By Caitriona McMahon
As an animal lover I cannot imagine returning home without a wagging tail knocking me down on arrival and I am sure many of you are the same. Misty, lady of the house, ruler of my household and avid sports fan is my baby. A baby well able to work her master.
Many a story she has heard and many a tear we have wept together. Our canine companions walk beside us, not only in the literal sense but the emotional sense too throughout some of the toughest times in our lives and they ask nothing in return. How many others would do the same?
Whether on 2 legs or 4 paws a friend is a friend. Forever Loyal to their owner, their world. But what happens when their owner abandons them? Sitting on the roadside waiting patiently for their master’s return. Minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days. Without food, physically abused, neglected they continue to wait if it kills them they will wait.
HART Animal Rescue established in 2012 are one such organisation dealing with this nightmare on the frontline in Cork city and county. I spoke to Collette O’Callaghan of Hart and asked why rescuing animals is so special to her?
“We get all kinds of dogs here at HART from all kinds of situations,” says Collette.
“Some dogs are found as strays with no microchipping or ID tag.
“Some abandoned by their owners cruelly, intentionally and have usually suffered neglect and ill-treatment, having been badly let down by humans, some come from the pounds around Ireland.
“One thing all the dogs have in common – they are anxious and stressed and all are in desperate need of a reassuring voice and a kind and gentle hand.
“For us here at HART, the reward is in seeing once dull and sad eyes that were afraid to meet our gaze gradually change to bright and shining ones with hope and happiness.
“Dull dirty smelly coats from months even years of neglect slowly begin to look nourished and clean mirroring the restored health and vitality of the dog.
“Tails once firmly tucked between legs dare to wag just a little at first then more and more as the weeks pass.”
HART not only rescue animals they nurture them, re-homing them as near as local towns and as far as Czech Republic and Sweden to caring, loving forever homes.
As Collette spoke, I couldn’t help but think for every pet we have safe at home cuddled in bed , another is abandoned, abused , lost or alone. HART is such a fitting name for this organisation . One of their HART-warming stories reads:
“Scrappy and Scooby were found by a motorist who had a puncture late one Saturday night in February 2014. It was on a quiet back road of North Cork and lucky for them this man had a puncture. As he changed his tyre he heard a noise but could not make it out as it was raining hard. He followed the sound and found these 2 little pups all of about 12 weeks old, he brought them to the vets who contacted us to see if we could help. We found a foster home for them and they were treated for mange and malnourishment and the 2 boys flourished in no time. Scrappy was offered a home in Wexford and boy did he land on his paws and Scooby aka Pesto found a great home in Cork City”
Mid-interview at 8pm Collette’s phone rings, a dog is abandoned in Cork. Leaving her bed, a cherished friend of HART travels to the animal and drops her to a caring friend who will care for the dog tonight until a foster is in place tomorrow.
These ladies do not take days off, their homes are the rescue animals homes too for as long as they need. They go above and beyond so the animals don’t suffer another minute.
When an animal first arrives in the care of HART they are thoroughly checked and given veterinary care as needed. The next step is where you and I come in.
HART, with the increasing numbers of animals and no state funding or kennels, are in constant need of foster carers. I had the pleasure of being one such foster carer.
My first foster dog was called Narla. She had sustained a leg injury that was quickly noticed and cared for. On arrival she was withdrawn and scared in her new surroundings but in a matter of days her shell started to disappear and a playful, caring , compassionate lady appeared who is now in her perfect forever home. Suzi followed on from Narla. Suzi was quite the singer. She would howl and howl to Ava Cassidy’s Songbird not to mention her ability to open the patio door latch. Just like us humans no 2 dogs are the same and each one teaches us something about ourselves.
Is it the same for those on the frontline?
“It never ceases to amaze us here at HART how a dog that has been treated so badly in their past can have such a capacity to forgive and forget,” says Collette.
“Even dogs that have no reason to ever trust a human again have with the loving care of a good fosterer so often surprised and humbled us.
“We regularly marvel at how dogs seem to live in the moment.
“They don’t dwell in the past or feel sorry for themselves.
People could learn a lot from a dog’s approach to life.”
She’s right. To witness a dog running loose in an open field is simply a breath of fresh air. Careless and free.
Every blade of grass seems greener than the last. Living in the present moment they do not dwell on yesterday nor worry about tomorrow.
It’s plain for all to see that these rescuers are in it for the right reasons. Having rescued and re-homed approximately 400 dogs to date, these ladies should be wearing capes 24/7.
“At HART we believe that mistreatment, neglect and abuse of animals should never be tolerated in a civilised society,” says Collette.
“Unfortunately, Ireland’s laws don’t reflect that and the lack of enforcement of the laws that do exist leave so many dogs and cats in a very vulnerable situation, hence the desperate need for voluntary rescue groups like ours.
“But rescue groups can only be successful if there are enough people willing to volunteer.
“Help from volunteers can take a number of forms – for example some people offer to foster.
Fostering provides an opportunity for an animal to be taken into rescue and placed in a normal home environment, to be cared for by kind people while they wait for a more permanent offer of a home to come along. A foster can be short term for two or three weeks or it can be long term taking up to three or four months. Each case is different. The time spent in a good foster home is invaluable to a dog that has been through a rough time.
Today I ask you to consider opening your home to an abandoned soul that needs fostering. For me it was a win win situation the dogs were safe in a caring environment and I received insight in what its like to not be trapped by worries and fear, to live for the now. Fostering offers a very unique form of therapy and it could for you too.
Caring for an animal that has been through horrific circumstances and seeing the light in their eyes as they know they are now safe is something rare.
Day by day, they begin to trust in you more and that feeling is so so heart-warming.
In times where you may not even have faith in yourself, the animal looks at you like your their world.
Fostering is such a rewarding experience. I had a singing dog at one point she loved to howl along to a Ava Cassidy’s Songbird, another one could open the patio door.
Watching Misty take these other dogs under her wing was beautiful too. Don’t get me wrong she still ruled the roost but with a big heart. She showed them the ropes and took them under her wing or paw as the case maybe.
If you would like to contact HART
Phone: 089-4341024 between 10am & 7pm