Everything You Need To Know About Rescue Dogs

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PENNY McCORMICK meets five women who are advocates for the #AdoptDon’tShop movement. Their dogs defy any notions about rescue dogs being difficult, damaged, demanding or dangerous

Arriving at interior designer Miriam Peter’s beautifully restored farmhouse one dark November morning, any thoughts of seasonal affective disorder quickly vanish. We are ushered into her light-filled kitchen overlooking the garden, where the heat from the Aga is augmented by the whirling of fur around our feet. Nine rescue dogs, accompanied by their owners, are the stars of this special photoshoot. All are on their best behaviour and miraculously quiet: no barking, no fighting (from either party!). Between coffees for the humans and nibbles (of freshly cooked chicken) for the dogs, the photoshoot gets underway. 

Adopting a dog is one of the kindest things any human can do. Irish pounds and rescues are full of beautiful, healthy dogs, many put down after five days if not reclaimed by their owner or taken by a rescue centre. Rescue centres rely on private donations and most get no government funding. One person who has been instrumental in raising awareness about the inhumane treatment of many dogs in Irish puppy farms and the lack of transparency in pounds is Miriam Peters. 

Peters has fostered more than 100 dogs over the last five years and is an avid supporter of the AdoptDon’tShop movement. Her mission is to get Irish people to change their mindset when buying a dog. “Buying online supports the puppy-farming epidemic. Breeders come up with lots of ways to deceive online buyers by pretending to be small, caring dog breeders. The mums are bred back-to-back and live in cages all their life,” says Peters, whose love of dogs has escalated into a passion for helping find “forever homes” for dogs in need. “There are many reasons why a dog ends up at a pound – it could have been a stray on the street, its owner may have died or been too unwell to care for it, or simply the owners bought a puppy for Christmas and decided after a few weeks they did not want it.” 

Once at a rescue, all dogs are given a full health examination, vaccinated, neutered and micro-chipped. The adoption process is relatively simple – visit a rescue centre, fill in an application form and arrange to meet the rescue dog. While pedigree dogs and mixed breeds can cost well into the hundreds, adoption costs approximately €150, including veterinary fees. 

“Rescue dogs are incredibly loyal and affectionate: it’s as if they know
and are grateful for being given
a second chance.” 

Fostering a dog short term is also an easy process and allows a rescue centre space to house new arrivals. “What I have learned about the world of rescue is that it is full of selfless people who give their precious time to saving animals,” says Peters. “They are my heroes as they help the helpless and often feed an animal rather than themselves. They deserve to be supported.” 

JODIE WOOD with POPPY
“We adopted Poppy seven years ago after our previous Collie died suddenly. We were heartbroken and the house seemed unbearably empty. We only lasted two weeks before I started searching online for dogs needing homes and found Poppy’s litter, which required urgent help. The nine-week-old pups had never been outside the shed they had been born in.” Wood, a former molecular biologist and nutritionist, now works from home as a digital creator, having decided to follow her passion for beauty and fashion. Poppy is never far from her side, often assisting with childminding her son. “Now that Milo can walk, Poppy herds him, which must be the Collie gene coming out.” Wood is honest about the time involved in looking after Poppy but says, “it’s worth every ripped up shoe or toilet training accident. If you have time to put into an animal, consider adoption; you’ll never look back.”

MIRIAM PETERS with COLA-BEAR & BILLY
Miriam and her husband, Nigel, have three dogs – Cola-Bear, a Jack Russell Chihuahua mix, Billy, a terrier mix and Ralph, a Chihauhua mix. They foster on a regular basis. “When I foster a dog I know within days the type of family they would suit; whether they would be better as an only dog or would benefit from a friend to learn from. I enjoy getting to know them and finding the right home. To date we have not had one mismatch.” Peters takes photos of the dogs and shares them via social media. Usually they are adopted within days. At one point she had nine puppies running around her kitchen. “When I am at home and moving around it is like a Mexican wave with all eyes on me,” she relates. Her dogs provide company and a calming presence and also keep her active. In addition, through contact with and support of the world of rescue she has made many new friends. “A pet is a companion; they support and love you unconditionally. They keep you active and they show your children unconditional love.”

