How It All Started - Dogs 4 Rescue

How It All Started

Emma's Story

“During the night, I would hear the pitiful cries of an animal in distress.

A few doors down I discovered a skeletal little staffie girl, chained to the concrete base, surrounded by her own faeces and tail between her legs.

Her name was Lucky – she was anything but.

She was an abused breeding machine and the start of something that has changed my life beyond comprehension.”

“I started walking her and learned they had acquired her from a well-known local rescue, unneutered and without a home check. The owner had been letting any dog mate with her and selling the puppies for £20 each.

I called the RSPCA, who came to see her but reported there was nothing they could do as she had a leaky kennel to go in. So I called the dogs home she came from in despair – they said they didn’t have time to home-check.

When I explained they had rehomed a dog who was being used for breeding they said they didn’t have the facilities to look after unneutered bitches. They were not prepared to step in and help her.

“I used my holidays from work to sit with her in the garden, but I had only a small amount of time for her and the guilt tormented me. The love and loyalty of a staffie was one I’d never known. Nothing compares to it.

Then, one day when I went for her, she wasn’t there. There was a much bigger dog on the same chain. I was told Lucky was dead and the new dog was called Sandy.

My heart broke and to this day I cannot talk about her without my eyes leaking. I loved that poor, loyal, olive eyed staffie.

They had let her off the chain and she ran round to look for me but I was out. She was run over and the fact that I couldn’t save her will hurt forever.”

“At work, I was mocked at for grieving for a ‘neighbour’s dog’ and I couldn’t bear to go back to see Sandy for weeks.

When I finally did, it felt like I could never love her as much, but I knew I could not let her suffer the same fate. So I applied for a mortgage to buy my own place.

Sandy was scared of people and didn’t appear to get on with dogs at all. She was one of the most complex dogs I have met and I learned most of what I know from her. I admired her spirit and she quietly stole my heart without me even realising.

Once I had my house, I handed in my notice, ‘won’ a banger of a van on eBay and set up my own dog walking company so Sandy could come to work with me each day.”

“In 2007 I opened Daycare4Dogs – it was the first venture of its kind in the North West so people were understandably sceptical. 

Four years of hard graft and Daycare4Dogs became profitable, so I was able to start my ultimate dream – Dogs 4 Rescue: The kennel-free rescue where dogs could play and be together, not knowing they were homeless at all but feeling loved, surrounded by a big family and sleeping on sofas.

People don’t like going to rescue centres because they are upsetting. I wanted ours to be so different – a happy place people wanted to visit and help dogs, one that would quash the rescue dog stigma.

I wanted people to see them living without stress and fear, playing and interacting just like normal dogs.”

“I was going to do things differently but I needed land to run the rescue kennel-free, so when an old farm repossession came up, I jumped at the chance.

My lovely parents loaned me their life savings to buy it.

Seeing Sandy running through those fields and surveying her new home was one of the best days of my life.

In October 2013, I finally set up Dogs 4 Rescue from the farmhouse and land I had bought, but I soon hit an unexpected hurdle.

Getting UK dogs into our rescue proved near impossible as no other rescue would let us help them. Everyone I contacted said no, primarily because they wanted the dogs to be housed in kennels.

Then, one day, a Daycare customer brought in a street dog they had just adopted from Bulgaria. 

We learned she was completely unphased walking into a room of 40 dogs, so I contacted the charity she came from offering to help their dogs and they jumped at the chance.

On 22nd October 2013, we brought our first two dogs over to the UK and Dogs 4 Rescue was up and running.”

“Only a few weeks after setting up the rescue and realising the dream, I awoke to find a lifeless Sandy. She had died in her sleep next to me. My heart broke again. I will miss that girl forever, but, unlike Lucky, I have no regrets.

I managed to save Sandy and give her the best life I could. It is because of her that I now have a wonderful home where I am surrounded by so many amazing inspirational dogs and the job of my dreams. I owe it all to Sandy, and Lucky too. Their legacy lives on as we continue to rescue others and offer them the same lifetime support and to make their lives as good as we possibly can.”

Emma Billington

Dogs 4 Rescue

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