Coleraine Probus members were treated to a doggie tale or two when the Dogs Trust Support Relations Officer Samuel Reid recently gave a talk to the club.
Founded back in 1891 as the London based ‘National Canine Defence League’, and changed its name to the Dogs Trust in 2003, Samuel managed to condense a long history of the charity into some notable milestones.
In the first 20 years of the trust membership steadily grew to around 6,500. Today the trust has over 550.000 members and supporters. It also cares for more than 16,000 stray and abandoned dogs every year at their Rehoming Centres throughout the UK. The trust opened its first clinic in 1926 and by the outbreak of the Second World War had treated over 82,000 dogs in the London area.
The Dogs Trust has only one Northern Ireland centre, in Ballymena, which opened 1970. This has had two ‘re-builds’ and extensions to cope with the increasing number of dogs needing care and a new home. There are plans to establish two new large Rehoming Centres in Ireland (one in the North and the other South of the boarder). In the meantime, the Ballymena kennels now has central heating and air-conditioning as well as Perspex viewing windows to replace the grim looking wire grill and metal bars commonly associated with kennels.
Samuel took the members on a photo tour of the centre. Starting with the ‘Nursery Unit’ – for the ‘Ahhhhhhhhh factor’? - where staff like working most, and who wouldn’t when you see the cute puppies! This unit can look after 5 or 6 sets of litters – it must be a little like the ‘101 Dalmatians’ there at times. An important part of the kennels is the outside exercise area. Volunteers and staff have every dog outside for a good walk/run at least once a day.
An important part of the work for the Dogs Trust is running a ‘Dogs School’, where they offer affordable dog training classes and canine behaviour workshops. The trust has outreach staff that are involved in education and community contacts. Last year the NI branch of the trust talked to over 13,000 children in schools across the province as well as giving more than 500 talks, like the one to Coleraine Probus.
Club members were very impressed with Samuel’s presentation and were surprised that the talk wasn’t only about the possibility of helping the trust by ‘taking home a dog’ (luckily he didn’t have any with him on the day!?) or looking for donations (which are very necessary and most welcome). There were other ways of helping. For instance, it is possible to ‘Foster’ a dog for a period, or you can ‘Sponsor’ a dog as well. As some of the members said ‘Well, I didn’t know that’ - which only goes to show, you CAN teach an old Probus dog something new!