What actually goes on behind the scenes in a rescue centre? It’s always intrigued me, so I went to spend a day at my local Dogs Trust, which is the Roden centre. To give you some background, this centre is amazing, re-homing between twenty and thirty dogs a week. After talking to the staff, I realised that it is their dedication and knowledge that enables the shelter to have such success.
Each day starts with the mammoth task of cleaning out the kennels and runs. This involves clearing away any mess, sweeping out and disinfecting the dogs’ living quarters. Carers choose whether to feed the dogs they look after before or after cleaning, and remembering individual’s diets as well as any medication needed is another demanding task.
Once the dogs have been fed and cleaned, it’s time for walkies! The centre has a wonderful amount of space for exercise; fields to romp through, and a secure area for the more energetic to let off some steam. This is in addition to smaller secure areas near the kennels buildings, which provide dogs with safe space to play, and often interact with each other. This allows dogs a welcome break from their living environment.
What struck me most about the centre was the measures staff take to ensure their charges have as much comfort as possible. Armchairs are squeezed in to give a feel of home, and dogs are given as much company as possible. Most carers told me that even on their days off they can’t help thinking about the dogs they look after, and some have to make an effort not to go in to the centre in their leisure time.
For older dogs there is a wonderful house on site, where two members of staff live. This means that older residents can enjoy the benefits of having a real home, and being on site means lots of visits during the day. At the other end of the spectrum is the puppy block, where bitches about to give birth and those with young pups live.
In addition to cleaning, feeding and exercising, there is transportation to and from the vet (some on site, some a car trip away), grooming and training to be done. The centre has a resident trainer, who was eager to stress to me that a Dogs Trust dog is supported for the rest of its life. At any point, the new owner can contact the centre for advice and help. The trainer spends time assessing dogs, helping some face their fears, with others developing good behaviour.
On the day I visited a photo call was arranged to highlight the many pairs of dogs in the centre who are hoping to be re-homed together. Bringing together twenty odd dogs ranging from Yorkshire Terriers to German Shepherds was no easy task, but despite necessitating standing in freezing cold weather for over twenty minutes, it was undertaken with patience and persistence, because it meant the dogs in question had a better chance of finding a new family.
Members of the public are encouraged to volunteer at the centre, and during my visit I talked to several who had made the trip to the shelter to walk dogs, in spite of the cold rainy weather. Their contribution, on top of the staff’s devotion, does so much to enliven the dogs’ day.
In between all the activity I‘ve already described, there is the joyous task of welcoming people coming to collect their new best friend – or friends! One of the great strengths of the centre it seems to me is that time is taken to talk to visitors; to assess their requirements and to fully inform them about the dog available for adoption. Sadder occasions are new dogs arriving; but at least with Dogs Trust Roden, they have a good shot at a brighter future.
During my visit I learned so much, and developed such an admiration for the staff. I also fell in love. Several times. With a Bulldog, a Labrador, a GSD-cross........
Julie Hill is the host of DogCast Radio, a twice monthly podcast about dogs. She lives with her Labrador, Buddy, and a cheeky Bichon Frise, Star, in rural Shropshire. She writes for a number of dog magazines and other publications. The best dog-related advice she’s ever received is to love your dog so much it can’t resist you.