IT’S hard to believe that the calm friendly dog desperately seeking my affection was, less than a month ago, battling for his life after getting stuck between a wall and a shed.
Bracken, a 12-month-old lurcher, was found by Cardiff Council dog wardens on February 10 after his whimpers were heard by concerned neighbours.
When the wardens found him he was clearly in pain and severely emaciated from his ordeal.
Cardiff Central fire crew were unable to remove Bracken from the tiny alley in which he had become wedged.
Instead firefighters had to remove the shed from its foundations to remove him. When he was finally freed it was clear the dog was in a bad way.
Pressure wounds around his tendons were bleeding heavily and it was touch and go whether he would pull through.
Maria Bailie, who has been manager at Cardiff Dogs Home for the past five years, said: “He was in a really bad way. We were really worried about whether he would pull through.
“His injuries were bad but sadly we have seen much worse come through here already this year.”
Unfortunately, stories such as Bracken’s are not uncommon at Cardiff Dogs Home. The home sees 900 to 1,000 dogs come through its doors every year.
“Some dogs are so far gone when they arrive here, that the most humane thing to do is put them to sleep to save them the suffering,” Maria said.
The home is council run and relies on donations and the kind help of its registered charity Friends of the Dogs (Wales) to boosts its coffers.
Bracken had to spend three weeks at Summerhill Vets Practice recovering. His vet’s bills soon mounted up, and with council budgets becoming tighter, the home was grateful for the Friends’ offer to pay half. Bracken has now taken up residence as the office dog in the home.
“We often have a dog in the office with us that needs a bit more attention. Everyone here loves him, sometimes it can be hard to get work done because we’re all too busy playing with him,” Maria said.
The nature of his injuries mean that he still has to be bathed four times a day and have cream applied regularly.
When I meet him, he is wearing a cumbersome plastic cone around his neck to stop him scratching his now healing wounds.
But there is good news for Bracken. A promising application has come in to re-home him.
“I haven’t looked at all the details yet, but we have a potential application that’s just come in.
“It can take a long time to go through the application process, but we’re confident we’ll find a home for Bracken soon.”
With 83 dogs taken into the home this February alone, the team are always keen for good new owners to come forward.
“We always want people to come and see our dogs. For us, it’s all about matching the dogs’ needs to the owners. The introductions and the behavioural assessments also come into consideration.
“It’s not an exact science at all. We try to do home visits and ask for vet’s references if time allows too.”
When I visit the home, there are 38 dogs in the kennels – this is considered reasonably quiet following the hectic February.
Just a few months ago, the home had 17 empty kennels on the Monday and Tuesday. However by the following Monday all but one kennel was occupied.
The home is the only centre that covers the city of Cardiff and can have nine or 10 admissions a day.
While about 25% of dogs are returned immediately to their owners, the majority are strays and need to be re-homed.
The time taken to re-home a dog can depend on all sorts of factors, but the current longest resident is Lola, who has been at the home since November last year.
“Dogs can be here for a long time for all kinds of reasons. Some of them just need a bit more medical attention before being put forward for rehoming, while others do themselves no favours when prospective owners come to visit.
“Lola is a bull cross and she’s pretty big and powerful. She’s lovely out of the kennels and gets on really well with people. But when people come to see her in the kennels she does herself no favours,” Maria said.
But, as Bracken’s story proves, there is a home out there for every dog.
Cardiff Dogs Home is getting busier and busier but their work is not slowing down as they continue re-home hundreds of dogs a year.
If you’ve been inspired to re-home a dog from Cardiff Dogs Home then take a look through our gallery of available dogs here