Change Lives

Change Lives

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

What You Can Be Part Of.....

Just a little reminder of what we do.....

Axel today and how he was when he was found.....

Volunteer Recruitment Day.....

The change in seasons and especially the clocks going back has a dramatic effect on our day to day running. The darker nights obviously make the days shorter, but they also become a lot more difficult.

You are battling against the clock and daylight from the off, chuck in the elements and it means some very extreme days.

The dogs don't suffer though, the hard work and dedication of our team means that they still get the same love and attention, fed twice and at least two walks per day.

However, it also means we get really stretched, so at this time of year we are always looking to recruit people who fancy a new winter hobby!

Saturday the 16th November we are holding a Volunteer Recruitment day at our HQ in Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB from 9am. Comprising of an introductory talk and question and answer session, these non obligation sessions are a great way for people who want to volunteer or maybe those who are just contemplating it, to find out exactly what we do and what it is all about.

These events have been very successful in the past, in fact some of the existing team came via this path, the morning will give you a chance to meet some of them and find out their thoughts and experiences too.

Speaking to some of the team this week about what volunteering at SHAK meant to them provided some very positive information.  Words such as rewarding,  special, commitment and making a difference were commonly used as well as paragraphs like "SHAK has transformed our lives" "You see some things you will never forget and hear stories you thought weren't even possible" and "it's a big commitment to volunteer but you get rewarded back in ten fold by those amazing dogs."

One volunteer even said it was the most rewarding thing she has ever done other than giving birth to her children.

Being a volunteer with the dogs isn't just about walking them. We are very much a hands on charity, with roles such as cleaning the kennels, preparing the feeds and general housekeeping duties all vital in the day to day task of making life as enjoyable as we can for our dogs. So maybe if the size and strength of our furry friends is a little too much, you could always help in other ways?

Of course it's not just in the kennels that we need help, our shop in Blyth is essential to our existence and again runs on voluntary help. There is so much more to running a successful charity shop than you see on the shop floor. Sorting all the donations, steaming, pricing etc, all of which take valuable time.

So if learning about any of the above is something that interests you why not pop down on the 16th for a very informal chat and to get more information.  The more help we get, the better life we can give our dogs.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Can You Spare £2?....

We haven't done anything  like this for a long time, but as we head towards the lean winter months we really need your support more than ever.

Our Facebook page currently has nearly seven and a quarter thousand followers (7,250) Amazing support of which we are very grateful.

However, at the moment it seems like everything we do costs money. It is getting harder and harder to survive.

We know times are tough for everyone with Christmas approaching, but if all.of our followers donated as little as £2 it would be such an incredible help.

Just think with everyone pulling together we could raise £14,500. That would take a huge pressure away this winter and make such a difference to the day to day lives of our dogs. Afteall, what can you but for £2 these days!

To donate please click the direct PayPal link below and thank you in advance for your support .

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Goodnight To Our Special Boy......

As I write this it still all feels  very raw. Recently I shared with you the story of one of our long term residents Mac, the Border Collie who had been found lying beside his dead owner all those years ago. Over the years that we had him he never quite learnt to fully trust people, but he did used to love chasing his frisbee.

Friday morning, Mac was a little unwell in his kennel but still enjoyed his two walks. Saturday morning Rich came into a right mess and found Mac had been passing blood. I knew it was serious so put my day off to one side and rushed in to see him. When I got there he was in a sorry state. No appetite and no energy. He just kept passing bloody diarrhoea,he needed to see a vet.

His lack of trust meant that wasn't going to be easy, but I managed to get him in a crate and off we set.  Being confined meant he couldn't react and at the vets Emily managed to give him an antibiotic injection as well as one to stop the diarrhoea. Then he came home with me.

If there was anyone on this earth Mac trusted it was Rachel. He was pleased to see her and even more so when she spent the night with him on the utility floor.

Sunday there was no mess, but he still wouldn't eat. He was happy pottering about for the toilet and getting a drink of water. He was still so lethargic though, spending a lot of time sleeping. For him to continue taking his medication we needed to get some food into him. Such was the bond between Rachel and him, that she did not hesitate when I suggested trying to syringe chicken soup into his mouth. Such a huge ask for a dog that had never let anyone that close to him. Amazingly he let her do it, it was a special moment to witness love and trust.

