By SHONA SIBARY
Shona Sibary with her rescue centre dogs Juno (left) and Albus (right). More than 126,176 dogs have been picked up by local authorities over the past 12 months, but she found rescue wardens patronising
Last January we lost our lovely ten-year-old Labrador, Oscar. The vet found an inoperable tumour in his abdomen and gently suggested we take him home to say our goodbyes.
We cuddled him on the sofa and tried to feed him small morsels of his favourite cheddar, but it was obvious he was fading from us fast.
Nothing prepared me for the agony of having him put to sleep the next morning. The children clung to him and wept before leaving for school — the same children who, as toddlers, had swung from his neck, covered his nose with Buzz Lightyear stickers and attempted to ride him like a horse across the garden.
'Juno (left) is a Husky-cross-Pointer with piercing blue eyes. At the age of one, she was still deemed to be a "puppy" and we were still "officially" not allowed to have her,' said Shona
He was a family dog through and through. He’d seen me off at the front door to give birth to three babies and been there, waiting, each time I returned home — giving a gentle sniff to the tightly blanketed bundles, followed by a wag of approval.
Oscar’s death left us bereft and even though we’ve always owned a dog, it didn’t feel right, somehow, to rush into replacing him. But as winter thawed, so, too, did our resolve. By spring we were ready to share our lives with a four-legged friend again.
I started researching breeders on Google and was horrified to discover the price of a Kennel Club-registered Labrador puppy was £600 to £800. We’d paid £250 for Oscar in 2000.
'Juno and Albus have brought that wonderful doggy spark back into our lives - wrestling for space on the sofa and barking endlessly at washing drying on the line,' said Shona
It suddenly seemed hugely extravagant, not to mention socially irresponsible, to spend all that money on a dog when there are thousands of homeless mutts in rescue centres all over the country.
Figures by the Dogs Trust, the country’s largest dog welfare charity, reveal that the number of stray dogs in Britain has reached an 11-year high, with more than 126,176 dogs being picked up by local authorities over the past 12 months — equating to 345 stray dogs being found every day.
'I can't imagine our lives without Juno and Albus. Which is a shame, because they still don't legally belong to us,' said Shona
You would think, with so many strays needing a home, I’d have been welcomed with open arms at any dog rescue centre of my choosing.
But you’d be wrong. If I’d known then what I know now about the dog re-homing process, I’d have hot-footed it to the nearest pet shop, bought a goldfish and told the children to start bonding.
No one warns you of the ridiculous hoops you have to jump through and of the high-handed, often patronising manner of rescue wardens.
'If the rescue centre finds out we have broken any terms of our contract (ie that we have a two-year-old), they have the right, with police force, to remove Juno and Albus from our care,' said Shona
If we ever go on holiday abroad, we have to tell them. If for any reason we are unable to continue to look after the dogs, we are not allowed to give them away to family or friends — they have to go back to the rescue centre.
Oh, and Juno and Albus are micro-chipped back to the dogs’ home, so if they do ever find a gap in a fence and decide to run off, the dogs’ home will always know.
So there you have it. Barking mad or sensible measures? I’ll let you decide or, perhaps, we should let sleeping dogs lie.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
By SHONA SIBARY