Dog-lover Becky Shuttleworth has her hands full when she goes for walkies – she has 22 pooches.
The Sun reports that the adopted pack, from across the UK and Romania, includes nine Jack Russells and a huge Dogue de Bordeaux.
As I take a stroll with the dogs, it’s easy to see why some people accuse Becky of being, well, barking mad.
As she is pulled in every direction, the 33-year-old calmly shrugs and says: “People tell me that I’m crazy. It’s a mad life looking after 22 dogs. But I just love them all.”
A dog trainer and groomer, she has ended up with all the pets because she was unable to part with any pup she trained in her role as a fosterer for a rescue centre.
The canines have taken over Becky’s ONE-BEDROOM bungalow in Rochford, Essex. There’s hair everywhere, scratches up the wall paper and washing-up bowls filled with water in every room.
There are chew toys strewn across the floor in most rooms and boxes of bones hidden behind sofas.
Becky admits: “I love them so much, but I realise it is a large number. “I hoover every day because there’s so much dog fur – it’s a losing battle. The hair gets everywhere. “I can’t really wear anything that glamorous. I live in jeans and T-shirts because I know I’m going to get hair and drool all over myself. “I’m constantly washing their bedding and blankets. And I can never go on holiday because who is going to look after 22 dogs?”
It’s not cheap either. Becky spends between £300 to £400 a month on her dogs, who get through 15 kg of food every day. The dogs eat raw meat and Becky adds apple, bananas and carrot to their diet.
The vet bills can also be eye-watering. Becky is currently trying to raise £6,000 for her newest recruit Bella – a limping one-year-old Dogue de Bordeaux who was dumped at a local pet shop just before Christmas. Bella needs two new elbows in order to live life to the full – and is not covered on insurance.
Becky, who lives with partner Kevin, 36, a car technician, says: “When I took her on she was skinny, malnourished with ear infections”.
“She suffers with double elbow and double hip dysplasia, it’s considered to be a pre-existing medical condition so she can’t be insured for it so I have to raise the money myself.
“Even after the operation she’s going to need hydrotherapy and physiotherapy. Her vet bills are going to be massive. We think she was bought by people that wanted to breed from her but imagine they abandoned her when they realised she had all these issues.”
Becky and Kevin got their first dog seven years ago, a Jack Russell called Russell who decided to move in with them.
She says: “It was really strange – he kept coming up to the house and basically made it known that he wanted to be our dog. “He actually belonged to a family down the road but he kept escaping and coming here. Eventually his owners just said, ‘Take him – he wants to be with you’.”
The arrival of Russell, who has since died, was followed by a Scottish rescue centre asking Becky to foster and rehabilitate pups in her home.
She says: “I just fell in love every time. It takes a lot of time for a dog to trust you, it can often take six to 12 months to achieve. Obviously by that point there was no way they were going anywhere.”
Becky’s oldest dog is Benson, 18, while the youngest is Bella.
About half of the dogs are adopted from a Romanian charity – and many of them have behavioural issues because of a hard start in life.
She says: “Some of these dogs have been really abused – Brian and Chelsea, in particular, can’t even wear a lead because of the extent of the abuse they’ve had.”
But Becky insists she’ll have no more, saying: “I can’t. I’m definitely at capacity now. “I don’t want it to be unmanageable. I do get days where it feels like too much.”
The day before we meet Becky was asked to teach a dog behavioural class in Buxton, Derbyshire.
She left home at 5.30 am and did not return until after 11 pm. Although a friend called in on the dogs during the day, a tired Becky had to take them out when she got home. She says: “I just wanted to get home and flop.”
But Becky says most days she loves having her canine companions, who sleep around the bungalow, including her bed, and have the run of her medium-sized garden plus walks on farmland.
She says: “It’s life to me now. It can be hard some days but it’s so rewarding to see the changes in the dogs.”
Incredibly, her partner Kevin is happy with the arrangement. She said: “He’s as bad as me. Sometimes, when I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether to take on another rescue, he’s the one convincing me that we’ve got the space.”
The couple also have a rescue goat, three sheep, two cats and six ducks. She said: “We welcome all comers, here. Kev’s nieces and nephews absolutely love it. “It’s like visiting a real farm.”
It’s a ruff life…
7 am: Wake up and let the dogs out in groups for play time in the garden
9 am: Becky splits the dogs into groups, who spend the day in different rooms.
11 am: 6-8 dogs go out on a walk, while others roam around the farm
1 pm: Play time
3 pm: Afternoon nap
6 pm: Watch TV with the pups
7 pm: Becky feeds the dogs in groups of five at a time
9 pm: Bedtime.
(Story source: The Sun)