Like most sane people, I absolutely adore animals. So when I was invited to visit the National Animal Welfare Trust rescue centre in Watford to help out as a volunteer and report on what really goes on behind the scenes, I jumped at the chance.
And so on the morning of 12th April, I dug out a pair of old trainers that had never seen the light of day and gleefully made my way to the centre to get my fix of animal cuddles. Little did I know that I’d be deeply moved by the stories of how these furry residents came to be here, and awed by the relentless work of the Trust’s staff and volunteers.
A tail of two halves
After a quick cuppa and introductory chat with Relationship Manager, Alex Spurgeon, I was lucky enough to be shown around by two devoted staff members; Calum and Matt, whose passion for what they do was immediately apparent. And as we walked around, I got to meet some new arrivals and long-standing residents, and hear a little about their journeys so far.
One of the first furry faces I met was Cookie; a loveable, slightly shy but curious Staffordshire Bull Terrier Cross whose floppy ears won me over instantly. Sadly, Cookie was found in nearby woodland tied to a tree; abandoned, and the team have taken care of him ever since. He’s now looking for a brand new best friend in his next lucky owner. Could you give Cookie a home?
Something unique that the National Animal Welfare Trust offers is a programme called ‘Open Paw‘ which allows visitors to feed the dogs their specially allocated treats as they walk around. This is designed to help the dogs associate visitors with treats rather than shy away from watchful eyes, and it enables potential new visitors to bond with the dogs. It seems like a fantastic idea to me and just as well these treats form part of their daily diet as I found myself unable to resist their little faces! Or not so little as our next pup (and my personal favourite) demonstrates.
This is Stewie, a 2 year old Mastiff Cross with oodles of personality and a soppy face to make your heart melt. Stewie really is a gentle giant. You can see me feeding him below, and after a long bonding session and tons of treats, I accompanied trained handler Matt on a walk with him.
This inquisitive boy didn’t have the greatest start in life and wasn’t treated very well by his previous owner. He’s almost been taken home since his time here but in the end, the person in question realised that they perhaps didn’t have the space they needed for such a big dog. But it hasn’t dampened his love of life and he’s one of the best trained dogs at the centre – driven largely, we suspect, by his love of treats. I know how you feel Stewie…I’d do almost anything for a big bar of…where was I?
And so the Stewie pics continue…look at that face! If I didn’t live in a top floor flat you’d be coming home with me. Could you give Stewie a home?
After our walk it was time for dinner (not ours – sad face) and just look at all the ways in which the staff at the National Animal Welfare Trust make mealtimes more interesting for the dogs. They hide food in maze-like toys and rubber treat balls.
I also got the chance to check out some of the wonderful cards, letters and snaps sent in by new owners of previous residents which is just so great to see. You can tell from their words that they are both thankful for the National Animal Welfare Trust for giving them such a wonderful pet, and eager to keep the team updated on their progress. Being able to turn lives around and re-home an animal who has sadly lost their previous owner/s for whatever reason is an incredible thing to do, and is rewarding for everyone involved in the process.
Check out all the great news and feedback on the left, and the plaque to commemorate the founder of the Trust and remind everyone of his legacy – to care about, and protect all animals.
Here are some of the other lovely dogs I had the pleasure to meet. If you can’t give a dog, cat or rabbit a forever home, you can support the National Animal Welfare Trust for free at Savoo.co.uk – here’s how.
A huge thank you goes out to the team at the Watford National Animal Welfare Trust for showing me the ropes and telling me their stories. If you’d like to volunteer you can get in touch with the Trust directly and make sure you choose to support them for free at Savoo.