Behind the scenes at the Dog Rescue Foundation
- Credit: Emily Rothery
Abandoned dogs from across Europe have found a happy home in Keswick
Marilyn Grant is always willing to consider the saddest rescue dog cases that most people overlook and has dedicated the last eight years of her life to giving needy dogs a happy ending to their lives or a fresh start in a loving home.
'It all started when my husband Fraser died; I needed something to get up in the morning for and I wanted to do something useful. It's so rewarding when you see a neglected or unhappy dog starting to come out of the other side. People say Fraser would be proud of me, but I think if he is looking down on me, he would think I'm absolutely nuts,' laughs Marilyn, who is known as Min.
Min adopts dogs from abroad and this country and is now often approached to take on specific dogs from rescue centres. She approaches everything she does with careful consideration only taking on dogs she knows will fit in with her pack. She has a set routine to settle the dogs in when they first come to her and plans feeding and exercise regimes carefully.
When I meet Min, she is exercising her pack at the Hairy Hounds Hotel near Threlkeld, where she regularly hires a paddock. As Min tells me the names of her four-legged friends I begin to spot a theme. Bailey, Stella, Glayva, Rolo, Treacle, Hofmeister and Breezer bound happily around the field and their individual personalities begin to emerge as they play together.
The rescue dogs all look healthy, happy and alert - a far cry from the condition they were in when Min first met them. 'For example, Treacle, the little Lab/dachshund cross came from Cyprus. She had been placed in a public shelter which meant she would have been put down after seven days if she wasn't re-homed. Black dogs are regarded as unlucky in Cyprus and as she is old, she didn't really have a good chance.'
Vaccinations, pet passport and travel arrangements were done through a British charity enabling Treacle to embark to her new life. 'I went to collect her from the airport. She was terrified, with eyes like dinner plates and was determined to escape. She didn't eat for a few days, but I gradually earned her trust. She didn't know me, so I had to make her feel safe through being persistent and patient. She was hard work, but I didn't give up on her and she's such a good girl now,' says Min.
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'Breezer also came from Cyprus. He was found in a plastic box with a lid on outside the public shelter in 36 degrees heat. He was with his sibling, but sadly his sibling was dead. Breezer needed intravenous fluids to get him through and he just made it. When I got him, he was running with fleas, so I got him straight in to the shower and sprayed him, the house and the van before settling him in.'
Min has the same routine for each new dog. She takes them home to an empty house, showers them wearing wellies as protection and a muzzle for the dog, if needed. They are then given a little bit to eat and drink and Min will stay with them all night before introducing them to the other dogs on neutral territory the next day.
All of Min's rescue dogs have their own needs. Rolo, the aptly named milk-chocolate Labrador, was an unwanted Christmas puppy. He had been kept in a garden and only on arriving home did Min realise that he needed house training and bootees for his paws which blistered when he walked on any surface other than grass.
'Hofmeister, another chocolate Lab, came from East Midlands Labrador Rescue Centre. He was vastly overweight and needed to lose weight before being operated on for a tumour on his chest. He hardly had any hair and he absolutely stank, but he was so sweet. I managed to reduce his weight from 42 to 29kg and so the tumour could be removed. He will always have bad ears and bad skin which he will need treatment for. He's just a big itchy scratchy old dog,' she says with obvious affection.
'I love all of my dogs, equally but differently. I like to say that I have an empty bank balance and a full heart,' smiles Min. 'Food and vets bills aren't cheap, but I live very simply and save money when I can. I get food at discount from the Healthy Pet naturals. I also make a lot of the food and The Oddfellows pub in town give me off cuts of meat.'
Keswick, which has been voted the UK's most dog friendly town no less than four times, is an ideal place for Min and her canine companions to live. 'I live between Latrigg Fell and the park and like to have a good walk first thing but never take all of the dogs out at one time. I'm aware that not everyone is as crazy about dogs as I am! Most days I will also walk into town but take just one dog. I like to pop into the pub for a pint and while the dog gets attention, a treat of bark burgers and crisps, I can enjoy some much-needed adult conversation!'
Looking after the dogs is a full -time job and wasn't quite how Min had planned her life. She was a Met Police officer for 15 years before being medically retired when she was diagnosed with cancer. 'It was my dream job and I ended up on armed protection at Downing Street. However, I've been in remission for 13 years now and proud to do rescue work in memory of my husband.'
Bark burgers are treats for dogs often found in dog friendly pubs. Monies raised from donations go to dog rescue organisations across the UK, dogrescuefoundation.org