As you have probably gathered from reading my blog I am a doggy kind of girl. I love dogs and I live in a dog loving country so everything doggy should be perfect, or so you would think at face value. Now for the last year or so I have been in contact with the PR department at the Dogs Trust through various campaigns and general communications and we have built up a good relationship, and last Thursday were given an amazing opportunity to visit one of their re-homing centres – Dogs Trust Harefield.
It might come as a surprise to some of you, mainly due to the fact that we have a rescue dog at home; I have never actually been in a rescue centre. Our Lilly is a rescue but she was lucky enough to be actually passed from one family to another – her old family dropped her off and we were already waiting to pick her up, so she never set a foot in the shelter, so neither did I.
I really wanted to go to the Dogs Trust Harefield centre. Mark however was concerned and was trying to tell me that it could be a traumatic experience and that maybe I should politely refuse, obviously confused as to why he would suggest such a thing I asked why. He told me the story of how all through his childhood his parents operated a dog rescue and re-homing service with their Local Authority. This arrangement played out by his family going to the local authority to see what dogs they had collected and picking one to bring home. Then through local advertising and word of mouth they would seek to find a permanent home for that dog and when successful they would go back and pick another one. I was still curious as to how this wonderful act could still be cause of a traumatic experience so Mark explained that the policy was that when the Local Authority collected an abandoned dog they would only look after it for 7 days and that if by the end of that week the dog had not been claimed that it would be put to sleep by a vet. So Mark remembers as a child looking through rows of metal cages at all the dogs that were on their 7th day knowing that they could only realistically save one of them, and that when his family did pick one to take home that when they left the others were probably not going to be alive the next day. So yes there was happiness regarding the now happy dog in the car on its way to a bright new future but it was tinged with great darkness as many had been left behind, this was traumatic. I could not reconcile what I knew about the Dogs Trust with this story so I still wanted to go and Mark agreed to come with me just in case as emotional support.
Apparently the world has moved on quite a bit since Marks childhood and we didn’t need to be apprehensive of any traumatic experiences as become evident from the second we passed through the wide welcoming gateway into the Dogs Trust compound. Impressive from the outset was our initial thoughts and we suspect the 15,000 dogs they have re-homed in the last year as well.
Yes you read that right, this one charity re-homes 15,000 dogs a year on average, and they are only one of many charities hard at work in this much needed field of care. That’s a jaw dropping fact right there.
We were met on arrival by the centre manager and the PR advisor and given the tour and chatted about the facilities and services they offer, it took 3 hours! And trust me we didn’t dally anywhere this was an engaging and informative tour it’s just that they offer so much it takes that long just to go and have a quick peek at all the parts of this centre and at the end of it all we wanted to do was change our careers and join them.
From the wide, open plan brightly lit reception where the public can sit down and have a chat with a staff member you can venture into an equally large library part. Yes, you are reading it right – they have a private library filled with donated books waiting there to be read or taken home in exchange for a small donation.
Once you pass through a half glassed door designed with a bone shaped glass in it, you enter the dog re-homing part where you can actually see all the lovely dogs waiting for a new forever home.
This place was nothing like I was expecting.
In my head I imagined dark boxes filled with unhappy dogs making puppy eyes at every person who passed by… in reality each “dog room” is large and well lit with comfy beds or even giant arm chairs or single sofas; the place is filled with various toys and most importantly access to the outside. I never imagined it will look like this… All the dogs out there actually looked happy and content. Their daily routine includes outdoor activities plus a cuddle time with a member of staff.
In addition to the public sections there are other parts of the centre in which dogs live…
There is a training section – this part is reserved for dogs which have just come in and are now undergoing a seven day assessment;
There is a puppy section – yes, puppies are brought to the shelter as well, we actually had a chance to meet some and participate in a cuddle time with them… and this little fellow is still looking for a home…
There is a “home room” section – this one is actually very interesting; it is reserved for dogs which have been through some traumatic experiences and they need reintroducing to a more home like environment and importantly relearn how to behave in such an environment; these rooms look like a proper front room in yours or my house; filled with furniture to resemble a home.
There is also a section for dogs which will stay in the centre for ever as they can’t be put for adoption.
The Dogs Trust Harefield has re-homed just over 150 dogs since the beginning of this year… that’s over three dogs per day… not bad is it?
The Dogs Trust is a charity and as a charity it is funded by people, people like you and I, people of good will, people who despite the current economic climate can still find compassion in their hearts to help others, to help animals in need who aren’t able to help themselves.
The Dogs Trust is doing a fantastic job. All the dogs we’ve seen and met were well looked after but even the best shelter isn’t going to replace a loving home with a family of your own.
If you are planning on getting a dog, please consider re-homing instead of buying a puppy. All dogs coming from the Dogs Trust are fully assessed when it comes to their behaviour, potential likes and dislikes as well as vet checked; they will be neutered or spayed, vaccinated, de-warmed and anti-flea treated before you take them home.
And if you aren’t looking for a new four legged companion maybe you could sponsor a dog? There are dogs which will never find their forever home. This is not always necessarily the dogs fault but for one reason or another they will never have a chance of adoption; they will always live in Dogs Trust Centre.
I left the Dogs Trust Harefield with a heavy heart. I wanted to stay and help. We brought a bag of toys to the centre and purchased some books but I just felt like this wasn’t enough; I felt like I should do something more to help.
I can’t visit the Dogs Trust too often; I can’t become a volunteer; it is simply too far for me to travel, but I can write… I have my little internet space where I can share… so I am going to write to you in hope that you will read and help… share with others to spread the word… share in hope that more people of good heart will stand behind the Dogs Trust and the fantastic job they are doing.
I would like to say thank you to Emily and Richard for spending this time with us on Thursday. It was really time well spent and we both learnt so much.