Betty's Blog

Rescue to Forever

Like father – like daughter!

It was always going to happen. Rescuing dogs was in the blood!

The cruel combination of the Battle at Ypres in 1917 followed by the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918 saw my dear Dad orphaned aged just three years old.

Dad’s three elder siblings, Rose, Dorothy and Gilbert, were taken away to the dreaded orphanage but my Dad was rescued and adopted by his kind neighbour, the lovely Ethel Giles, who also rescued dogs! 

And so growing up with Dad’s wonderful, sometimes sad, stories about their rescue dogs, I thought it perfectly normal to help a dog in need. 

Dad was that one in a million person that everyone adores. There was nothing not to like but he never knew it! He was gorgeousness in a tiny frame. My school friends still talk about him with such affection that it makes me so proud. He was a gifted craftsman, clever in a practical way, funny, kind – the perfect husband and Dad and he just LOVED dogs!

During WW2 he was a tank driver and towards the end of the war rescued a little stray dog in Italy who he named Tency after his regiment, 10C North Irish Horse. Of all his doggie stories I loved this one best……but wish I’d asked so many more  questions. 

How did he get away with keeping Tency in the tank? What kind friends his tank mates must have been. What did he think he was going to do with Tency when he came back to England. Sadly, he never had to answer that question as she went missing one day. Dad could only imagine what happened to her……and it still haunts me every time I hear of a lost dog. 

I was a late arrival into my parents lives and when they realised that there would be no baby brother or sister for me they tried hard to adopt. Can you see the common theme here? 

It wasn’t to be – at the very last minute my new big sister, Alice, was withdrawn from the adoption programme and  I remember my parents being absolutely devastated as they would have given Alice so much love but their age was now going to go against them. That’s how it was back then. 

So, as an only child, our dogs were my brothers and sisters and our bond was unbreakable. Professor Noel Fitzpatrick speaks so eloquently about the love of a dog and a child and that if we could bottle that love we’d fix all the world’s problems. 

Our dogs knew all my dreams and losing two of them so young to road traffic accidents was the worst thing that ever happened to me as a child and still haunts me to this day……and makes me paranoid now when the shelter dogs arrive from Greece. It only takes a second….

Growing up in London, living just off a main road, my parents were so careful but obviously not careful enough for the escape artist, Turk, or Bob, who chased an intruder dog out of our garden straight into the line of a passing car right in front of my eyes as I was on my way to school. 

School was Gumley House, a convent grammar school which my parents were so proud that I had got into and where I made  three best friends for life: Kath, Shelagh and Shelia …and who were the first to help me rescue dogs!

Gumley was straight out of another era. Our nuns and teachers wore huge greying/black, gowns and coming from academic families were fascinated by our working class roots, regularly checking if we’d had breakfast and could afford a meat and 2 veg dinner. I kid you not! Little did they know that we used to bribe Maritia and would raid their dinner trolley every lunch time as she took it back to the canteen.

They’d also not factored in that we might be working class but with Irish roots we would never starve. An invite to any friend’s family tea (dinner) involved mountains of potatoes and cabbage that we all had to politely get through. 

So when, aged 11, still traumatized after seeing our Bob dying right in front of me, we were asked by Sister Bridget to write a poem from the heart  and I wrote about losing our Bob.

Anyone who was taught by nuns in the 1960s needs no explanation! At that time every good  Irish Catholic family expected to raise a nun, a priest, a nurse and a teacher! And double-whammy if the nun became a teacher no matter if they didn’t understand kids. 

Sister Bridget was very scary with as much warmth as an ice-cube. My straight from the heart poem, with it’s “Alas poor Bob was dead” refrain whizzed straight past her heart into her ice bucket and I would have been left ridiculed in front of the whole class had they not been for the lovely classmates that they were and who totally understood my pain as my poem was pulled to pieces. 

I was left with a dread of ever writing anything again and it’ s taken almost 60 years to get over it! But time being a great healer I realise  that I have only precious years to write everything down for the dogs. Those poor dogs, incarcerated 24/7 in hell holes with no hope need little old me to get over my trauma and start sharing things and telling it as it is in Dog Rescue World! 

So here it is……Rescue to Forever…….

Had it not been for my Mum our home would have been full of unwanted dogs. As it was, there were often dogs staying over as Dad could never say no to a friend in need. Another common theme……..

So I grew up with a lot of love and a lot of dogs and a dream that one day I would either be a film director or run a dog rescue or maybe combine both! 

In the end I became a teacher – not a lot of difference really – and I went to teach in Greece. 

And so my journey into the world of dog rescue began! 

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