Saturday, 13 October 2007

Blimey... shouldn't they be free?

One or two people are astonished that we charge for our rescue dogs. They think they're doing us a huge favour by offering a home to a needy animal. I can of course see their point. But rescues cost a lot to run , even one like Black Retriever X that doesn't have expensive kennels to maintain. The truth is, we can't survive on goodwill alone.

Some rescues charge quite a lot for a rescue dog - sometimes up to £200. I've always felt this is quite a lot so, until recently, we've only asked adopters to cover the £65 it costs us to bring a dog over from Ireland. Anything over and above that has been voluntary. Most people are terrific, it has to be said, recognising that there are often considerable costs apart from transport - vaccinations, kenneling, flea and worm treatments, neutering etc. People do, on average, give us about £100 - and sometimes more, which is fantastic. But a couple of weeks ago, I received a cheque for just £30 for a dog that cost us probably £300. It was a good home and I'm way too much of a softie to go back for more, but it has made me think again about adoption fees.

My day job (yep, I have one!) has always had to subsidise the rescue - to the tune of at least a couple of thousand pounds in the past year. My partner Jon and I have a successful small independent television company, but when you have your own business there are always times when cash flows a little more readily. So from today, we've decided to charge a minimum adoption fee of £100. It will undoubtedly mean we can help more dogs, so we hope everyone understands.

Friday, 5 October 2007

The art of matchmaking...

I met Kym my friend 15 years ago when I lived in London. She was a dog-walker then and became one of the very few people on the planet that I would trust to walk my flatcoat Fred (left) - then my only dog and precious beyond words.

Fred died a few years ago and I moved out of London to Wiltshire soon after. Kym, meanwhile, is now a full-time mum. She has a great kid, three-year-old Stanley (cool name eh?) and still lives in north London with her headteacher partner Gary.

Seventeen years ago, Kym found a young collie x tied to a park bench. She took Molly home and had her until earlier this year when she was finally put to sleep. She was soon on the phone asking if I could help her find another dog and, a a couple of months ago, I suggested she came to meet Dylan, a young lad from Ireland.

Dylan (right) is a lovely boy and we had found a lovely home for him with a great family in Gloucestershire but it hadn't worked out. Dylan suffered from bad separation anxiety which made him hard to leave, and he was a bit of an escape artist. Next door were very valuable, pregnant llamas. After a month he came back to us.

I called Kym and suggested she came to meet him. Kym thought Dylan was wonderful and, even better, Dylan was great with three-year-old Stanley - playful and very gentle. Kym went home and called a couple of days later to say she would love to have Dylan. But, in the meantime, I'd had an email from Corine in East Sussex who was looking for a dog with agility potential to be a companion for her flatcoat x. Rally.

Although I knew Kym would offer Dylan a great home, I felt Corine could offer an even better one - a really active, rural home with the added benefit of another dog for company. I told Kym I had changed my mind because my gut instinct was that Dylan would do better in the East Sussex home.

Kym was extremely upset, as she had a right to be. I had all-but promised Dylan to her. We didn't speak for a little while and I felt rotten about it. But Dylan went off to his new home and it's been a great success. He is proving to be an agility star, a great pal to Rally - and, wonderfully, Dylan has been fine shut in the kitchen at night on his own, something he couldn't cope with in the first home.

Then, two weeks ago, Scamper (below) arrived from Ireland. He is just gorgeous - a collie x, not a retriever, but with all the best retriever traits: playful, kind, gentle, bright and the cuddliest dog imaginable. He got on fantastically with my gang (who can be a bit fussy...) and is just about the loveliest, easiest boy we've ever had. As Scamper was just his 'pound' name, we re-named him Ollie, which suits him perfectly.

We already had a home lined up: Janice and her family from Dorset, who had adopted Snoop through us earlier this year. Janice was looking for a companion for Snoop and was taken by the pictures of Ollie on the website. But when she and one of her sons came to see him, there was no instant chemistry. Although some people are happy to let a dog grow on them, others need to feel that immediate "yes!" and Janice was one of them. As lovely as Ollie is, he just wasn't the dog for her.

The next day, an email arrived from Moira who a few months ago had first fostered and then adopted Holly, a little spaniel/collie x from Ireland. Moira has worked absolute wonders with Holly, who is a bit of a livewire. But Holly has an obsession Moira has not been able to cure her of: cats... And Moira lives next door to... a cat. Worse than that, Moira lives next door to at cat owned by a family with children who are scared of dogs, particularly an athletic spaniel/collie x who climbs trees to get at their cat. After months of work, Moira had finally admitted defeat and decided she must rehome Holly.

I mentioned Holly (left) to Janice. The whole family drove up to meet Holly last weekend. And it was love at first sight. Phew! Holly will be going to her new home shortly.

But we still had Ollie and a surprising lack of enquiries about him. And then, suddenly, I thought of Kym. Ollie even looked like her old collie x Molly. (Holly... Molly... Ollie... hope you're keeping up here!)

Kym, her partner Gary, and their son Stanley came to see Ollie last weekend. They absolutely loved him and Ollie, not much more than a pup himself, was just fantastic with Stanley who is a little boy with a real affinity with dogs. (Stan and Ollie... now how could that NOT be a match made in heaven...?!) The picture below, completely unposed, was taken last Sunday and shows three-year-old Stanley with Ollie on his right, and our Tickle on his left.

Some rescues won't rehome to families with children under 8. One has to be so careful. But Ollie had been with me a week and I know he is bomb-proof. He is also a much better choice than Dylan for a London home: he doesn't have a strong prey-drive; doesn't leg-it on walks and is a very obedient boy. London's roads and traffic are a scary prospect when you don't have a dog that has great recall.

So Kym, Gary and Stan took Ollie home with them. Yesterday, Kym called to say they already love him to bits. Stan and Ollie are the best of buddies - rolling around together on the floor, with Ollie being so incredibly gentle with young Stan.

A couple of days ago, Kym's partner Gary turned to her said: "You're so much nicer with a dog around."

Now that's true of many of us, isn't it?