DOG rescuing is not an easy job, but the support of the community makes it a little easier.
So says Trisha Shaw, who has been the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire coordinator for nationwide charity DogLost for the last 18 months. The charity works to reunite lost dogs with their owners.
And in that time Trisha has helped reunite more than 100 dogs and has helped families all over the county find their lost pets.
The 47-year-old from Warwick is not paid for her work, and also volunteers with Rugby rehoming centre Pawprints Dog Rescue – where she takes most of the stray dogs she finds. The kennels have space for 12 dogs, but are currently so in demand they are being forced to pay for kennels to look after an extra 15.
If Trisha is unable to find owners then she has to take the dog to the pound and report it to the local dog warden. If after seven days the dog has not been claimed Pawprints try to take the dog in or work to find space at another rescue.
The mum-of-three told The Observer: “Sometimes it can be really hard knowing I cannot house a stray dog overnight if I can’t find the owner and I’m waiting for the pound to open. That’s when I need to ask vets for help if the person who found the dog cannot hold them either.
“The thing which is most heart-breaking for me is when dogs are never found and never make it home. I couldn’t bear not knowing what had happened to my pet.
“But through this job I have learned never to lose hope. Dogs can turn up years after they have been lost. In August a dog was found in Leamington which had been missing for seven years.
“One of the most valuable things we do is support owners and giving them the hope and advice to help them find and not give up on their dog.”
Trisha decided to run the local DogLost group after finding an escaped dog which ran off just weeks after being rehomed by Dogs Trust.
She says the number of people who turned out to look for plucky Elvis the hound and put posters up around the area made her realise she could do the job with the support of the community.
Trisha believes social media plays a huge part in reuniting pets and their owners, but says the most important thing will always be going out to look for a dog. The DogLost team also create posters of lost and found animals, which are put up by volunteers around the area they went missing or were discovered.
She said: “The amount of help from the community can be amazing. I could not do it without their support and also by working closely with the dog wardens and police who do an incredible job.
“If a pet is microchipped then it makes the world of difference to us. We can reunite them really quickly.
“From next April it becomes compulsory to have your dog chipped. And all dogs should also have a tag with their address and a phone number on, it’s actually illegal for a dog to be in a public place without a tag.”
And Trisha is not expecting to have a quiet Christmas and New Year, as she says it is the worst time for people abandoning their pets.
She says people take on pets without realising how much looking after they require. And some just get rid of their dog as soon as it grows out of being a puppy.
In her time on the job she recalls one of the saddest rescues standing out the most.
She said: “A rescue which stays in my mind was of a Weimaraner called Diesel. He had been poorly for a while and had ran off. I was with his owner when we found him. He was lying near the bottom of tree next to a lake and had passed away there.
“Diesel was so dedicated to his owner and they loved him to bits. It was a really touching rescue, he was an incredible dog and even though it wasn’t a happy ending it was a relief to find him. It will stay with me forever.”
Despite some of the sad things she sees, Trisha says she would not change her job for the world.
She added: “Some days can be really hard and I’ll just come home and bawl my eyes out. But most of the time it’s really rewarding. I am really proud to be part of DogLost and Pawprints. Along with the dogs it’s the people that make it what it is. The number of people who will come out to help look is fantastic. It’s real team work. People come out at all hours to help. It’s overwhelming and completely phenomenal. Just a bit of help makes all the difference.”
DogLost – which is a free service run entirely by volunteers – currently needs new volunteers to help where they can, whether it be working on social media, out looking for pets or putting up posters.
Visit www.doglost.co.uk to find out more.
What to do if your dog is lost or stolen:
• Register at www.doglost.co.uk
• Inform local dog wardens and vets
• Inform police if dog has been stolen
• Check all local rescues
• Put posters up everywhere possible
What to do if you find a dog:
• Contact local dog warden – which is required by law
• Register at www.doglost.co.uk
• If out of hours try to get dog checked for chip at local vets