About the Kennels
In a way Dungarvan Rescue Kennels really started in England, some three years before I first came to live in Ireland. For several years I had been helping a lady in West London
who took in stray dogs for the RSPCA and kept them in her home.
A few nights a week I would go and do home checks for her to help place some of the dogs that were temporarily in her care. One day she rang and asked me if there was any chance I could go and collect an unwanted German Shepherd puppy and possibly hold her for a few weeks, as there was no more room available in the house. I agreed and set off the next day to collect the puppy.
When I got there the owners took me into the back of their house, and there she was, 20 weeks old, thin as a rake, and crawling with fleas. I didn’t say anything to these people, but reported them back to my friend so she could deal with them. What I needed to do was to get the poor dog away from them and into a safe home as soon as possible. After a quick visit to the vets, Sascha was on her way home with me.
Looking back on that day, I think I knew from the moment I set eyes on her that I would never part with this girl. There was something so special about her. There was also something very naughty about her! She had separation anxiety for the first 2 years, I literally couldn’t leave the room for a minute or she would demolish something. She did wonderful work on my kitchen, totally trashed a bedroom, and when I left her briefly at my parent’s house one day, she did such a good job on their three-piece suite that all they could do was dispose of it and have it replaced! But she had settled down by the time she reached 2 years old, as had my nerves! In my eyes, Sascha could do no wrong. I think she knew this. She never really took advantage of it, well, not too much anyway.
Sascha, my first ‘rescue’, came with me to Ireland in December 1986. My most precious girl died peacefully in her sleep on 14th June 1997. I still think of her as the Founder and the true inspiration behind Dungarvan Rescue Kennels.
As a newcomer, I was blissfully unaware that there were no animal rescue organizations in Ireland such as those in the UK. That was, until a neighbour was taken into long term hospital care and her two dogs needed somewhere to go. Then all I could find were dog pounds, where unwanted/stray dogs are (even to this day) held for only five days before they are destroyed. That did not sit well with me at all. I managed to find good homes for those two dogs and then started trying to figure out just what I could do for other dogs in need of care.
During 1987 I decided that I could build a Kennels on the little piece of land that was attached to my house. However, planning and building would take some time, and the situation was urgent. A great number of dogs were dying every day in the local pound. I felt impelled to do something, and to do it as soon as possible. I mentioned my plans to a friend. She and her husband owned a farm and she told me that I could set up a temporary shelter on a small plot of land they were not using at that time, until I could get organized. That was just great, and I am eternally grateful to the pair of them.
Through local fundraising I got enough money together to build a structure to house the kennels on my own acre. In late 1987 things started to take off. By early 1988 the building work was finished and Dungarvan Rescue Kennels inaugurated!
My objectives from the very start were quite simple. I aimed to provide the best possible care I could for dogs in need; to carefully and selectively re-home those I could and to provide a permanent and loving home myself for those I knew I would come across that, for one reason or another, were not suitable for adoption.
Of course, back then funding for animal welfare was extremely hard to come by, as in all too many ways it still is, and I was blessed in finding the most wonderful vet, Tom De Lacey. Tom was truly an angel from heaven. He never once charged me so much as a penny for all the sick and injured dogs he treated. Even when I would take one of my own dogs to him he still would not take any money. One day we had a little discussion about this. He said “Mary, please allow me to do this for you, in return for all you do for the others.” Tom retired in 1997 and sadly died not long afterwards. To this day I miss him, he taught me so much. His kindness towards all animals knew no bounds. I feel honoured to have known him.
Running a dog shelter all these years on my own has presented me with more than a few challenges. I never know what the day will have in store for me. Every day however starts out the same way; the house dogs are let out for exercise whilst I brew a strong cup of coffee for myself before giving all the dogs their breakfast. The next few hours are filled with feeding, cleaning the kennels and letting each little group of dogs out to play in the yard and the field. Sometimes the routine gets interrupted by a trip to the vets or a call out to a dog in trouble on the street, either one of which event can put everything behind by hours!
More often than not someone will just arrive at the door with a stray dog they have found. A good number of these are in very bad condition, often suffering from severe malnutrition and skin diseases, not the mention the dreaded fleas! For these dogs, and most new arrivals that come in off the streets, I have a special room on the side of the house where they can rest and recover quietly and safely, as many are also in a state of shock to some degree. This isolation period also gives me a chance to make sure that they not carrying any infectious diseases before they are integrated with their new friends. Once recovered they can go outside, I usually give them a day or two in their kennel to watch what is going on around them before I let them meet their new friends
I like the dogs in my care to play in groups, they can run from the yard to the fenced in field, dig holes, roll in the grass, run, play and chase and, most of all, have fun! There is no greater pleasure for me than to see a dog that came through my door starving, neglected or abused, with its spirit broken, now recovered, running and playing with a big doggy grin on its face. More often than not they are the ones who end up being the cheekiest!
Sadly there is still a major unwanted dog problem here in Ireland with around 10,000 dogs being destroyed in pounds around the country every year. That is just in the pounds! The other very serious problem we have is with greyhounds. Many thousands of these beautiful, gentle and kind dogs are destroyed here every year for no better reason than they cannot run fast enough to satisfy their owners! Many more simply seem to `disappear`. Although Dungarvan Rescue Kennel does not specialize in any breed or type of dog, I have always made a very special effort to help greyhounds in need.
The first greyhound to come into my care was way back in 1992, and I quite simply fell in love with the breed. Its such a pity that they are not perceived here as pets, because if ever there was a dog just born to be someone`s pet it’s the greyhound. They are so very lazy and absolutely hate going out in the rain or cold. Above all else, they are incredibly affectionate and loving. Thankfully I am able to get excellent homes for them in the UK through Greyhound Rescue West of England, an organization that has helped many Irish greyhounds find their own sofas.
I like to spend special time with each individual dog that comes into my care, so that I can get to know their personalities and find out their sensitivities. For example some may not like their tail to be touched, or their ears. Once I have found out such tender spots I ensure that every day those areas are indirectly and gently stroked so that they become accustomed to lots of handling. No dog leaves here until it is fully recovered, not just physically, quite often that is the easy part, but more importantly, with its mind and spirit fully restored and all memories of its former life completely gone. Sometimes this will happen quite quickly, other times it can take months and it is often a case of two steps forward and one step back. The resident dogs are of great help with shy or frightened newcomers. They seem to give the new arrivals reassurance by communicating with them on a canine level. Bruce, for instance, is very welcoming to every new dog, especially the ladies!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Dungarvan Rescue Kennels, and the stories of just a few of the dogs that have come here.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of the people/organisations who have helped, and continue to help this shelter.
Department of Agriculture, Ireland.
Dogs Trust, UK.
Greyhound Rescue West of England.
Margaret Green Foundation Trust.
Ben and Peg Hartnett
Billy and Renie Jordan
Tom de Lacy. Veterinary Surgeon.
and a special "Thank You" to our newsletter supporters for their help through the years.
I don't know how I, or the dogs, could have managed without you wonderful people