TEARS filled my eyes as I scrolled through the images. There was page after page of pictures of dogs so thin I had no idea how they could still be alive.
The pictures had been taken by a charity in Romania that looked after injured street dogs. As an animal lover, I used Facebook to connect with lots of dog charities.
But even during my time working for the RSPCA I’d never seen anything like this…
Some had suffered appalling injuries and were too sick to hunt for food, others had been abused and tortured, then left close to death on the streets.
The country was in turmoil, but something about the plight of these, unwanted, uncared and hurting made me sure I had to help.
I was a mum to four children and several dogs and cats but I couldn’t sit back while these dogs died never having known what it’s like to have a filling meal, a comforting rub or pat or even just to live pain free.
Soon I was on my way to Romania. My heart broke when I saw first hand how the street dogs were treated.
‘There are just too many for us to help,’ said the volunteer showing us around. My mind was made up.
Back home I set up Safe Rescue for Dogs to raise funds to help the most in need come to England where I could arrange the correct medical care and rehabilitate them until they were strong enough to be re-homed with loving families.
At least then they would get the chance to experience peace and happiness, not matter for how long.
At first people thought I was barking mad when I told them my plan. Weren’t there enough dogs in shelters in the UK ? Yes, but these animals deserved help just as much as any other. The thought that so many had already died without ever having experienced kindness or love drove me on.
Soon my sister Zoe and family and friends were on board and we began raising money for the first dogs to be transported over.
Luckily my kids were animal lovers too, as at times I had up to 17 dogs living with me as I battled to find homes for them all.
People were always surprised how well behaved and loving they were, considering most had been homeless their whole lives and only ever experienced suffering at the hands of humans.
It was on facebook that I first read about Tara. She’d been picked up by the charity in Romania and as I read her story my blood began to boil.
She’d been found almost starved to death on the grounds of an old hospital. A pack had been living there and kind staff kept them fed and watered when they could.
But one morning they’d arrived to find they had all been poisoned. Tara was assumed to be dead like the rest. But more than a week later someone saw her move and a kind doctor took her to the charity.
As well as being severely malnourished, she was suffering with gangrene in all four legs. The agony she was in must have been unbearable.
Vets started treating her but her two front legs had already rotted to the bone and they decided the best thing they could do was amputate her front paws.
At least she was finally out of pain. But she still faced certain death if put back out on the streets again. There was no way she’d be able to fend for herself.
‘Ill take her,’ I found myself typing….
Then I called all the volunteers together and told them my plan. Together we arranged a dog passport and started fundraising to pay for her treatment here in the UK.
Weeks later she arrived tail wagging and I have to admit my heart melted.
Far from just settling in with my other dogs, she was soon bossing them all about. ‘What a diva,’ my kids laughed.
And when I took her walks with the others I simply popped her into my little ones old pushchair.
‘She looks like a Queen sat up there being pushed about,’ people said crowding round.
Given her loving nature it was hard to imagine what she had been through, her legs were the only reminder of the horror. But I had plans for them.
‘We need to raise enough for prosthetic paws,’ I said to our volunteers. It wasn’t going to be cheap at £3,000 but we all set to work planning events and my sister Zoe even agreed to jump out of a plane with another volunteer.
Meanwhile I contacted a company in the USA that could make the paws and arranged for all the fittings to be taken with a local vet.
Finally the day arrived for Tara to have her new paws fitted.
Once again tears filled me eyes, but for a different reason all together, as Tara stood and took her first shaky steps.
I was like a proud mum watching her little one walk for the first time.
‘Well done Tara,’ I cheered as her tail started to wag.
You could see how happy she was to be up on her feet again. By the end of the week she was running around with her pals. My biggest fear was that one of the dogs would chew her prosthetic legs – that would be one expensive dog chew!
Every time we went for a walk people would stop and stare at Tara. Soon word spread and she became known as the Bionic Dog.
We were even invited to go on TV. Tara took it all in her stride, lying casually as the presenters fawned over her.
Who would have believed this Romanian street dog found starving to death and suffering gangrene was now a star of the small screen ?
We’d been through so much together I couldn’t bear to part with her, so instead of re-homing Tara she will stay with me.
But unfortunately, as much as I would like to, I can’t do that with every dog. So we’re fundraising for a purpose built centre big enough to house lots more dogs just like Tara.
Because unlike other centres, we want to help the oldest and most fragile dogs that most people would just give up on.
After all, it would have been easy to give on on Tara, but look at her now.
To help support Safe Rescue For Dogs either by making a donation or fostering a dog please visit http://www.saferescuefordogs.com