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Penny Dingle tel 01726 860213 email firstname.lastname@example.org
West Devon & Cornwall Penny & Henry Dingle
South Devon Mrs Margaret & Miss Su Porter
North Devon & Somerset Mr Stuart Robson
Wiltshire & Dorset Mr Anthony Maidment
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How and when it all started.
Rescue and the welfare should concern us all.
By Margaret Balaam Published 1985
THE SOUTH Western Golden Retriever Club started its Rescue and Welfare Scheme some 38 years ago (1981). The aim being to re-home dogs in bad or unsuitable homes into carefully selected homes for each one's own individual requirements.
We can also help those dogs whose owners' circumstances have changed and who can no longer keep them due to either financial difficulties, a move abroad, or to unsuitable accommodation ,or through illness. To date we have re-homed over 200 dogs.
To get the Scheme started in our area Golden Retriever posters were sent to Veterinary Surgeons and Animal Welfare Centres with a covering letter explaining our project and giving the telephone number of our centre. Through this we have several telephone call a week offering to adopt one of our dogs. Re-housing is done as quickly as possible and in most cases directly from old to new owner to cause as little stress as possible to the dog. All this cannot be done without a central office and network of helpers throughout the area. When there is a dog to re-house a member living in the nearby will be asked to visit the dig and give an assessment and another will be asked to visit the selected home to make sure all is well.
Transporting the dog to his new home often involves two members linking up at pre-arranged points. This is often complicated by the fact that most of us have families and jobs and not least dogs of our own to care for so linking up can involve quite a lot of telephone calls .Distance is not considered if we feel the home is right for that particular dog. As our area covers from Cornwall to West Hampshire and Bristol to Swindon we often travel quite a few miles.
One day a telephone call, and very typical of many we get, from an exasperated lady who told us she had a dog she could not keep. This was a one year old dog and his companion was a Spaniel bitch who had come into season. The easiest thing to do for his inexperienced owner was to shut the dog outside in their very small garden. This of course caused endless barking and howling, exasperated neighbours and owners, a frustrated and rather frightened dog whose family had changed from a friendly and secure one to a strangely aggressive one. They had made up their minds that he must go. We took on a very mixed up young dog beginning to mistrust humans. However, a month with some understanding people in one of the kennels we rely on for help in such circumstances, calmed him down sufficiently for him to be re-housed as normal.
Sometimes we have a dog in our area needing a special home that we do not have so we then work with other area clubs who often have just the home we are looking for. I think possibly the longest trip we have done involved 2 bitches a mother and daughter who had been abandoned at an animal sanctuary in Wales. The GRC of Wales heard about them and took them in but as they became very upset when parted it was decided a home must be found for them to stay together. Joint efforts between the clubs produced a home in Sussex. The bitches were taken to Bath by the Welsh Club met by our South western member who met up with a Southern member to take them on their final lap to their new home. It took quite a bit of organising but well worthwhile for a happy ending.
New homes are inspected by members living in the locality. The garden is checked to be dog-proof and investigations made with regard to local exercising facilities. We also make sure a dog is not to be shut in in a very confined space and that anyway he will not be left for long periods at a time. We can explain the problems they are likely to encounter during the first week or two and emphasise that patience is of the utmost importance during the first few days. We also can reassure prospective new owners that we are always, willing to help with any problems that may occur and can usually deal with them on the telephone. One of the most repeated excuses for finding a dog a new homes "he pulls on the lead and I cannot manage him". By this time the poor dogs usually about 3 yrs old. However we now have the answer to this one-- Dr Roger Mugford's "Halti" collar.It requires a little patience and perseverance but many a dog is now staying permanently with his real owners because of it.
Most of our dogs have a happy ending to their stories but unfortunately not all. There are far too many cases being heard of now where the Golden has bitten a child. This is so out of character in our lovely breed that in most cases a change of environment will help the situation. In these cases the dog either goes into a recognised kennel or a foster home where he can be assessed. This is always a gamble and can be quite expensive. If the assessors find the dog cannot be trusted not to bite again then he is put to sleep to prevent his causing a more serious problem.The majority of Goldens respond to firm kindly handling once in a secure environment.
Before we remove a dog from its owners a form must be signed by them giving the dog unconditionally to our Rescue and Welfare Scheme. This makes it possible for us to make decisions on the dogs behalf and to do what is best for him. The new owners also sign a form taking full responsibility for the dog, but undertaking not to part with him or sell him without our knowledge. No pedigrees are passed on with the dog but vaccinations are always brought up to date and their cards go with them.
As you probably realise all this costs money, this is raised by asking the new owners to donate to our scheme, by raffles held at shows and various coffee mornings and bring and buy stalls organised in the area by our members. Apart from the financial backing for the Rescue Scheme an equally important factor is the practical support and help we need from members to assess dogs and homes and to provide the occasional transport in their particular areas.
I do feel that there are a vast number of dogs who would not need our help if their breeders, and therefore, I imagine , lovers of our breed, had taken a little more time and trouble in explaining to prospective new owners some helpful hints about owning a Golden retriever. First and foremost a Golden is a companionable dog and asks not much more of its owner than to be noticed and talked to, but how much better to have a well -behaved one, there are now training classes in all areas with lots of people willing to help. Spend a little time each day with your dog on his own, teach him to walk well on a lead and to respond when he is called. So little time is involved if you start with a young puppy and it is so rewarding. They do not learn anything good without being taught. A Golden likes a boss, kind but firm.
I suppose the biggest problem with our breed at the moment is its popularity and too many puppies are bred indiscrimately by "puppy farm" based elsewhere in the country and sold commercially through pet shops and agents.Goldens have the reputation of a friendly, trustworthy companion. It is up to breeders to make quite sure they do not produce puppies with the wrong temperament. They should not be nervous or excitable. The average family pet owner cannot cope with these unexpected traits in their Golden - they should placid and intelligent, and the more people who remember that they are gundogs, and at least should be able to follow their instincts to retrieve and hunt, even if only done in play, the less our services will be required.
There are a few amongst us who comment "why go to all this trouble" but surely it is our responsibility to do all we can for the less fortunate of our beautiful breed.
Margaret Balaam , SWGRC Rescue Officer 1985.