SHAUNA SMITH with BELLA & TREACLE
Shauna Smith has been surrounded by dogs for as long as she can remember. “We always had a least two Collies, and some of my fondest childhood memories include swimming with them.” As a dog walker and groomer with boarding kennels in Meath, she’s witnessed firsthand the overbreeding problem in Ireland, and the lack of homes for dogs. “I decided to get involved by fostering dogs. My first dog was Bella, who I adopted from Mullingar pound.” That was four years ago and Bella has never left her side since. Together with her friend Patricia, Smith now runs a charity called Royal Dog Rescue where they have revived, rehomed and rescued so many dogs they’ve lost count. Smith has another rescue dog at home – Holly. “Holly was never neglected – her owner was no longer able to take care of her so she arrived full of energy and now exhausts Bella daily. Together they are best of friends and meet and greet all the guests at [her grooming salon] Pampered Paws.” Smith admits, “Not every home is suited to dog or the effort. However my house wouldn’t be a home without my dogs, they’re part of the family and give the best kisses.”

EVA BERG with MILLY
Founder and instructor at The Secret Pilates, Eva Berg grew up in the Middle East, where her mother was constantly rescuing stray desert dogs and abandoned pedigree imports. She recounts, “One Easter, I came home from boarding school to find the skinniest piebald desert puppy with one blue eye in the kitchen. We called her Mouse and she ended up staying with us until she was old and grey. Mouse was the most loving and loyal dog and whenever I came home, she would move into my room and not leave my side.” Berg rescued Milly last April, and relates how the mini Schnauzer has completely changed the dynamic at home. “She had a tough start in life but she has blended in with my other two dogs, Ted and Archibald, and is now the boss.” Berg walks her brood very early in the morning and afterwards they spend the day napping next to her reformer studio, before a run on the beach. “In my experience, rescue dogs are incredibly loyal and affectionate: it’s as if they know and are grateful for being given a second chance.”

ROZANNA PURCELL with WILKO
Followers of author and influencer Roz Purcell will be familiar with her Jack Russell mix Wilko (nickname Willay), who has a pretty busy schedule, accompanying her on shoots, swimming at the Vico or checking into dog-friendly hotels like The Mont. Fate brought the two of them together – she had especially wanted a Jack Russell puppy as they had been in her family growing up – and when she visited the ISPCA, they had just received a litter. The hardest part was learning how to house- train him, she confesses, for which they invested in some lessons with a trainer. Well worth it, says Purcell, who is quick to negate the notion pets are hard work. “Nothing that’s worth having is easy and if you look at an animal as work, you probably shouldn’t get one. I’m all for people getting a dog when they are ready to commit. Far too many change their minds which is very unfair on the pets.”

HOW TO HELP

  • * Visit local pound and rescue centres such as Wicklow Animal Welfare; Royal Dog Rescue, Meath; Dogs Angels, Dublin Limerick Animal Welfare; Cork DAWG (Dog Action Welfare Group); Paws and People, Banbridge, Co Down;
  • * HUG – Homes for Unwanted Greyhounds;
  • *Give a donation to rescue centres, these will often cover the vet charges;
  • *Follow the hashtag #AdoptDon’tShop on social media;
  • *Buying online supports the puppy-farming epidemic in Ireland. If you want a particular breed, remember every breed of dog passes through shelters. Purebreds like Boxers, Huskies, German Shepherds and mixed breeds like Cavachons and Labradoodles are regularly available;
  • *Bear in mind dogs are never put up for adoption until they are emotionally ready for a home. A dog that has been abused has so much love to give and can make a full emotional recovery in the right home; 
  • *Watch the BBC Panorama programme, Britain’s Puppy Farmers Exposed which won a BAFTA and also featured dog farmers in Ireland;
  • *Follow Miriam Peters on Instagram @minniepetersdesign_ She will often post pictures of dogs she is fostering and has a faultless record for matching dogs with the right homes. 

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