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Friday, September 18, 2015

Stokenchurch Dog Rescue Visit

Hey There, Dexter here.

It’s been a while, what have you been up to? Seriously, I’d love to know all about your doggy exploits so get in touch in the comments.

It’s been a busy one for me and Charlie lately, although Jo did go out without me this week (I usually like to go with her as often as possible but she had a good excuse, this time). I couldn’t go because she went to see the staff and dogs at a brilliant local dog rescue – Stokenchurch Dog Rescue (SDR). Read what she got up to, below.

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Based in Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire on the site of an ex-farm, Stokenchurch Dog Rescue have been re-homing dogs for 50 years. Jo met with CEO, Michelle Vickers who showed her round and told her how they help dogs in need. With 6 full time and 2 part-time staff plus an army of volunteers they re-home over 150 dogs a year and on the rare occasion that they can’t find a suitable home for a dog in their care, they’ll make sure it has a safe, loving home with them at the rescue centre (luckily this doesn’t happen too often and on average most dogs go to their new forever homes within about 2 months of arriving).

When a dog is brought in, the first thing that happens is that they spend 7 days in isolation, being assessed. Isolation might sound a bit severe but actually, the dogs are usually in pairs and it’s really just the general public that they are isolated from.

During those first 7 days, they are also assessed by a dog behaviour expert so that the staff can be sure of what type of owner and home will be best for them – so actually, if you re-home a dog from this rescue centre you’ll actually know a lot more about it than some dogs that you could buy either from a breeder or elsewhere.

After their first week, the dogs are moved from the isolation kennels and can, in most cases, then be seen by the public. Sometimes a dog can be too stressed to be in the viewing kennels so they are keep in a separate block – it really is all about what is best for that particular dog.

Maisey, looking for a quiet home

And “kennels” doesn’t really do where the dogs are kept justice. These are not wooden, outdoor pens or small crates. For a start they are in purpose built blocks and each one is spacious with a bed, toys and a place for the dogs to relax. They have glass doors so they can be seen by prospective adopters or the carers (who know every dog by name).

There’s also a treatment room, a fantastic dog-washing wet room (we all need one of these!) a doggy kitchen (each dog has its own special meal made up for it dependent on weight, allergies, breed or even the type of bowl they need) and a laundry. Outside, there are large, secure areas for the dogs to play – Michelle says the sight of the Lurchers, Whippets and Greyhounds sprinting round the paddock is really something to see!

The dogs are walked in the morning by one of 15/20 daily volunteers (they have to stay on lead for these walks, but that OK as they can play off lead in the secure outside space at the centre) and the public can view them in the afternoons between 2pm-3.45pm.

It’s not possible to just drop in to see the dogs any time of day as this was becoming a bit stressful for some of the dogs and the centre was becoming a bit of an activity with people just coming to look at the dogs as opposed to wanting to re-home one.

Before you get to see one of the dogs, you’ll have needed to complete a 2 page questionnaire on your home, your lifestyle, the type of dog you are looking for and how much time you can dedicate to your new pack member. Once you’ve done this, your application will be assessed by one of the team. They will be able to suggest the most suitable dog for you and you can then come in and see all the dogs.

You don’t have to pick the first dog you see and you’ll be able to walk the dog as often as you like before you make a decision. Once you’ve made up your mind, the dog will be reserved for you whilst a home check is carried out. This is essential and there’s no way around it. The team consider each dog in their care to be part of the family and they want to do everything possible to make sure the dog is going to the right home.

So, if your local shelter insists on the same, don’t be offended, it’s all about the dogs’ welfare, after all. In fact, Michelle says, the most common complaint is when a dog isn’t allowed to go to a home that’s not suitable (no matter how much the prospective owner may think it is, or want the dog). If it’s not right, it’s not right and the dog won’t be re-homed there.

Napoleon, Dog Of The Month

So, how can you help? Apart from the obvious two – donating money or adopting a dog, there are lots of other ways you can help. Michelle gave Jo a few ideas….

  • Each month, SDR hold a table top sale in their grounds where they sell items that have been donated. And it’s not just dog stuff. Jo saw shoes, clothes, scarves and more, so if you’ve got good quality items that you were thinking of taking to your local charity shop, maybe your local dog shelter could use them? At Stokenchurch, this table top sale is the second biggest fund raiser throughout the year.
  • Donate your time – dog walking is great, but if that’s not for you, there are other things you could do as well. Maybe you could spare a couple of hours a week to work in reception? Or help on a stall at a fund raising table top sale?
  • Join in – dog shows and activity days run by doggy charities need support from across the community, so go along – and take some friends!
  • Share, Retweet and Pin – getting the message out to as many people as possible is really important, so follow your local shelter / rescue centre of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others and make sure you like, share, comment, retweet and pin whenever you can.
  • Use your skills – are you a carpenter, a painter, a builder? Like many shelters and rescue centres, Stokenchurch Dog Rescue put their money where the dogs are, meaning that the facilities for the humans, (offices, staff room and reception) get updated last, so if you’ve got the skills to help with this, they would be very much appreciated. Or maybe you’re a graphic designer or a social media expert?

Anything that means more money can be spent on the dogs will be appreciated.

And, most of all… If you’re thinking of getting a dog – #adoptdontshop would be Michelle’s message. Think about your local rescue organisation, often they are smaller and get less media attention, but they’ll also know the dogs really well and in the case of Stokenchurch Dog Rescue every dog they re-home will have been assessed by a dog behaviour expert – definitely not something you’d get if you buy off the internet or a pet shop.

Got Questions?

You can read our post on what to consider when adopting a dog here and the staff at the rescue centre are likely to have years of experience they’ll be only to happy to share. A visit to our Adopt A Dog page will get you started on your search as well and if you know of a local rescue centre that we should include, please get in touch and let us know.

You can also read SDR’s FAQS here – these will vary from organisation to organisation, so always check with your local shelter or rescue centre first.

Stokenchurch Dog Rescue

Still not sure if you could offer a forever home to a dog in a rescue?

Read Gracie’s heart-warming story here – but make sure you’ve got the tissues ready…..

Have you adopted a dog and been rescued right back by your new family member?

If you have, please share your story, so we can help get the word out so more people think #adoptdontshop, first.

Comment below or get in touch at woof@dogsabouttown.co.uk , so we can share your story – lots of photos, please. You know we’re suckers for a doggy snap or ten!

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