A rescue dog is a companion for life, not just for lockdown

Caroline Delaney finds out how rescue charities are coping after Covid-19 pressed paws on adoptions
A rescue dog is a companion for life, not just for lockdown
Some of the young dogs from My Canine Companion's 'P' litter - all of the pups have names that start with the letter P
Some of the young dogs from My Canine Companion's 'P' litter - all of the pups have names that start with the letter P

Caroline Delaney finds out how rescue charities are coping after Covid-19 pressed paws on adoptions

When Dave Fleming got 'matched' with his dream dog from a rescue charity he was thrilled.

There was just one hitch though — the logistics of getting Bumble on the 150k journey to his 'forever home' with Covid-19 restrictions limiting non-essential travel to 2, and then 5k.

Bumble was being well looked after in Kerry but Dave was keen to get him settled as a key family member and was also aware that all the enforced free time would be great to use for walks.

So Dave, an Abbey actor who's currently in lockdown at his partner's family's farm in Laois, put out an appeal on Twitter.

He asked if there were any essential workers travelling that particular route who would be willing to help out. His post was shared hundreds of times and he spoke to a few good samaritans.

Now Bumble is home and enjoying being walked and praised and being top dog.

Dave Fleming's companion, Bumble
Dave Fleming's companion, Bumble

"He's a very handsome dog alright and he has settled right in here. We're delighted with him," says Dave.

Bumble is a collie mix and Dave believes he may have been up for adoption due to not making the grade as a sheepdog: "We quickly realised that he has eyesight problems — cataracts.

"He's able to find his way around alright so it's not a huge problem. He hadn't been mistreated as he has a very easy-going temperament so we reckon he was just rounding up the wrong things!"

A bright new 'vest' alerting passers-by to Bumble's sight difficulties will help people understand any clumsiness.

Even in 'normal times' the process of matching dogs with owners can take some time if prospective owners are keen for a pet of a particular breed or age.

Dave Fleming and Bumble
Dave Fleming and Bumble

Agencies rehoming pets have to interview owners and assess their home for any dangers or escape routes that a new owner might not have spotted.

The Cork Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) had to close its door for the past two months but is now aiming to restart viewings by appointment only from June 3.

Manager, Vincent Cashman, said: "This, of course, will depend on how things are working regarding the Covid-19 outbreak and governmental advice and will be subject to change if we deem it necessary.

"This is a big change for our normal way of operating — as many of you know, you could just walk in for viewings previously but we need the full cooperation of you the public for this to work."

However, his big concern is that people who bought a dog on a whim due to being home from work or to help keep children entertained during lockdown will not want to keep it once they return to work and children's sports and school activities resume

"We have only had eight dog surrenders over the past two months. Normally we would have that many in a week. And other animals too such as cats, goats, rabbits and even Giant African snails.

"But we do fear that it may suit some people to have a dog around now and that they won't keep it once this is over. I need to say this: you don't need a dog to just go for a walk. You don't need 'an excuse'."

Unusually, the CSPCA doesn't have any cats for rehoming at the moment: "That's probably because people are selling then online to whoever instead."

The new pet adoption arrangement plans include bringing the dog to meet the prospective new owner in the exercise run.

Home inspections or will be carried out on a limited basis — if the garden is accessible through a side gate for example.

"All this is totally dependent on the latest safety guidelines and everything can change depending on expert advice," warns Vincent.

The CSPCA also plans to rely on recommendations from trusted volunteers who could vouch for an owner.

He is concerned that people are paying exorbitant prices to dog 'dealers' online. "There is no care put into their breeding.

"Problems are being bred into them.

Every pup for sale or rehoming should have a microchip number. That's a 15-digit number unique to the animal. But I've seen unscrupulous dealers making up numbers or using one number for a whole litter of pups.

"It's very simple to check the number with us or a vet before you buy."

He is scathing when it comes to dog trends or 'designer' dogs: "Don't talk to me about so-called pocket-sized pitbulls or pygmy this or that. They don't exist.

And when I see that a dog is registered to a foreign kennel club. Why? Check the country of origin and if they say they have 'lost' the passport then that dog has been brought in her illegally.

He also doesn't have much time for owners who purposely opt for a restricted breed just to strut around in their tight t-shirt with it.

"I've seen a couple come in with a newborn baby and ask particularly for a restricted breed. I just got so angry, that's just stupid and dangerous."

Vincent mellows and there's real caring in his voice when he mentions a 'T-Rex' they have who's waiting for a home.

Spike, who is still looking for his forever home
Spike, who is still looking for his forever home

"This is Spike - he looks like a jack russell but thinks he's a T-Rex! He's got around 8-10 years on the clock but as a small dog there's plenty life left in him.

