This week’s book review is slightly different, because it’s about a book I’m still reading. In Defence of Dogs is by John Bradshaw, a biologist who specialises in dog behaviour. The book, published by Penguin Books in 2012, sets out to dispel many of the myths we have about dogs. Based on his own work and other scientific research, Bradshaw argues that we should change how we think about, and relate to, dogs. Dogs are not, he argues, wolves in dogs clothing, constantly trying to assert dominance over the humans in their pack. Nor do they have an almost human understanding of the world.
In this book Bradshaw sets out to explain how a better understanding of dogs ‘intelligence and emotional life’ will change our perception, and treatment of them. From the little I’ve read so far, it’s going to be an interesting read.
Anyway, that’s the book review bit over. This weeks post is actually a thinly veiled excuse to write about rescue dogs and the charity I volunteer for, Ryedale Dog Rescue. The picture at the top of this post is Sally, our rescue dog. She’s about nine years old, and is (we think), a cross between a Staffordshire bull terrier and a boxer. Sally’s been with us for six years now, and is a real character. She’s obsessed about food, stubborn, hates mornings, and farts and snores. For a medium sized dog, she’s powerfully built, looks a bit imposing and was very boisterous when she was younger.
You might think she’s not much of a prospect as a pet then, but you’d be wrong. The reality is that Sally is a friendly, loyal dog, a real character and great fun.
She’s a real softie: as you can see in this picture, she spends most of her time on the settee with the cat, and loves being somewhere comfortable with people. It’s a privilege to have her around.
Sally was neglected and malnourished when she was handed into the local authority dog warden. It wasn’t a great start in life, but gradually her luck changed. The first stroke of fortune was that she was taken in by our local dog rescue charity, Ryedale Dog Rescue (RDR). Sadly, because Sally looked quite ‘fierce’, nobody wanted to rehome her and she stayed with RDR for two years. But RDR didn’t give up looking for a home for her, and finally their persistence paid off when she came to live with us. I still wonder how this happened: at the time Sally was the last type of dog we were looking for. Sometimes though, you’ve got to take a leap of faith and look below surface appearances. It’s a decision we’ve never regretted.
Unfortunately the story of Sally’s early life is a common one, and many don’t end up happily. Tens of thousands of dogs are abandoned each year. According to the charity Dogs Trust, in 2014-2015 local authorities picked up over 102,000 strays, 47,000 of which were never reclaimed by their owners. Some of those would have have been rehomed, but over 5000 ended up being put down. That’s a lot of Sally’s who never got the chance to be a loved and loving pet.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Local and national charities like Dogs Trust and RDR, work hard to give rescue dogs a second chance. I’ve been doing voluntary work RDR for twelve months: it’s addictive and very satisfying. Over the next few weeks we’ll be running a pop-up shop and holding a sponsored fun walk to help raise funds for the charity. But fundraising and the work of rescuing, caring for and rehoming dogs goes on all year round.
There are thousands of dogs out there who need your help. If you’re thinking of getting a dog, I’d heartily recommend getting a rescue. But if you’re not in position to own a dog, why not do some voluntary work for a local or national charity, or hand over some of your hard earned cash? There’ll be someone near you happy to extract a few coins from you (actually, we’d prefer notes, big fat cheques or a massive bank transfer, but every little helps.)
So that’s it for this week, I’m off to set up shop. If you happen to be in the Ryedale area over the next two weeks, why not pop into the pop-up, or go to www.ryedaledogrescue.com for more information.