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Teddy’s Tales: Dogs Trust

Last week, there was a motley collection of pooches ensconsed among the plump cushions and soft lighting of the downstairs bar at Mayfair private members’ club George. While smart drinks were mixed, a Labrador, a Dachshund, a Spaniel, a Samoyed and assorted others kept laps warm and feet company as their owners listened to Clarissa Baldwin OBE, talk about her forty year involvement with Dogs Trust. While remaining a trustee, she will be stepping down as CEO of Britain’s largest dog welfare charity at the end of this week.
Baldwin talked us through her career, liberally scattering anecdotes. In 1978, when she was asked to come up with something that would emphasize the responsibility of dog ownership, she sat down with ‘a glass or two of wine’ and coined the memorable phrase; “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. This is a woman who gets things done, and with a certain style.
The charity has taken on more and varied programmes, work that goes further than the yearly care of around 17,000 stray and abandoned dogs. Dogs Trust is known for re-homing dogs. It also neuters and micro-chips them (and famously ‘never puts a healthy dog down’). For the past nineteen years, Dogs Trust has also run the Hope Project which helps dogs whose owners are homeless or in housing crisis, providing free preventative veterinary care and advice. The Freedom Project provides pet fostering for those who are fleeing domestic violence in shelters that will not accept pets. The Lets with Pets scheme works with the letting industry and dog owners who are facing housing problems because their landlords won’t allow pets.
Lobbying and political campaigning are part of Dogs Trust work, advising government about legislation on micro-chipping, dog breeding, pet advertising, greyhounds, electric shock collars and taking action against abusive treatment of dogs across the world (I was unaware how much work Dogs Trust do overseas, working against the threat of rabies etc.) The list of work that Dogs Trust takes on is exhaustive and worthy of support.
“What is the one thing we can do to improve the lot of dogs?” I asked.
“Educate,” was Baldwin’s answer. “Make sure people get a dog for the right reasons, and make sure they know what, where and how to get a dog responsibly. Not at the click of a button over the Internet – that’s no way to buy a dog.” It follows that Dogs Trust educate the next generation of dog owners via schools programmes (since 2004 they have conducted over 25,900 school talks).
I would also hazard that another thing we can do to improve the lot of dogs is to support Dogs Trust. There are many ways to do that – by donation, by taking part in the Sponsor a Dog scheme, by supporting your local rehoming centre or you could start by snapping-up some of Fenella Smith for Dogs Trust ceramics or stationery. I particularly like the mixed mutts on the notelets, above.

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