New ‘leash’ of life: We visit the very first elderly pooch paradise

care home
Rens Hageman
Rens Hageman

We meet inspiring old age hounds who live at the UK’s only care home for dogs as part of our Hero Dog Awards. These doddering dogs might be getting on a bit, but they haven’t yet had their day!

It’s teatime at the care home and one of the oldest residents ambles slowly towards the living area. His arthritis has been giving him a bit of trouble lately, so the old chap walks with a limp. But as soon as he sees he has company he bounds up to meet them, greeting each visitor… with a big lick and a waggy tail. There’s clearly life in the old dog yet. Because golden oldie Geezer, 14, is one of the residents at the UK’s only care home for old dogs. Oakfield Oldies was set-up in 2001 and since then more than 650 OAPs (Old Age Pooches) have been through the doors. The cosy Victorian cottage in Shropshire has all the sounds of a family home - from the whirr of the washing machine to the whistle of the kettle - to make the dogs feel right at home. This elderly pooch paradise is part of the charity Dogs Trust Shrewsbury Rehoming Centre. Assistant manager Sue Thomas says Oakfield offers more mature mutts a real source of comfort. She said: “Our oldies often need a bit more TLC, so we set up Oakfield to provide them with all the comforts of home. While we have lovely kennels on our Shrewsbury site, a lot of these dogs have been living in a home for over ten years, so it would be a very unnatural - and potentially stressful - environment for them. No dogs are too old to be rehomed. We’ve had dogs as old as 17 find new homes.” Adorable border terrier Mutley only arrived this week and is still finding his feet. His owner had to hand the 13-year-old over to Dogs Trust after she moved into a care home. Sue, who has worked at the centre for almost three years, said: “It can be quite emotional taking these older dogs in. A lot of Oakfield dogs come in on our Canine Care Card scheme, which guarantees we will look after a dog if its owner passes away. Other times owners hand over their dogs because they are now too old themselves to care for them. Mutley’s owner still loved him very much - it was a heart-breaking four-hour goodbye.” Pooches are certainly pampered at Oakfield. They get their own bedroom - with the option of a sofa or dog bed - and an outside patio area. Dogs can also stretch their legs in the garden and occasionally the lucky guests even get treated to trips to the beach at nearby Barmouth. Month-long resident Frank, a 14-year-old staffie-cross, has certainly perked up since arriving at Dogs Trust as an emaciated stray. Volunteer Moira Wallace, 65, said: “He was in a bad way when we got him. He was so skinny and lacked a bit of energy. But he’s coming on in leaps and bounds. He’ll make someone a lovely pet.” Staffie pals Molly, 13, and Buddly, ten, share a bedroom. They came in together after a change in family circumstances and are looking to leave as a pair too. Sue adds: “People might be daunted getting an old dog, but it can be a lot easier. They tend to be house-trained, easier to deal with and you know their character.” While Sue insists that the oldies at Shrewsbury are reasonably easy to rehome, RSPCA statistics suggest otherwise. While puppies stay in UK sanctuaries for barely a fortnight - those over seven years old can languish in kennels for months. But it looks like that won’t be the case for Molly and Buddly. As I leave they are being walked around by a young couple who are interested in adopting them. Sue says: “Obviously we have a lot of checks, but it sounds like they’re really interested. It would be great to get Molly and Buddly in a loving home soon. These doddering dogs might be getting on a bit, but they certainly haven’t had their day yet." (Article source: The Sun)

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