"He's been with us for nearly a year now and we really thought he had found his match when he was fostered - but unfortunately not that time.

"It's heartbreaking to see him know the whole routine here now and all. We're looking after him but it would be great to see someone give him his own home. Maybe..."

Another dog having a little delay in getting settled in his forever home is Lumiere. He's 8 years old and has been with the CSPCA since December.

Staff say he loves people and dogs and is mad for walks and very social.

Part of the problem may be that he is "definitely NOT model material" notes one of the staff who took him out for a photoshoot.

Lumiere, has been with the CSPCA since December, and it still waiting to be adopted.
Lumiere, has been with the CSPCA since December, and it still waiting to be adopted.

And speaking of models...while they have no problem getting out of bed, the doggos at My Canine Companion have a 'supermodel' figure attached to them too.

These dogs are trained to assist children and young adults who have autism — it costs the charity €10,000 to train one of these service dogs over a two-year period from birth right through to 'graduation'.

Nial Ruddy is CEO of My Canine Companion. He notes that: "Service Dogs make dramatic differences in the quality of life for children with autism and their families. Not only do our dogs assist them physically, but these special dogs also become the child’s best and in some cases, only, friend."

While there isn't any issue with getting homes for these dogs, Covid-19 has impacted on fundraising. Blogger and comic, Kieran Corrigan, is an ambassador for the charity and hes certainly stepping up. He's volunteering to shave his head once a target of €10,000 in donations is reached.

MCC is also looking for puppy raising volunteers. This is where an individual or family takes a pup into their home and raises it for a period of time in accordance with MCC guidelines and under the supervision of our training staff.

You can email for a fostering form.

Niall describes some of their volunteers as running a 'puppy B&B'.

"They're great, the dog lives in a home environment — they drop the dog off in the morning and collect it in the dog in the evening."

Last year, 48 dogs qualified as companion dogs and there have been more than 250 dogs qualified.

Some of the puppies from the 'P' litter
Some of the puppies from the 'P' litter

The latest litter — pictured above — will have names all beginning with P.

  • Text MCC to 50300 to donate €4 to My Canine Companion.

Just Jinx

Appropriately for a dog called Jinx, he qualified to help the O'Mahony family get out and about just as a lockdown kicked in. But Jinx has been a wonderful addition to the family during strange times, says mum, Deirdre.

He's a service dog from My Canine Companion, and his main job is to be a helper and friend to Amy, 12, and Darragh, 3. Amy and Darragh are both on the spectrum — Amy has autism and an intellectual disability and as Darragh is younger, he's still waiting on an official diagnosis which is to be carried out privately.

Amy and Jinx
Amy and Jinx

Though, as a parent of eight children, four of whom are on the spectrum, Deirdre acknowledges that she is uniquely qualified to 'just know'.

Jinx has been involved in their family, who live in Grange in Cork, since he was just a new pup: "We got him when he was just around nine weeks and we brought him to the training classes and socialisation."

But he has now graduated from his training and has literally been attached.

"Jinx brings calm and companionship which might be expected of a docile dog resembling a giant golden teddy-bear. But his €10k training means he's also a walking 'safety net' for the child he's attached to.

Darragh O’Mahony and Jinx having a cuddle together.
Darragh O’Mahony and Jinx having a cuddle together.

"This has been the most amazing few days. To go for a walk with kids with autism can be a very stressful time but the last few days Jinx has turned this around for both of them.

"Loud noises of cars passing by is huge for Darragh and today he took it in his stride. All I can say is it's amazing —thanks to everyone that has helped us along the way and especially the My Canine Companion family ye are all amazing," said Deirdre.

Deirdre explains that her daughter and son can be prone to 'bolting'.

"Amy might dash towards something that interests her and Darragh would do that too but he could also bolt if he got frightened by something so it's great to know that this won't happen if they are attached to Jinx."

Amy and Jix go everywhere together
Amy and Jix go everywhere together

An autism assistance dog typically wears a harness that is attached to a child.

The assistance dog helps to regulate walking speed and is trained to respond to bolting or other unsafe behaviours that are common in many children with autism.

Darragh also treats Jinx like a 'walking comfort blanket' — he fondles his soft fur and this helps restore some calm for him.

Amy O’Mahony and Jinx, who is a My Canine Companion assistance dog.
Amy O’Mahony and Jinx, who is a My Canine Companion assistance dog.

Deirdre says that as Darragh is just three it can be hard to know what exactly has upset him sometimes — it could be a noise or lights or a small fall.

But Jinx can often be his first port of call now when he's had a bump or is nervous of something which is great, she laughs.

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up