Monday morning came after another night on the floor with him. He had a little more soup for breakfast but when it came to going out, Mac was unable to stand. Even though I tried to lift him to his feet, he simply collapsed again. We knew we had to take him back to the vets.

The response of the SHAK team to my plea for cover at the kennels was incredible. A full squad assembled,  whilst Charlotte even travelled all the way up from York to allow us to get him the best treatment.

Moorview were also fantastic.  Due to his history they allowed us to accompany him as he had blood tests and an ultrasound scan.  Everything was explained  down to every little detail, Tom made sure we understood everything. Then the blood results came back.

Mac was suffering from a very high level four kidney disease.  It was beyond any form of treatment.  He had been so brave, that he hadn't showed us any obvious symptoms. There was nothing we could do, he was dying in front of us.

We said goodbye to Mac with Rachel's lips pressed firmly against his nose. There was no need for a muzzle , no need for sedation. He died like any other much loved pet would.

Some might say that the change in his temperament was down to being poorly. I'd like to think that having stayed beside his own dying owner, Mac understand the devotion Rachel showed by doing the same for him. He had found a home when he needed it the most, he found out true love goes both ways and above all he learnt how to trust again.  I am very proud of them both.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Check Out Oscar On Our Instagram Page.....

See why Oscar is making is all so proud at our Instagram page shak_sanctuary_official

Haven't got an Instagram account? It's easy to set up and you'll then be able to see so much more of our dogs on a daily basis.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

What Happened In The Past They Do Not Forget.....

I've hinted  a few times how dogs have become disposable, how breeds become fashionable and also how often for all the wrong reasons dogs are cast aside and displayed as undesirable because of their breed. It has become harder and harder to find space and then ultimately homes for these dogs, as the fashions change or the public's perception is distorted.

As a child growing up in the eighties it was German Shepherds, or Alsations back then, that got it. Then during the nineteen nineties it was the Doberman in all the Hollywood films, with their ears pinned and tails docked, that were the classic devil dogs. After that of course it was the turn of such an amazing breed as the Rottweiler. All wanted as a status symbol and then banished from being acceptable family pets.
In more recent times we've had the same trend take over the fortune of American Bulldogs, Huskies and of course, the much maligned Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

So, imagine my joy a few years ago when what turns up as a stray dumped locally at the coast? A Husky cross Staffy! I remember a friend of mine who was involved with Husky rescue at the time say you couldn't deny that the dog that was to become known as Bandit, was a Staffy with a Husky's coat on! I guess that pretty much summed him up.

Rich came up with the name because it really did match the forlorn character we had inherited. A loveable rogue, but deep down he had some severe issues, whatever had happened to him had scarred him for life. If only they could talk and let us know what they had been through.

I remember once he had a water infection, so I took him to the vets. After receiving antibiotics I thought he deserved a little treat, so i took him for a walk on the beach on the way home. Remember, he had been found wandering at a beach not that far from where we are. He spent the whole walk looking for somebody, searching the horizon. It was heartbreaking to see.

I'm not really sure how the next part of the story happened, hes certainly not the traditional kind of dog that would appeal to me on a personal level, but with all his strange ways  anxiety and fear aggression, he somehow ended up coming home with me. I guess it was just fate.

I can't say it has been an easy few years, in fact even now if hes on a walk and a car goes by he freaks out, twisting and turning the lead so much he has unravelled quite a few. If he's off lead he chases the unsuspecting driver, oblivious to the emotion and desperation running through the blood of the dog that most times they don't even notice. I think deep down he is still looking for that person who maybe drove off and left him all that time ago.

I wouldn't swap him though, he deserves so much more. He is learning all the time, growing into being a dog and a pet. Although if Rachel is about, I don't get a look in.

Hes definitely a Mammys boy, but he is a perfect example  that whatever happens in their past, sometimes they never forget.

Bandit is trying really hard and doing so well at learning the ropes. It has taken a long time for him to begin to settle, but we are both extremely proud of him.

Last week when the seasons changed from summer to autumn, we had a day at home. Bandit spent it in front of the fire. He took pride of place and loved it. This photo means so much, it's a symbol that he feels settled. I'd like to think so anyway.

(This is the full unedited piece that was in today's Northumberland Gazette.)

