I think it goes without saying that I have a soft spot for animals. So spending the week not only at an animal rescue sanctuary but also in the Lake District, is for me, heaven. I also want to add that it was my first time to the Lake District, and I wasn't disappointed.
I arrived late Sunday afternoon into Kendal, a delightfully English village, full of character and old stone houses; a picture perfect postcard town by any account. I woke up early on Monday and took the short drive into the countryside to the Animal Rescue Cumbria site. It's a discreetly hidden sanctuary tucked away off a beaten track. The large stone-laid drive led up to the main reception. As I rushed through the doors I was greeted by 4 barks and a very warm welcome from Laura, one of the staff members here at Animal Rescue Cumbria. It's a wonderfully quaint place with a family feel.
After being introduced to all the doggies in reception I was whisked outside and given the tour. Animal Rescue Cumbria is a small dwelling with around 15 cats and 12 dogs on site. Originally founded by the late Alfred Wainwright, the sanctuary has been running 30 years this year. It was so lovely to see how well looked after each animal was. A warm home for the cats with fresh bedding and toys galore to immaculate kennels with a large filed for the dogs. You could instantly see that the dogs and cats were the priority; as it should be. I didn't escape work however and within half an hour of stepping into my wellies at the front door, I was hosing down kennels and taking the dogs out for a good run around.
With Animal Rescue Cumbria being such a small charity, the majority of the trustees have a large active role in keeping the place running. Later that morning, Kerry, one of the newest trustees popped over to meet me. She is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most passionate and enthusiastic people I have met on my Nicest Job journey so far. Her ideas and ambitions for the rescue centre are incredible. We ended up spending the rest of the day together, along with Pauline, another of the charities trustees.
What always strikes me is how tough the smaller charities have it. Animal Rescue Cumbria don't really do much fundraising. They have a large trust which keeps them ticking over but are in dire need of an extra income. Fundraising is hard. I know I keep going on about it but it really is. So with the knowledge that I have acquired so far I helped put a small strategy in place with Kerry and Pauline to start raising extra funds. For one, they didn't even have a Twitter account and were in no way engaging with the local community. So I swiftly set that up and updated their Facebook account with better images to help drive awareness. Because they are so tied up with the day to day running of the shelter and not really having anyone with the skill set to fundraise or market the charity, its gone by the wayside. Something, which I can imagine, happens in a lot of smaller charities all across the country. We came up with a hashtag for Twitter (#AnotherOne Abandoned) and wrapped up the day with a dog walk.
I arrived at just after 8am on Tuesday to lend my hand with the cats. Each member of staff and volunteers that come and help get here at this time every morning to attend to the animals. I donned my wellies and rubber gloves and was put to work. Fair play, it's a tough and stinky job but needs doing! It took the two of us a good couple of hours to get the place spick and span, ready for a few visitors to come and take a look around.
I must say, being an animal lover and owner myself how shocked I was at the amount of animals at the shelter. There was a lovely little 8 month old Bichon Frise called Barney who had been dropped off a week ago. He was bought for an 18-year-old girl who after a few months decided she no longer wanted him. Dogs are NOT birthday presents, Christmas presents or any kind of 'gift'. If you want a dog, make sure you get the right breed and more importantly, you can look after it. I don't mean to rant but after spending just a week at an animal rescue shelter I was appalled to see the beautiful animals that were either abandoned or even abused that needed rescuing. So far this year Animal Rescue Cumbria have already re-homed 33 cats and 26 dogs. It costs them around £100 per animal from the time they get them to the time they leave. That is of course if there is nothing wrong with them. Lilly, a little Toy Poodle that had been dropped off was in a terrible state. Her back legs were riddled with scars and scabs and its going to cost a good £1,000 if not more to get her right. Guess who foots that bill? The charity. So if you want to donate to a charity. 1. Choose local, and if you love animals. 2. Choose your local animal shelter.
I must admit I did also take a cheeky few hours off late afternoon on Wednesday. I drive a lot and I visit a lot of places with the Nicest Job. There was no way that I was driving 5 hours to the Lake District and not seeing a lake. So I snuck off a little early and headed over to Windermere, one of the most popular lakes in the Lake District. The sun was shining and the place was stunning.
The rest of my week was pretty similar. From more dog walks to bathing a Mastiff dog (one of the biggest dogs I've ever seen). It was pretty much non stop work. When you have that many animals to care for, all with their own individual needs it takes a lot of time out of your day. I can completely appreciate that the staff have no time to do anything else. Fundraising and PR is on the bottom of their priority list.
I left Cumbria with a smile on my face and a reception full of people wanting to take a look round at the dogs. Unfortunately centres like the one I have just left are not few and far between and our country is scattered with hundreds of rescue centres just like it. We all go weak at the knees at a puppy but when you look at a fully grown dog, a lot of those people instantly get tuned off. Please, don't get an animal if you can't care for it. It's not fair on them. If only people who could care for their pets had one, there would be no need for Animal Rescue Cumbria, but unfortunately that's not the way the world works.
So if you are considering getting a dog, I urge you to go visit your local rescue centre to see what abandoned dogs or cats are like, you might just change your mind.