A DOG IS FOR LIFE
By Ann Evans
As winter and Christmas approaches, spare a thought for those who won’t be sitting snugly in front of a warm fire but will be living rough on the streets, with just their dog as a companion. For many of these people – and it’s estimated that almost two thirds of them, will have been offered accommodation so long as they gave up their dog. For many to give up on their dog is unthinkable.
When life hits rock bottom, often a canine friend is their only lifeline.
The Hope Project, is a unique service created and run by Dogs Trust the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. It offers support to dog owners who are homeless or in housing crisis. Last month it marked its 20th anniversary. Back in 1995 when the project launched there were no dog friendly hostels at all in the UK and just one solitary veterinary clinic run by the Hope Project to support dogs and their owners. Now, twenty years on, the Hope Project offers an invaluable service in 107 towns and cities across the UK, working with local vets and homelessness organisations. Last year it funded over 1,700 veterinary treatments to help dogs remain with their owners. Thanks to work of the project, there are now 157 dog friendly hostels nationwide.
Clare Kivlehan, Hope Project Manager says: “This service is completely unique in that it is the only UK wide project set up specifically to help homeless people and their dogs. With 82% of homeless people saying that their dog is their best friend, we are proud to have provided essential and life-saving veterinary care to so many dogs over the past 20 years. However, with two thirds of homeless dog owners being asked to give up their dogs in order to find accommodation we know there is still much to be done and we hope our services continue to help as many homeless people and their dogs as possible over the next 20 years.”
Fifteen years ago the project also developed a Christmas parcel service for those who are homeless over the festive season, delivering essential supplies to 100 dogs in its first year. This Christmas, the project will provide parcels to over 1,200 dogs nationwide.
As demand for the Christmas hampers has doubled since 2010 Dogs Trust is asking the public to spread a little Christmas cheer and buy a present for a dog in need. Items such as collars, leads, coats, treats and toys to dogs and their owners.
Clare Kivlehan added: “Everyone knows that the bond between a dog and its owner is a strong one but for homeless people their dog can often be their best friend and main companion. Each year we’re delighted to be able to distribute Christmas gifts to homeless hounds to help make Christmas happier for them and their owners. Due to the increase in requests for this service again this year, we are appealing to the public to help by buying a toy or coat from our Hope Project Amazon gift list.”
And if there was ever any doubt as to how important a dog can be to a homeless person, here are just a few comments from some Hope clients:
Andreana explains the importance of being able to stay with her dog, Khan, when she was homeless: “I really believe I would be dead now if it wasn’t for my dog. He really held me up. I couldn’t have gone on without him. He saved my life.”
Adele talked of not giving up on her dog, Bow: “I’ve been through so much this year and having Bow has made it much easier to bear. If I didn’t have him I probably would have been housed a lot quicker but I wouldn’t ever give him up.”
Dwayne talked about his dog , Charlie: “He means the world to me, if it wasn’t for Charlie I wouldn’t be here. He keeps me out of trouble and if it wasn’t for him I would probably be in prison. He motivates me to get up in the morning and to go to bed at night.”
George spoke of the importance of having his dog, Hope: “I have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts and the only reason I haven’t followed through with any of them is because of Hope. She has saved me.”
A DOG IS FOR LIFE
Every Christmas Dogs Trust’s doors remain open. Staff at their 20 rehoming centres across the UK will work tirelessly to provide for the1,500 dogs that will be in their care this festive season.
That ask that you please give a gift today and help them give a dog a place to feel safe and warm instead of feeling alone and abandoned in the cold. They say that together, we can help make every dog feel wanted, welcome and loved for life, not just for Christmas.
DOGS TRUST CANTEBURY CHRISTMAS FAIR.
If you live near Canterbury why not support them by going along to their Christmas Fair on 29th November 2015, from 12 noon-3pm. There will be lots of fun and games, stocking fillers and Dogs Trust merchandise as well as festive refreshments. You can even meet Santa Paws in his grotto. Adults £2, dogs and children free. It takes place at Swalecliffe Community Centre, 19 St John’s Road, Swalecliffe CT5 2QU.
YOU CAN HELP
Homelessness organisations or veterinary surgeries interested in finding out more information about the Hope Project should call Dogs Trust on 020 7837 0006 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can make a donation to the Hope Project today and help Dogs Trust continue to ensure the safety and wellbeing of dogs and their owners throughout the UK.
Photos courtesy of Dogs Trust and Ivan Coleman