Every Dog Has Its Day

Yesterday I had the day off work, so I made the 60km trek from my home on the Northern Beaches to Box Hill. Why I hear you ask? Well that’s where the Staffy Rescue Dog Shelter is located!

At RedBalloon each employee gets one day off each year to go and volunteer for a charity of their choice. Being a dog lover – with a particular soft spot for the misunderstood and often ostracised Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed – I wanted to help make a difference.

I have my own Staffy (Indi, below) at home – but I was keen to go and see how a wonderful group of volunteers are saving her less fortunate cousins from “kill shelters” across Sydney and NSW, and re-homing them in loving “forever homes”.

When I arrived, Shelter Manager Lin told me the day before she had received 50 calls from members of the public wanting to surrender their dog to the shelter. On average she receives 10 calls a day – but far more around holidays and Christmas. The reasons range from the practical – “I’m moving house/interstate and I can’t have a dog”; to behavioural – “The dog won’t stop barking and the neighbours are fed up”; to the downright unbelievable – “We redecorated the house and now the dog doesn’t match the décor”. That is a verbatim quote.

Lin has also had calls from families who want to surrender their dog because they’re going on holiday and don’t want to pay for the animal to be boarded while they’re away. Then there are those who have introduced a new puppy into their house as a companion for their existing dog. One lady called to say the new puppy and her seven year old dog weren’t getting along and that she would have to get rid of one of them. She’d had her existing dog since he was a puppy – he was by then seven years old. She decided to surrender the older dog, who had been part of their family for almost a decade, because the new puppy “was so much cuter”. I almost cried when she relayed this story to me.

Lin and Rupert. These dogs are her life and they show their appreciation with lots of cuddles!

But, on the bright side, I met some beautiful dogs who will be re-homed, and who will make space for even more dogs to be saved. My task for the day was pretty tough – I had to conduct “play time” with the dogs, one-by-one in the large grassed yard. The volunteers take great pride in ensuring all of the dogs receive exercise and affection every day – and it shows in the wonderful temperaments and unique personalities of each and every dog. I like to think of Staffys as the loveable rogue of the dog world – they look strong and intimidating, but underneath that veneer they are the most gentle, loving and loyal of breeds. They’re easily identified by a large smile that seems to take up their entire face.

There’s a common misconception that dogs in shelters (and particularly Staffys and similar misunderstood and misreported breeds) have aggression and temperament issues. This is simply not true. Dogs are surrendered for a whole host of reasons (some legitimate, some verging on the ridiculous) – and it always comes down to poor decisions made by humans. Choosing the wrong breed for their lifestyle or situation; not understanding the commitment required (time and financial) to raise a dog; not socialising or training the dog appropriately; a failure to understand that a dog is for life, not just while they’re a puppy; and sadly, cases of cruelty are all too common.

Rupert. If I had more space at home he’d be a member of the Ashton household right now!

After yesterday I have even more respect for the people who run these organisations – they do it out of the goodness of their heart to make a difference to the lives of animals who cannot speak out about the terrible hands’ they’ve been dealt. And they do it all on the smell of an oily rag, often putting their own money in to feed and care for the animals. Lin even has the awful task of going to kill shelters around the state to pick out which dogs she can take with her to re-home through the Staffy Rescue shelter. She can’t take them all and must pick which ones she can save, leaving the others to almost definitely be euthanised. In Australia, more than 150,000 dogs and cats have been put down in pounds in the past five years – that’s one third of all surrendered dogs being euthanised in shelters before they have a chance to be re-homed. These dogs were once part of a family – companions and loyal friends. That’s another reason why the Staffy Rescue adoption screening process is so vigilant – they need to make sure that once these dogs find a home, they’re in that home for life.

If you would like to volunteer, support Staffy Rescue in any way, or enrich your life by adding one of these gorgeous personalities to your family – please visit the Staffy Rescue Facebook page. Or, if you can’t have a dog and want to spend your weekend playing with puppies, you can do that too!

Thanks to Lin, Tina and Clay (the humans) and Rupert, Simba, Penny, Charli, Sally, Pheobe, Ruffy, Lara and Riot (the mutts) for a great and meaningful day! I’ll be back very soon.

Jax. This smart fella went for a road trip to Hanrob to see if he has what it takes to be a Police or Army dog! Good luck Jax!

Penny. This gorgeous girl is MAD for tug of war. Such a bundle of fun and cuddles!

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4 Comments

  1. Kristie
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Awww – what a wonderful experience you had, Lauren. Those are beautiful pooches and it’s such an amazing cause you’ve supported. Love the photos too. :-)

  2. Philippa Lowe
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Great blog, Lauren – sometimes it makes you wonder about the human race. Seriously, the dog doesn’t match the decor? As for the lady who surrendered her elder – and doubtless loyal – longterm dog, the puppy ought to be taken off her too. After all, it will turn seven in a few years….

    I know where I’m taking my seven year old son for a dog (and life) appreciation course. After all, the age he is, I could be tempted to swap him for a younger, cuter model ;-)

  3. Kasey
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    What a sad and happy story – so pleased that these beautiful puppies are finally being respected, but what a sad situation that many selfish people are creating. I’m proud to share, my partners staffy Flynn was adopted from Staffy Rescue – he is the most beautiful boy – but it’s heat-breaking 4 years on, he still runs when I pick up the vacuum (severely mistreated previously). We’re proud to be a household of 4 puppies – 3 from rescues and they are all healthy, happy and social around other dogs, kids and people of all shapes and sizes!

  4. Teangi
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing story. I had tears reading this – so nice to hear of such a beautiful day.

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