Monday, 30 September 2019

New Style For Winter.....

A new version of our classic SHAK Hat, displaying our logo on the front and website on the back, in vibrant green.

One size and available in Beanie or Turnover style. Please state preferred option when ordering.

Available from:

Or our SHAK Shop at 12 Bowes Street,  Blyth NE24 1BD.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Launch Of Official 2020 SHAK Calendars And Diaries.....

This year really seems to be flying, I cannot believe that it is already time to launch the Official 2020 SHAK Calendar!

In a very stylish format, I think that this is possibly the best one yet.....

You can see our dogs every day as you plan your month, plus thanks to our wonderful supporters each month is sponsored, which means that EVERY penny raised from sales goes directly towards helping the dogs!

This year's cover star is Bruce, who lost his brave battle against cancer in August. He fought for nearly twice the expected time given by vets. An amazing boy, we miss him dearly.

You can order yours on line from the link below:

After a successful trial last year, I am also excited to announce the release of a new product this year in the form of our 2020 Pocket Diary.

At A6 size, they are just the right size to fit in your handbag or a brief case, these are ideal for planning on the move as well as giving you the opportunity to support our dogs.

You can order yours on line here:


Monday, 16 September 2019

Life Saving Surgery For Ged.....

It has been another eventful and worrying spell st the kennels, with our own TV star Ged being critically ill.
It was a strange one as he started the day bright as a button, but by mid morning a few of us all noticed at the same time that he was standing up in his kennel and looking very uncomfortable.  I rushed in to see him and was horrified to see his stomach twice the width of the rest of his body, instantly I knew exactly what it was.

A stomach torsion (twist) is a killer, I've seen it a few times before and with a mixed survival rate, so without hesitation I stuck a muzzle on him and carried him into the van.

At this point I think it's only fair that I remind you a little of his story. Ged was found as a stray with his collar out of position and digging into his skin. He was wearing it like a sash and, the way the leather was all distorted to the shape of his body meant it had been like that for some time.

Understandably he was showing horrendous fear aggression,  so bad that nobody could touch him, the collar had to be cut off with extendable wire cutters. Such was his state, the BBC ran his story on the Inside Out program.

As you can imagine this meant that he wasnt a prime candidate for a vets trip, but he seemed to know that his life depended on it. Throughout his time at the hospital his behaviour was impeccable.

Moorview were brilliant and had a vet standing ready for us as soon as we arrived. She whisked him out of my arms and straight into theatre.

I really didn't know if I'd ever see him again.

It was strange because Staffys don't normally suffer this condition. It's usually the larger, barrel chested breeds. Yet a scan showed there was a definite twist, which raised another concern. Sometimes Staffys are prone to a tumour on the pancreas, the vet told me, which of course is right next to the stomach. Could it be such a growth that had put so much pressure on the stomach that it had flipped?

My heart sunk at this point. The only way of telling was by opening him up. If the suspicions were correct and there was indeed  a huge mass, we would have to let him go there and then.

I got back into my van and anxiously waited for the phone call.

I am delighted to say that there was no tumour. The twist was corrected and surgery performed to stop it happening again. Forty eight hours after the operation he came and stayed the night at my house. Just like he did before his TV appearance.

Once again he was the perfect guest, clean over night and brilliant with my dogs. I am so proud of him.

Of course all this comes at a cost and, so soon after Sadie's big bill I hate to be asking again. The total cost of saving Geds life came to £1752.03. He is worth every penny, so if anyone can help us with the bill it would be a massive help.

You can donate:

Via PayPal:

please mark your donation GED

Or via cheque (made payable to SHAK with GED on the back) to SHAK. Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB.

Or by popping into our SHAK Shop at 12 Bowes Street  Blyth NE24 1BD.

Ged has come on so far since he arrived, being able to help him once more and more importantly the fact he allowed everyone to do so, shows he has learnt to trust, at least a little bit, and that to us means so much.

(For those who havent seen it, or for those who want to watch again, here is our own star on the BBC.)

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Mac's Story.....

I thought this week I'd introduce you to another long term resident who will probably be with us for the rest of his time.

Mac's story is a very sad one, but also one that shows just how special the work we do is.

