Having opened its doors almost a year ago, MICHELLE NORRIS heads down to Dogs Trust Basildon to spend the day with the staff that help care for its canine residents…
RUNNING up and down a training hall with squeaky toys, getting soaked in the dog grooming parlour and taking a stroll around a 14 acre site with a little furry friend isn’t how I usually spend my Monday mornings. But this is no normal Monday – this is a day at Dogs Trust Basildon.
Since opening in June 2014, the £7.3m centre has helped to rehome over 850 dogs; whether they’re strays from the street or dogs that owners simply can no longer care for, the centre is dedicated to looking after and finding the paw-fect homes for its four legged residents.
Caring for around 110 dogs at a time, the state of the art facility features soundproof kennels with underfloor heating, outside areas for dog walks and enclosed paddocks where the dogs can run free as well as a hydrotherapy room, a full vet and surgical suite plus training and behaviourist advisors.
“Our supporters put their hard earned money into a dog charity, so we’re spending the donations in the best possible way that we can,” says Supporter Relations Officer Sam Davis. “When people drive past, they see the solar panels and think that it’s a lot of money to spend, but we’re investing in the future of this centre. We wanted to do it properly and not waste time doing it half heartedly.”
Arriving at the centre at 9.30am Sam tells me that I’ve missed the kennel cleaning, which starts daily at 8.30am and ensures that each of the 69 glass fronted kennels are spotless. But she reassures me there will be time to get my hands dirty throughout the day.
Meeting the dogs
Today is a big day for Joe – it’s the day he’s meeting a new family and may be finding his forever home. Taken in as a stray by Dogs Trust, the young Border Collie (pictured right) has been waiting to find the right owners with the staff’s help.
“There’s a misconception about Collies,” says Sam. “A lot of people know that they’re intelligent dogs and think that they’ll be easy to train, but sometimes it can be the polar opposite. They also need a lot of exercise and attention.”
On hand to help Joe look his best, I joined Canine Carer Robert Lewsley to give Joe a little grooming before presenting him to his potential new owners. The onsite vet team estimate that Joe is between one and two years old and as a young Border Collie, he was surprisingly a calm and friendly chap – although enjoyed giving me and Robert a good soaking after his bath. Towel drying him and giving him a brush, he was soon ready to meet his new owners.
Sadly, Border Collies aren’t the only breeds to have a hard time when it comes to rehoming.
“The most common breeds of dogs that we see here are Collies, Staffies, Terriers, Greyhounds and Huskies,” says Sam. “Greyhounds are difficult to rehome because people think that they need a lot of exercise as ex-racers. But they can also be quite docile, so when a family comes to meet them face to face, they want to feel that instant connection, but Greyhounds tend to just plod along and not get too excited.”
During my visit, I got to know ex-racer Billy (pictured right), a beautiful, grey coloured Greyhound, who I was told was having a sad time in kennels. The dogs are taken out for walks at least three times a day but given the chance to run around outside, Billy was very quiet, choosing to rest his head against my leg rather than run across the outside enclosure. The centre have estimated that he’s around two to five years old and, with such a mild temperament, it was difficult not to fall in love with him.
Another dog struggling to find her new home is Staffordshire Cross Doris (pictured left). A favourite among the staff at the centre, Doris was brought into Dogs Trust as a stray on Christmas Eve and is still trying to find a home. An excitable little lady, she loves playing with toys, so I took some time out to play with her in the centre’s training room. Running from one end of the hall to the other with a squeaky toy, she happily bounded around after me, although she did catch my hand while playing, but it was purely by accident. Still, she was a loveable lady.
Having spent the last few weeks in Dog’s Trust care, Jack Russell Terrior, Blue came from a dog hoarder in Ireland. I’m told that the hoarder tried to take on too many animals and Blue is the last of the group to find a home. He’s a lively little thing and is thought to be between six to 12 months old, but he’s not comfortable around other dogs, which resulted in a very ‘yappy’ dog walk around the site grounds.
However, Sam tells me that the hardest dogs to rehome are surprisingly dogs with black fur.
“Black dogs are typically the hardest to rehome because they don’t really have a distinctive look, especially in terms of promoting them in the press as they don’t photograph well,” she says. “But we try to do the best that we can for them.”
Indeed, rehoming around 20-25 dogs a week, the centre is certainly doing something right. But Dogs Trust Basildon can’t do it without the support of the local community.
Dogs Trust Essex Rehoming Manager Maria Wickes says: “I’d like to say a huge thanks for all of the local support, especially at Christmas. All of the toys and treat donations were amazing and we couldn’t do what we do without our supporters.”
To raise more funds, the centre will be holding a Fun Day at Barleylands on Sunday, 21 June from 11am to 4pm. The day will include a Fun Dog Show, Have-a-go Agility, Dog displays and more. For details call 01268 535050.
The rehoming process
- Visitors must first fill out a questionnaire at Dogs Trust to ascertain their needs and lifestyle.
- The potential new owners are then invited to look at the dogs. The staff will guide the visitors to which dog they think is right for them – sometimes it’s not the dog they’ve originally come to meet.
- The dogs are then taken out for a supervised walk on site.
- If the visitor likes the dog and the staff are happy, the dog can then be ‘booked’.
- Dogs Trust will then conduct a home visit to make sure that the home is suitable for the dog and that there is secure garden space. This is also important if there are existing pets or if there needs to be a ‘cat test’.
- The new owners must register their new dog with a vet and attend a pre-adoption talk.
- New owners are asked for a minimum donation of £100 for their new dog.
- Owners can then take their new dog home – the process between booking and taking the dog home is usually between five to seven days.