How a dog-walking group spawned an international charity helping sick pets around the world
Charlotte Baldwin only expected to have about 30 people involved when she started the group.
Wales Online reports that it started with a dog owner looking for other dachshunds to stroll with her pets.
Now hundreds of sausage dogs from across the UK join mass walks in Wales, more than 4,000 people from across the globe have joined a dedicated Facebook group, and a charity is being launched.
Two years after starting what she thought would be a walking group of around 30 sausage dog owners in Rhondda Charlotte Baldwin’s project Sausage Dog Walks South Wales UK is expanding into a charity helping sick daxies with donations coming from as far as Japan and the United States.
Charlotte buys and loans equipment to pet owners from Scotland to Cornwall from the £22,000 raised to help them on her mass walks and puts sausage dog owners and experts from around the world in touch.
The Welsh Blood Service worker, proud owner of daxies Rosie and Barney, admitted she could not believe how her plans for a small walking group had spiralled.
The biggest mass walk to date, at Porthcawl, attracted more than 600 sausage dogs from across the UK within a couple of weeks of her posting the event on Facebook and expecting no more than a few dozen. After that walk on Boxing Day 2015, believed to be the biggest ever gathering of dachshunds in Wales, hundreds joined a stroll in Barry Island the following year.
A walk at Caldicot Castle this summer also attracted hundreds and featured on BBC One’s The One Show. Daxies and their owners travelled from across the UK for all three events.
After seeing the response Charlotte had planned a world record attempt at gathering the most dogs of one breed in one place. But she has now abandoned that ambition to launch a charity for sausage dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), a disabling condition affecting one in four of the breed.
Dax-crazy Charlotte, 46, said she didn’t want to spend money on a world record attempt when she could use it help sick animals.
Charlotte only got her first sausage dog, Barney, four years ago, closely followed by Rosie.
Her Facebook page celebrates daxies but bans advertising dogs or puppies for sale. “I started with a Rhondda dog-walking group but Barney was getting a bit squashed so we started our own sausage dog group and I started a Facebook page thinking about 30 would join but within days we had hundreds,” said Charlotte. “When we had 600 dogs on the Porthcawl walk I saw a lot of them needed wheelchairs and strollers because they had IVDD.”
With the money raised on that and subsequent walks Charlotte has bought 70 strollers and 12 wheelchairs specially adapted for daxies, which she lends out to dogs paralysed by IVDD from Cornwall to Scotland.
“We have grasped on to something. There are lots of sausage dog walks on Facebook and I really don’t know why mine is so popular. I am the only one in the UK lending strollers. Maybe it’s that? It’s a huge community now. I could never stop this now. It’s not mine, it’s theirs, and I have made some really good friends. The people who own these dogs are really special."
“I have a feeling this is going to get bigger. Vets in Japan who have daxies and saw what I am doing sent £100 to show their support."
“They seem to just love anything Welsh I think. When people see photos of Wales they can’t imagine where we are living and then they see the rugby-related pictures too - I think that’s part of the appeal."
“It takes up my time. I do my full-time job for the Welsh Blood Service and then four to five hours a day on this. It is a huge job and I have to register as a charity now. It will be Dedicated to Dachshunds with IVDD.”
Charlotte, whose builder husband John is also daxie-mad, said she loves all dogs but there is something special about dachshunds.
“I had a Staffordshire before but once you have a dachshund there’s no going back. They are so loyal and inquisitive. For such small dogs they have huge personalities. It is fabulous. If you don’t have a sausage dog it probably doesn’t mean much but it is fun."
“I have noticed other breeds are holding mass walks in Wales now. The pugs were in Ogmore recently – but we win hands down! When we catch the public by surprise they love it.”(Story source: BBC News)