A dog is not just for Christmas, it’s for a Covid-19 pandemic

Dog Trust offers help to front line workers after deluge of fostering offers from public

 Nurse Annie Mathews with her nine-year-old Schnauzer Lily after Dogs Trust announced an initiative to help front-line workers. Photograph: Fran Veale

Nurse Annie Mathews with her nine-year-old Schnauzer Lily after Dogs Trust announced an initiative to help front-line workers. Photograph: Fran Veale

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On the walls of the long central block in the Dogs Trust in Finglas are the words which have become so famous they have been copyrighted: “A dog is not just for Christmas, it’s for life”.

The slogan first coined by Dogs Trust chief executive in the UK Clarissa Baldwin, in 1978, could be modified to suit the present day: “A dog is not just for Christmas, but for a global coronavirus pandemic.”

The Trust has been deluged by the public seeking to foster dogs during the lockdown. More than 700 offers have been made to the trust in the last month – too many to process yet. Normally that figure would be about 10.

Some might be doing so out of boredom because they want an excuse, any excuse, to get out of the house and a dog, like its owner, will always need a walk.

Others are doing so out of a desire to help the trust at a difficult time, says executive director Becky Bristow. Still more because they always wanted to get a dog for themselves or their children, but just never got around to it.

Normally, members of the public ring up to adopt a dog from the trust. Fostering is a relatively new activity there, but it is perfect for the strange times in which we live.

Clare McCormack of the Dogs Trust with new arrival Dara at the charity’s Finglas Rehoming Centre. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times
Clare McCormack of the Dogs Trust with new arrival Dara at the charity’s Finglas Rehoming Centre. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times
Christine Hurney and John Quinn of the Dogs Trust exercise lurchers Buster and Cara at the charity’s Finglas Rehoming Centre. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times
Christine Hurney and John Quinn of the Dogs Trust exercise lurchers Buster and Cara at the charity’s Finglas Rehoming Centre. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times

“The people really want to help. Some people want the company. They want to try out a dog before committing to having one which is a fantastic idea. People have also been seeing stories of animals stuck in kennels and want to get them out and let them have a bit of family life,” she said.

“A lot of people who work full-time would love to have a dog so this is their opportunity to have a dog for a while.”

In normal circumstances there are 200 dogs on the Finglas premises. But given current restrictions there are just 50 and the location is not open to the public.

Staff at the trust understand the principles of social isolating well. New dogs which show signs of disease spend three weeks in quarantine. The infectious canine diseases Canine parvovirus and Leptospirosis are more deadly to dogs than Covid-19 is to humans.

The charity has now offered its services free of charge to front-line carers for the duration of this pandemic.

Any front-line worker who is overwhelmed and feels they cannot give their dog the attention it deserves can leave their animal at the trust for at least a fortnight.

Ms Bristow said it was the least they could do considering the public response to the trust’s own difficulties during this time.

“The amount of offers we have received to foster dogs has been truly uplifting for us in these worrying times. And we are delighted to now expand our team’s services to assist essential workers,” she said. “We want to help lighten the load of Ireland’s front line workers who are facing one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime.”

Front line workers who are interested in availing of the scheme should sign up at DogsTrust.ie/Frontline

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