Dogs in Distress - a good cause and a great experience Part One

So I've heard a couple stories lately about the closure of a dog shelter in Ballymun due to the loss of its premises, and also, the far more (prohibitively expensive) medical assessments and treatments that will be required, on animals traveling to the UK from Ireland.

I haven't seen anything further on this second story since I read a piece about it a few months ago, but the legislation coming in is in part because of the horsemeat scandal, and the faking of documents and passports for old nags that were being sent to the glue factory by unscrupulous burger people. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo...I'm lovin' it!

These new laws are going to have a major impact on the animal sanctuaries and charities and homes and pounds here in Ireland, because the British sure do love their pets. Hot dayum! I didn't realise this but a lot of the pets fostered here - after they've been abandoned or been found homeless - are often adopted by - I hate to admit it, so I'm gonna just look at the floor as I touch type - those bloody, warm-hearted, animal-loving, humane, kind, bloody Englanders. With their accents that can cut glass, and their corgis. In their portraits of elderly and soft-spoken, modest, regal noblewomen. Owaoight, guv'nahhhh!
At the height of this year's blazing summer, I took in a little foster dog for just a couple of weeks. I got the little chap from Dogs in Distress. Marie runs Dogs in Distress, with help from Kathy, and a plethora of excellent fosterers, such as the incredible and beautiful Corinne, whose acquaintance I made when I dropped some stuff to her home from the charity, as a bit of a lark one afternoon. A fair skinned, naturally Gothic-looking angel, she would qualify as the most beautiful creature in Tim Burton's entourage, if she were on his management team. But she does very good work in both personal and professional capacities. No quirky barber musicals or kid movie remakes for her.

After emailing Corinne, writing a piece about animal care, and asking her about the charity, I went up to Meath, having filled in the pertinent deets on my own life, residence, how much time I had, yadda yadda yadda, in a quite detailed application form, to see if the Dogs in Distress people could find a matching pooch for me to foster.

The decision was practical on my part. Dogs are brilliant. If there's a dog to take walking, gimme the leash and off we go. I wanted to see if a canine would enjoy my company, in the wonderful weather, when we could go out and about, and most of the work I do is from home anyway. These are all considerations that I outlined in the form, and the subsequent talks and vetting procedures, to make sure I was alreeet and a dog would be happy.

I picked him up from Marie's place, where there was a large back-room with half a dozen dogs or more to greet me, tails wagging. Her latest arrival was my little guy, a beige terrier mix of some kind, a gorgeous ball of fuzz who biddingly popped out for a quick walk up the country road before we set off on our way.

Marie said my dog's name was Hobo. He didn't seem to like the name when I called him that once we got home. She agreed it was a horrible name but it was the one the pound had given her.

I said "But he looks like a Hobo!" I think Marie was appalled at my insensitivity, as she had just taken him for a shampoo and a haircut, and he was looking quite the dapper charmer. What I had meant was, he looked a bit like Benji, the little terrier type mix or whatever it is, from the tv show in the 80s.

I had got Benji mixed up with The Littlest Hobo. The Littlest Hobo was a German shepherd Alsatian wolfdog huskie sort in his various guises - I think he was first played by David Niven or Bob Holness. And in all fairness, there are undoubtedly smaller HUMAN hobos than the Littlest Hobo. That's false advertising. Getting Hobo mixed up with Benji could've been a source of contention. I cleared up my mistake with a text message to Marie discussing North American canine-centered 1970s and 80s dramas, a few days after bringing Hobo home with me.

Marie is the founder of Dogs in Distress. She doesn't strike me as a self-promoter, but she does some necessary and very wonderful work from her base in Meath. The animals she looks after are often a little broken, traumatised, or hurting. None of them deserve to be put to sleep. As with the vast majority of such pooches, all they frequently need is some temporary TLC before they find somewhere more permanent to live. And they do need homes, now more than ever, given the details of the opening paragraph, and the added expenses that will be incurred in overseas transport. As I said, Marie has the quiet, assiduous humility of a charity leader.

She puts out fires caused by abandonment and whatever else, rescuing dogs that would otherwise be put to sleep, with the limited resources she has available. Corinne assisted me with a piece I wrote on animal welfare here in Ireland, where I suggested that international animal-loving students - here for a year or more - might think about fostering dogs or cats during their stay. And I gave Dogs in Distress a shout out in the piece.

We got home and Hobo seemed a little shy. I gave him some dogfood and water, which he only half finished. I showed him around the place. We went out onto the balcony. He liked it, and sat down, looking out onto the street and the park across the way, glancing at me. We went for a walk.

Over the next couple of weeks, I took the little guy everywhere with me, which was a blessing and a curse. Only because no time alone meant his dependence was more acute, although I loved his company and had no professional obligations that couldn't be done virtually. On our walks, he was one of these little beggars who didn't realise how small he was, and he would bark at huskies four or five times his size, like Benji barking at the Littlest Hobo.

If he had had a garden to explore and some alone time, he might have been better off. He was getting plenty of activity - long, two to four hour walks, and drives in the car, where he often insisted on at least my hand to hold as we drove around Dublin, but he was fond of seating arrangements that were clearly illegal. He had an uncanny knack of freeing himself of his lead while on our journeys, either by slipping off his collar, or loosening the lead from the passenger seat. It was easy enough to accommodate him if a friend was there with a free lap, but by golly, when you're alone with him there, trying to take a sharp turn, and you realise that there is potentially such a thing as "steering wheel burn", it makes driving quite difficult.

Read about the massive car pileup we caused on the M-50 in Part Two!