraps and pet psychology have helped coax traumatised animal from behind the sofa – where she’s been hiding for 10 days

  • Rory Cellan-Jones, 64, who lives in West London with wife Diane, decided to adopt Sophie the rescue dog before Christmas and she arrived ten days ago 
  • However, the nervous dog won’t go outside and has barely emerged from behind the back of the family’s sofa since the 72-hour van journey from Romania
  • Ex BBC tech man said family have been using sausage to try and reassure her
  • Read more: Fifth of dog owners concerned pet will put on weight over Christmas

The BBC’s former technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones has shared how patience, pet psychology and scraps of leftover Christmas turkey are slowly helping a traumatised rescue dog settle into his family home. 

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Cellan-Jones, 64, who worked for the BBC for more than 40 years until he left in 2021, described how the ‘terrified’ Romanian rescue dog named Sophie has struggled to settle at their family home. 

The dog, who arrived at 3am on the Saturday before Christmas, after a 72-hour van journey from the Eastern European country, has spent most of her time since hiding behind the sofa. Efforts to persuade the dog to go outside had failed, he added. 

Rory Cellan-Jones, 64, who lives in West London with wife Diane, decided to adopt Sophie the rescue dog before Christmas and she arrived ten days ago

Cellan-Jones, who lives with his wife Diane in West London, told the programme: ‘She was much more frightened than we’d imagined.’  

He added: ‘There is a bit of a cautionary tale here about being aware of what adopting a dog from Romania or other foreign countries means. We didn’t go into it blind, we’d seen the dog on video and she seemed to be okay.’

He said that travelling such distances had likely been a ‘pretty scary experience for her’.

The newsman said the family had been following a pet psychology programme to try and help her feel more at home but that it had been ‘two steps forward one step back’ so far.

The nervous dog won’t go outside and has barely emerged from behind the back of the family’s sofa since the 72-hour van journey from Romania

Ex BBC tech man said family have been using sausage to try and reassure her – and that they’d had a breakthrough in recent days when the dog took a piece of sausage from his hand

‘The programme associates us with good things’, he said, ‘and those good things are bits of sausage and leftover turkey and last night it worked, for the first time, in a real way.’

The journalist said: ‘I sat down very quietly, held a piece of sausage in my hand, she came out, she approached me, she took it and it was a huge breakthrough.’

He said the family was learning to be ‘incredibly patient’ and urged those who were thinking of adopting a rescue dog to think carefully – but said the family had already grown fond of their new pet, and the support her story has garnered on social media. 

After Cellan-Jones began sharing photos and videos of Sophie, he said the family had experienced a ‘huge wave of affection’ for her online.

The journalist told BBC Breakfast that the dog had taken positive steps, saying: ‘I sat down very quietly, held a piece of sausage in my hand, she came out, she approached me, she took it and it was a huge breakthrough.’

On Instagram, a clip of Sophie eating a piece of sausage from her new owner’s hand saw one pet fan say: ‘Best thing I’ve seen this festive period!’

Another added: ‘Amazing! I’ve been watching her progress and bless her she’s doing so well. We have 2 Romanian rescues, one a street dog who settled relatively quick and another from kennels who took a long time to come out of his shell. He still has his quirks but he’s a different dog to what he was when he arrived. He’s taught us such a lot.’

Emma Billington, from the charity Dogs for Rescue, explained to BBC Breakfast how people adopting a rescue dog shouldn’t view them as ordinary domestic pets. 

She said: ‘It takes a long time with rescue dogs. Believe they can change and the main thing is giving them the safe space. These dogs have only known trauma so they need to feel really safe.’

She said ignoring a rescue dog felt like the ‘hardest thing’ for a pet owner to do but it was often the best way not to overwhelm them. 

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