For as long as I can remember, I have shared my life with a dog. When I was growing up there was always a scruffy canine companion around to listen to all the heartbreaks, the worries and the woes, and to share the joys, the trips to the seaside, the days in the countryside, and to be the best friend anyone could ever have. Never did they judge me, or betray me. They were always incredibly pleased to see me, practically turning cartwheels with joy when I returned to the house after even the shortest time out. And they asked so little in return for their complete loyalty and friendship.
I volunteered at a local Dogs' Home and was fortunate enough to be employed by them as the Volunteer Co-Ordinator. My heart was broken on nearly a daily basis by some of the desperately sad cases that came through the gates, but time and again it became clear that a lot of dogs who came in were there only because of ignorance on their owners behalf. Dogs who had been bought as cuddly, cute puppies grew up into mischievious adolescents, who with a firm hand would make fantastic dogs, but the owners wouldn't put the time and effort in to teach the puppies any manners.
I went to the fantastic Reaseheath College in Nantwich, Cheshire to study many different courses, all dog-related. Some of the level 3 OCN in Canine Health and Welfare, Canine Nutrition, Canine Psychology and Behaviour, Canine Complementary Therapies, Canine Training Theory, and several others, including courses geared solely to Rescue Dogs. I also passed a Canine First Aid Course and Canine CPR course, with Vet Nurse Direct.
After some time, a couple of other volunteers and myself left the Dogs' Home and formed Care For The Paw. By going in to schools and visiting Brownie and Beaver packs, etc., to talk to children, and teaching them about what a dogs needs to be happy, how to behave around dogs, what to do to stay safe if a dog frightens them and many other things, we hope that what they learn will stay with them and they will take the knowledge forward with them as they grow.
A year after setting up Care For The Paw I was diagnosed with cancer - after what seemed to be an eternity of forced rest following surgery and treatment, things began to get back to normal, and things took off in a big way, I was really busy visiting schools and community groups.
In February of 2016 I was stood in the garden at 11.30pm on a bitterly cold and frosty night, waiting for my four dogs to finish what they were doing and go inside to get warm. For some reason I got to thinking how difficult it must be for any animals outside in this weather - then I thought about all the homeless people living on the streets - many of them with their dogs. I felt an overwhelming urge to do something to help these dogs and owners - which is how the work we do with the dogs of homeless people came about. I am really proud of this work, and I have got together an amazing little team in Liverpool, who work incredibly hard to make life a little easier for dogs who are living rough with their homeless owners. It is such a difference to see these guys - I worked in an environment where people offered such a lot of excuses for rehoming their dogs, yet people who are living on the streets fight hard to keep their beloved dogs with them.
I hope we can continue to help them for many years to come.