2016 marks the 125th anniversary year of Dogs Trust so there’s no better time to go behind the scenes at our nearest rehoming centre, HarefieldHarefield Dogs Trust is a happy place. Once the animals cross the canary yellow threshold the brightness begins.
But when we visited the Centre last month it was the staff that were down. The premises had been broken into during the night and money stolen. In his own words, Manager Richard Moore’s ‘blood was boiling’.
“My first reaction was to make sure all the dogs were OK. We remove cash every night but we had to pay £300 to temporarily board up the glass and it will cost about £1000 to replace the pane.”
The bottom line is that’s £1300 that would be better spent supporting the animals.Harefield centre is one of twenty one centres across the UK dedicated to the wellbeing of dogs. Set within 16 acres of farmland it has 75 glass fronted kennels and first class facilities including seven exercise paddocks, a four acre field, a Puppy Suite, a Sensory Garden and a vet’s clinic.
Three members of staff and their families live on site, there’s a café, a bookshop and the radio plays constantly.
“Music keeps everybody happy (we listen to all sorts -Classic FM, Radio 5, Radio 4, Radio 2) it relaxes the staff, they sing and the positive vibes reflect on the dogs. Dogs get used to sounds and it screens outdoor noises like fireworks and thunder.’”
Work at the RHC is essentially about acclimatising, love and stimulation. The emphasis is on keeping the dogs comfortable, content and socialising them so they can cope with the world outside.
“Sometimes dogs have a high level of frustration so we have to channel that “ says Richard, “We used to take them for regular afternoon walks but they would get anxious raring to go or jealous if their neighbour went before them. 2pm – 3.30pm is now cuddle time instead and we don’t walk to an obvious time schedule. We have seven exercise compounds and a new sensory garden. It’s locally funded and brilliant. There’s a bone shaped paddling pool and ramps, weave poles, a tunnel and bridge and different surfaces, grass sand and concrete. The dogs can use their senses after having been in a restricted environment. We keep them stimulated and challenged at meal times too with the help of puzzle feeder bowls.”
There are currently 110 canine residents at Harefield (178 max so far), all well and truly loved. It is as much people’s hectic lifestyle that keeps the kennels fully occupied as our behaviour
“People’s lives are becoming faster paced, especially in the London area. Dogs often come to us because owners don’t have the time or have had a change of circumstances – change of career, moving home, divorce. We are also seeing many illegally imported fashionable breeds of puppies smuggled from eastern Europe, not vaccinated and being sold online. It’s so cruel and has to be stopped”
“Dogs who are difficult to home are here for the long haul. A dog with a medical problem like epilepsy might be part of shared adoption or a pen pal arrangement where people donate money and get pictures and progress reports in return. Every dog is special to us”
Don’t just head for Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre when you are considering adopting a canine companion. Go as an animal lover or just to support a well deserved animal charity. Have lunch or drink coffee at the café, buy a book from the shop or go armed with some cuddly toys, blankets or duvets (non feather) for added kennel comfort or take some books the charity can resell.
And while you’re there wish them all a Happy 125th birthday, but most of all be sure to tell somebody about the centre afterwards. Word of mouth is vital.
Dogs Trust West London UB9 6JW
www.dogstrust.org.uk 01895 453930
Photos © Purpix Photography