20th November 2019
He was a gloriously shaggy heartbreaker, who everyone fell in love with on sight. So why was Max, a ‘Heinz 57’ cross-breed, so difficult to rehome?
When he first came to the Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Home, one of the many organisations benefiting from Butcher’s Nourish Every Dog campaign, young Max’s microchip showed he’d already had five owners. Yet he was really well behaved, so quite why was a bit of a mystery. Especially when he was adopted from the shelter, then returned within 24 hours (‘We changed our mind,’ said the new family) – twice!
“We knew there was something we weren’t being told,” says Anna Stansfield, manager of the charity’s Cheshire site. “So I took him home to find out why.” Once there, Max seemed great – calm, friendly and good with her son. “I couldn’t understand it. Until that is, I popped out and within ten minutes he’d destroyed my kitchen door.”
The reason was clear: Max had terrible separation anxiety, panicking every time his owner left. So Anna spent months trying to find ways to help Max. Eventually, she discovered leaving on every TV and radio in the house and shutting the curtains calmed him. Now Max can be left for up to three hours on his own.
It’s this kind of dedication that makes the Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Home so special, and why Butcher’s chose them as a beneficiary of their Nourish Every Dog campaign.
Since it opened its doors in 1893, the charity has helped more than a million dogs. It takes care of thousands every year – the Manchester site has 100-150 at any one time, and Cheshire 70-80. Most are housed at the centres, but some, usually with chronic medical problems who are unlikely to be adopted, are fostered.
New arrivals can come in at any time, with the most common reasons being a landlord won’t allow them, a new baby has pushed them out, they’re a stray, or the owner has died. Once a woman brought in her elderly dog because he didn’t match her new sofa. Sometimes the dog is extremely ill.
“When Clive came in he was so emaciated, he couldn’t stand up,” says Anna, manager for 13 years. “His life was saved by his friend, Casper, who’d dragged a stranger over to find him lying in a lay-by. We took them to the emergency vet and it was touch and go with Clive, who was on a drip for four days. But he pulled through.”
“Buddy came in with his coat so matted, he could barely see or hear. He must have been in agony. He was so frightened, we had to sedate him to groom him. He’ll be looking for a home soon.”
The Cheshire site, whose sister shelter in Manchester suffered a devastating arson attack in 2014 that killed 60 dogs, has just 19 staff, many part-time. So they rely on 100 volunteers to do everything from walking to training the dogs.
Each day starts with a check of their charges before breakfast. Then the dogs are walked around the woodland trails of the 14-acre site so they are settled for the afternoon when the public can visit. During this time, volunteers sit in the kennels with the dogs, feeding them ice lollies in the heat, getting the energetic ones to do puzzles, and stroking the older dogs.
The afternoons are also when the behaviourists work, helping troubled dogs so that they can eventually be rehomed. New dogs usually have issues – some haven’t been trained properly, some haven’t been socialised, so they don’t know how to behave, and some, like Max, have separation anxiety. The dogs’ home can spend months or even years trying to iron out these problems so they can go happily to a forever home.
Of course, none of this comes cheap (the bills alone in Cheshire are £10,000 a month), which is why Butcher’s Nourish Every Dog campaign is so welcome here.
“We’re extremely grateful,” says Anna. “The dogs love the food and it’s good quality – solid meat. For a dog in kennels, food is very important – they get very excited at feeding time.”
And that’s what the staff and volunteers like to see: happy and healthy dogs enjoying their lives, ready and waiting to find their new owner. Except Max, that is. For the adorably shaggy mutt who once ate a kitchen door because he didn’t like being alone was snapped up by Anna herself. “It’s an occupational hazard,” she laughs.