Hope gets me out of home
I rarely leave home these days as I don’t enjoy travelling and have little sense of adventure. I prefer the familiar and am a dedicated homebody with a lifelong tendency to enjoy my own company. So to prise me away from the dogs and home usually has to involve other dogs and a very good reason.
Hope Rescue presented the perfect combination this week. On Tuesday I quashed my anxieties about flying, got on a plane and spent a couple of nights in Wales, staying with Vanessa Waddon, the founder of what I consider to be an outstanding UK rescue centre.
In 2017 after 12 years of rescuing dogs and operating from commercial boarding kennels and foster homes, Hope bought and moved into their own rescue centre in Llanharan, South Wales. Strategic development of the centre is intelligent and ongoing under Vanessa’s leadership and she has a fantastic team bringing a brilliant vision to life in a small corner of South Wales. I have long supported Hope Rescue and have watched its development from afar. This was my first visit.
The centre itself is tucked away – along a lane I was happy not to be navigating – but what Hope does has a far reaching impact. With stray dog contracts, assisting the authorities with seizures of dogs from breeding situations, as well as many owner surrenders, the centre is incredibly busy. They currently care for well over 200 dogs, with approximately half onsite and half in local foster homes.
My snapshot view on Wednesday morning saw numerous dogs brought in from the local pound, including two pocket bullies with brutally cropped ears; litters of puppies came in with their fosterers for vet checks; a happy adoption took place of a puppy who was born in foster care from a recent seizure case. I heard details of another recent large intake of seized breeding dogs, some of whom are likely to be pregnant. Filming had taken place the previous day for a TV news report. I loved seeing the extent of Hope’s work close-up.
The phone in reception constantly rang with quick, efficient answering; it was clear every call mattered. Dogs, lots of dogs, were walked – the centre has paddocks and an 18 acre woodland area. Staff and volunteers were very busy. I was struck though, by however much was going on, the atmosphere was calm and focussed. Hope is a well-captained ship. Good organisation and dedication is in abundance. It comes from Vanessa who leads by example.
It was in 2014 when Saving Susie-Belle came out, that Vanessa and I briefly first met in person. Vanessa has always supported my books and writing and we had a lot to talk about. Vanessa is a passionate campaigner and with her colleagues is currently driving, supporting and backing several major ones. A glance at Hope’s website and social media shows how committed the charity is to going beyond picking up the pieces, and stopping the problems in the first place. This is one of the big reasons I have a lot of admiration for their work. And why I am proud that Schnauzerfest can help in the many areas where our charities align.
For example I found out much more about the work with breeding dogs which Hope does. This has always been the area that personally affects me the most. A great proportion of problems stem from what is happening in the breeding industry. I heard in detail about the impact from cases where Animal Licensing Wales investigate breeders, resulting in seizures of dogs. Hope is dedicated to offering places for these dogs but it brings a high financial cost, something I have previously written about.
The demands are compounded when dogs are not signed over by the breeders. Legal procedures ensue, over many months, with no guarantee the dogs won’t be returned to their breeder at the end. Remembering the dogs are seized because of the conditions they are kept in, their health and/or the legal/illegal status of the operation, returning dogs must be a hard blow to recover from. I heard from the team how when this happens – and it does – the emotional toll on them is immense. I cannot imagine how they pick themselves up from that and do it all again.
As well as these aspects, there are the practicalities of immediately housing dozens of dogs, knowing some will be pregnant. Plus, as most are likely to require extensive vet work it amounts to a serious commitment. With ongoing legal procedures, when Hope does this frontline work (very few rescues do) they are restricted in what they can make public. This severely impacts their ability to fundraise, even though within hours they could be caring for 30, 40, 50 or more dogs. There is a difference between working this way: going through the processes that will prevent bad breeding practices from continuing, and simply taking in dogs from breeders who no longer need them. The work Hope does is outstanding.
My visit wouldn’t have been complete without meeting schnauzers. I was lucky to meet Winston and Toby, both Schnauzerfest supported.
And Watson, who lives with Hope’s Grants and Trusts Fundraiser, Emma. I even managed an early morning walk around the woodland with Watson and his sister Indi.
I was also at Hope to attend a meeting organised by Justice for Reggie. They are campaigning for better regulation of online pet sales. I’ll write more in the next blog.