A DOG rehoming charity that has helped thousands of canines to find loving new families is preparing to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Nestled on a hill overlooking the small village of Sadberge, Dogs Trust Darlington tries to help every dog it can, with the charity committed to never putting a healthy animal to sleep.
About 120 dogs of all shapes and sizes are cared for at the Hill House Farm centre at any one time, fed and exercised by staff and volunteers who walk hundreds of miles each year to keep them fit and healthy.
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The Dogs Trust is a national charity with bases around the UK, most famous for coining the slogan A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.
Its Sadberge centre opened its doors in May 1994 when the charity was known as the National Canine Defence League and has since rehomed 18,000 dogs.
Assistant manager Julie Keenan joined the centre as a dog walker on opening and said the charity has gone from strength to strength in the last 20 years.
She said: “It has got bigger and there are a lot more staff. It was always a nice happy place to work and it still is. It’s a testament to Dogs Trust that a lot of the staff have been here a very long time.”
The growth of the internet means there are now more opportunities than ever to highlight dogs who might otherwise get overlooked in the bustle of the kennels, with social media particularly well used by the charity.
Dogs are brought to the centre by people who have often found their financial or personal circumstances have changed, while others are brought in as strays.
Each dog is assessed for its temperament and given a health check before it is put up for adoption – the Dogs Trust prides itself on its efforts to team dogs with the right families.
The Sadberge centre is a huge operation with ten staff members – known as canine carers – with dozens of volunteers on hand to care for the animals and raise funds.
Volunteers Eileen Skidmore and Nyla Osborne have each been involved with the charity for many years and now help with fundraising.
Their ‘Barkery’, which features hand-made dog treats, is a popular staple of dog shows and charity events around the region.
Mrs Skidmore, who joined as a dog walker in 1997 after adopting a dog from the centre, said: “I was so impressed with the work the charity does. It’s a very welcoming place and people are encouraged to look around.”
To celebrate its 20th anniversary the Dogs Trust Darlington is running a competition to hear the stories of some of the dogs who have been rehomed from the centre.
Entries should be no more than 400 words, submitted by email or by post to firstname.lastname@example.org or Rebecca McKeown, Dogs Trust Darlington, Hill House, Farm, Sadberge, County Durham, DL2 1SL.
Entrants must have adopted a dog from Dogs Trust Darlington (not another Dogs Trust rehoming centre). A photograph, which cannot be returned, should also be submitted.
Closing date for entries is Monday, May 19.
The Dogs Trust is keen to highlight two dogs in need of a loving home: Jade – an 11-year-old German Shepherd.
Jade loves human company so she is looking for a home where there is someone around for most of the day. She would prefer to be the only pet in the home and could live with a family with older children.
Buddy – a two-year-old lurcher.
Buddy is sensitive boy who had to have his front leg amputated. He is looking for a quieter home where he will be able to gain his confidence. He would probably prefer to be the only pet in the household and could live with children aged over 13-years-old.
• Dogs Trust Darlington has neutered more than 10,000 dogs since 1994 • The Sadberge centre uses more than 210kg of dry dog food each day – which adds up to 220 tonnes over 20 years, equivalent to the weight of 35 elephants.
• Staff prepare more than 200 meals each day – 73,000 each year.
• Canine carers at the centre can walk more than 13 miles a day while walking dogs and cleaning kennels.
• The centre’s youngest carer, Lauren Sutcliffe, was born two days before the centre was opened in 1994, while the oldest canine carer is Phil Nicholson, 76, who has been involved since the early days.