Saturday 1 October 2016

When rescue dogs do the rescuing

As a new TV3 show goes behind the scenes in a dog rehoming facility, our reporter meets some of the owners who say their rescue dogs actually rescued them

Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30

Best friends: Tanya Booth on Curracloe beach, Co Wexford with her rescue dogs Dubh, Candy and Scooter Photo: Patrick Browne
Best friends: Tanya Booth on Curracloe beach, Co Wexford with her rescue dogs Dubh, Candy and Scooter Photo: Patrick Browne
Amy Fortune with her rescue dog Pam, who she credits with helping her come to terms with her husband’s sudden death. Photo: petphotography.ie

There's no denying that, by and large, we are a nation of dog lovers. From the Pet Expo to the Doggie Do, there are year-round events playing on the fact that we adore our furry friends, and plenty of new dog-friendly businesses springing up that cater to the four-legged beasts in our lives.

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But for every story of a well-loved and pampered pooch, there's one about a poor mutt that got the short end of the stick in life. Ireland is notorious for puppy farming, and our homes and shelters are heaving with unwanted dogs looking for a forever home. According to TV presenter Andrea Hayes, the fact that 2,986 dogs were destroyed in pounds in 2014 was a big factor in her bringing a new show to TV3. 'Dog Tales' starts tonight at 8.30pm, and it's a project the animal welfare enthusiast has been working on for a while.

"I came up with the idea about two years ago and approached Dogs Trust, so the idea has been fine-tuned and considered for a long time. I'm so thrilled it has finally come to fruition," she says.

"I wanted to go behind the scenes and work as a canine volunteer, to really see what the unsung heroes of dog welfare did every day in a rehoming facility. Dogs Trust has over 50 staff, 90 adult dogs and 110 puppies at any given time, with three of the managers living on-site to check on new mums, feed the older pups and administer medication through the night."

The show follows Andrea's experience working with the team and the animals throughout the rehoming process, and is a rarity in that it's equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting.

Andrea herself has worked in the area of animal welfare for years, and regular viewers of TV3 will know her from 'Animal A&E'.

"Previously, I filmed a documentary on why Ireland was the puppy farming capital of Europe, and despite legislation changes, we haven't seen very much positive change in the area of abandoned dogs. So for me, the concept of looking for a solution was key, and making a difference stemmed from that."

She says she thinks the Irish public love to hear positive pet stories, and that this is the first time cameras have captured the amazing work of the Dogs Trust. "It's great to see what goes on behind the scenes of such an amazing charity because it's hard to describe - from endless laundry, hungry mouths to feed, cleaning to be done, walks to be had and, of course, cuddles to be given, it's all in a day's work for Dogs Trust."

The aim of the programme is to encourage anyone thinking of getting a dog to adopt, not shop, for their furry friend, and to remind people that caring for a rescue can often be just as beneficial for the human involved as it is for the dog, if not more so.

One woman that says her rescue dog rescued her right back, is Amy Fortune, 33, from Swords in Dublin. She says her greyhound Pam helped her cope with the sudden death of her husband, Craig, five years ago.

"When we initially went to get a dog, I think it was because my maternal instinct was kicking in but I didn't want to go down the baby route. We adopted Pam from Dogs Trust about six-and-a-half years ago when she was around three-years-old. She'd been in there for about six months, and my husband and I always felt getting her was the best thing we ever did."

Tragically, only 18 months later, Craig died suddenly of a heart attack.

"When something like that happens, your world is turned upside down. It was a very hard time for the first two years especially, trying to get my head around it all. But because of Pam, I never felt completely alone and she was an excuse to get out of bed in the morning. She got me up and out, and I love her so much for that - she was my lifeline."

Amy says that because she and Craig got Pam together, she feels like she still has a little part of him with her. "Even before he died, I loved her so much and she definitely improved our lives. But it's funny how much she's done for me without even knowing," says Amy.

"She's entirely innocent of the impact she's had on my life and how she's helped me. It's been five years since Craig died, the anniversary is coming up, and from what we can work out, the last thing he did was give Pam a treat before leaving the house."

Tanya Booth, also from Swords, has found her three rescue dogs have helped her both personally and professionally.

"I've been a dog owner all my life," says the mum of two. "The first dog we adopted from Dogs Trust was Candy. We got her when she was only eight-weeks-old. Then a few months later I went back and got Dubh, who was about five-months-old then. After that, I started volunteering in Dogs Trust and I did that for about two years.

"I'd be over there most Friday evenings walking the dogs and spending time with them, and I used to take one of the long stay residents, Garvin, home with me. I got attached to him, but he wasn't recommended to be adopted in to a home with children under 10 - my son, Sam, was 8. He was actually rehomed when I was on holiday.

"Then I started taking a dog called Scooter home, and he had a severe skin condition. I took him for an overnight after a couple of weeks, and that was it - he never left!"

Because of Scooter's rare skin condition, Tracy says there was a very slim chance of anyone else taking him, and now she's had him for three years she says that not only is he happy and stabilised, he and the other two rescue dogs have changed her life.

"I separated from my husband a couple of years ago, and because I'd been a stay-at-home mum and was years out of the workforce, I found it hard to get a job. So with all my experience with animals, instead of minding children, I said I'd mind dogs instead."

Tracy now runs a doggy day care service called The Crate Escape, and is training to become a dog groomer, something that she says gives her immense satisfaction.

"There are thousands of amazing rescue dogs in Ireland wanting a second chance in life and looking for the perfect person to take that chance on them," adds Andrea. "And in Dogs Trust they have a dedicated team of canine carers to help you find the perfect dog for your needs and lifestyle."

'Dog Tales' starts tonight on TV3 at 8.30pm

Irish Independent

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