I love dogs. They are unique animals. If you treat them well they’ll be the most loyal, affectionate and enthusiastic friend you’ve ever had! Over thousands of years, humans domesticated the dog to our mutual benefit. They would guard our camps and we would give them any extra food we had. Everybody’s happy. Over time, different groups of humans were drawn to dogs with different characteristics and so as far back as Ancient Egypt, there were recognisably different breeds of dog.
In modern times however, over the last hundred years or so, those breeds have become so extreme that almost every pure bred dog today has inherent health problems. From the deafness of Dalmatians, to the hip dysplasia of German Shepherds and the breathing problems of pugs, through intensive breeding we have done dogs a great disservice. For a dog loving nation we are one of the worst culprits here in Britain as our kennel club still doesn’t clamp down on the breeding of fathers with daughters and brothers with sisters, which perplexes me greatly as surely that’s just basic genetics. As humans, we discovered that marrying your cousin wasn’t the best idea genetically many years ago. I mean, just look at the royal family of years gone by…There’s a great documentary about this subject called Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which, although eye opening and very informative, does contain scenes of dogs in pain and or distress as a result of their health problems, so be warned. I don’t agree with the documentary maker on everything, but she has been brave and relentless in her pursuit of the truth in an effort to better the welfare of pedigree dogs, so good on her.
The result of all this domestication is that dogs are in the unique position now of being reliant on humans for their wellbeing. Unfortunately it turns out that many humans are not only irresponsible but cruel, and dogs pay the price for this. From people who chain up their dogs outside, to those who arrange dog fights, to puppy farmers, to the abhorrent dog meat trade in Asia, humans have let dogs down big time.
There is hope. Up and down the country and across the world, there are a band of people who should not only be praised to the skies but also given a hell of a lot more money than they are at the moment. I talk of course, of the rescuers. The outpouring of support for the Manchester Dogs Home recently when it was the victim of arson was truly heart-warming. This nation loves dogs, I just wish there wasn’t so much need for these charities.
Dogs Trust (formally The National Canine Defence League or NCDL) is the biggest dog rescue charity in the UK (and they’re now in Ireland too). They run educational programmes to give young people the information they need to be responsible dog owners. They assist homeless people with their dogs, giving them free veterinary care and advice. Their freedom project provides foster care for the dogs of those who are the victims of domestic abuse, as a violent partner often threatens to kill dogs and shelters generally can’t accommodate them. Dogs Trust also try to keep the greyhound racing industry honest as it can be a hotbed of corruption and cruelty.
They also work overseas to help dogs in Eastern Europe, India, Malta, Thailand and the Philippines, with neutering programmes, vaccinations and education. Crucially, they attempt to combat the unregulated and horrifically cruel dog meat trade. Back at home, they have environmental enrichment at their rehoming centres so that the dogs’ stay in kennels is as stress free as possible. All Dogs Trust dogs are neutered and microchipped before being rehomed. This is one of the issues I feel most strongly about, as without microchipping there is no responsibility and without neutering there is no hope of keeping the number of unwanted and abandoned dogs down. Once a dog is rehomed, they even give out free advice which may include having a visit from a dog behaviourist, if you are having any issues with the new member of your family. A brilliant initiative Dogs Trust have started is working with young offenders, so they can use their community service to help train dogs in need of a home. This gives them a tremendous sense of achievement and usefulness, helping both the dogs and themselves. Dogs Trust also have a special centre for elderly dogs filled with cosy couches and quiet and they never put a healthy dog to sleep.
All this is to say nothing of the fantastically dedicated folks who run smaller charities. There are people who stay up all night hand-feeding puppies who’ve been dumped in a bin and left for dead. There are those who train dogs for enriching professions like search and rescue or assisting the disabled with charities such as Canine Partners. Volunteers walk countless dogs and give out cuddles. Canine carers coax shy dogs, abused dogs or those who have had their will broken by being intensively bred from a young age, out into the sun and gently encourage them to have fun again.
We have a responsibility towards dogs. It is our duty to look after them. After all these years of making dogs reliant on us, we cannot let them down. At the very least, we should do all we can to respect dogs and make sure that we educate ourselves and our children how to treat them well. Dogs will find us if we’re trapped under rubble, they’ll sniff us out if we’re lost on a vast hillside, they see for us if we’re blind, hear for us if we are deaf, assist us with everyday tasks if we become disabled, they fight in our wars and keep us safe by finding bombs and illegal drugs. They even listen to children to reduce anxiety as they read, help those with autism and can predict epileptic seizures! Dogs love us, so much. We should love them in return.
There are loads of charities all over the place that help our canine companions, so here are a few of them for you to check out. If they are local to you, perhaps you could ask if they need any donations of old blankets or duvets. Many charities have Amazon wish lists or would just love it if you dropped in to donate a can or two of food. It doesn’t have to cost much, or indeed anything at all, but these organisations need your support. Thanks. Or, if you feel you’re ready, maybe you could think about rehoming a dog yourself. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home (where I got my first dog)
The Blue Cross (rehoming locations limited, but their charity shops are all over the place.)
Many Tears Animal Rescue (Llanelli)
Rain Rescue (Rotherham and Sheffield)
Wetnose Animal Aid (Helps smaller organisations and has a list of them on their site.)
A Better Life Dog Rescue (rehome dogs into the UK from Romania)
Helping Paws (A new charity that helps dogs from all over)
Nowzad (Rescue organisation started by a British soldier that assists dogs in Afghanistan)
Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – SSPCA (Helps all animals, including dogs, all over Scotland)
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – RSPCA (Animal charity for England and Wales.)
Greyhound Rescue UK (Site that lists all local greyhound rescue organisations within the UK.)
There are also farm animal sanctuaries who rescue dogs too! Here’s a couple:
Mossburn Community Farm Animal Sanctuary (A lovely place. I visited the animals there on my birthday this year.)