Mac had a great life, all he needed he had. He lived rurally out in the west of Northumberland with  his owner who he adored and went with everywhere. There was just them and the great outdoors. 

Everything was perfect.

Then one day his owner didn't wake up and Mac lay beside him for days, not knowing anything else. This was where the the problems that would effect him for the rest of his life began.

Somebody from the village eventually broke in and found Mac with his dead owner. Macs instant reaction was to protect and let nobody near him or the body. When that didn't work he did the only thing he could do. Bite then run away.

Eventually he was cornered into a large green house before he was caught and put into the rescue system.
At the time we were full, so a brief stay at another rescue highlighted his lack of socialisation with people, until eventually he came to us.

Mac is a very complex little character. He has known nobody in his life apart from his previous owner. Not being around others has made him fearful of people and, perhaps more worryingly, he doesn't trust anyone. He is defensive and hesitant, independent but happy in his own little way.

He loves playing in the outside exercise area, chasing a frisky. He even let's you pick it up to throw for him, but only after he gives you the signal that it is ok to do so.

It's so sad because once he had everything he wanted, then through no fault of his own it was gone.

I don't think he will ever have that bond again, but he enjoys his life with us. We have learnt to respect his ways and try all we can not to put him under pressure. In Rachel, he has the nearest thing to 'his person.' He even let's her brush him. Such an intimate interaction for a dog, but it does show he can drop his guard.

I'm not sure that he would have survived anywhere else, or whether people would have had the patience to give him the special treatment he needs or deserves. What I do know is that we will he around for him for as long as he needs us.

Friday, 13 September 2019

No Duvets Please.....

As it's getting to that time of year when the thicker quilts come back out, I thought I best give a little reminder that we DO NOT accept duvets or pillows as bedding.

Whilst we greatly appreciate the kindness every donation brings, we do not have the storage facility for the huge numbers we receive, nor do we have means of disposing of so many.

Thanks again for your support and for understanding.

Coast To Coast With A Difference.....

This is an amazing challenge for a very good friend of SHAK.

Will Stoddart and his family have provided fantastic homes for quite a few of our dogs over the years, but this could be the toughest ask.....

Will is attempting the Coast to Coast bike ride on an old fashioned Chopper bike!

SHAK Dogs Fraser and Bella with the Beast! 

You can show your support for such 'bravery' by donating on the link below.....

Thank you Will!!!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Nice To Meet You Dom.....

Was a real pleasure meeting dog trainer and author Dominic Hodgson @mydogssuperhero yesterday afternoon, to show him the work we do as part of his #tourderescue 😁

#shak #rescuedogs #dogsofinstagram

Monday, 9 September 2019

Tour De Rescue Night Cancelled.....

Due to unforeseen circumstances I'm afraid the event as part of the Tour De Rescue tonight has been cancelled.  Really disappointing but hoping to arrange something else soon.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Tour De Rescue Tickets.....

Continuing on from my post about the really exciting Tour De Rescue, you can order your tickets here:

Remember that all the funds are split between ourselves and other local charities.  Please come and support this fantastic event.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Tour De Rescue.....

A few weeks ago I was asked if SHAK would accept an invitation to be one of the beneficiaries of The Tour De Rescue......

Of course I was very proud to accept!

"The Tour de Rescue is a charity bike tour which pulls together rescue centres, charity organisations, pet professionals and dog owners from all over the U.K.

The man behind the Tour de Rescue is dog trainer and author, Dominic Hodgson who wanted to combine his love of cycling and dogs, to educate and encourage the public to consider adopting a rescue dog, and to get more people to get involved in support their local dog rescue. "

It all sounds like a very exciting project, and as well as ourselves some other fantastic causes are also getting some much deserved limelight.

On the day that Dom is visiting us on his route (Monday 9th September), I am also very proud to be part of an amazing line up for a talk on the evening.

Make sure you get your tickets early.....

You can get your tickets and find out more from the following:

Look forward to meeting Dom on the 9th and seeing you on the evening!

Monday, 2 September 2019


I recently received this lovely poem about Bruce, who we lost recently and both miss very much.

It was written by a very talented and good friend called Liesa. You can see more of her work here:

She has captured Bruce perfectly and helps relive very special memories.  

Monday, 26 August 2019

A Massive Day For The Amazing Sadie.....

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to a wonderful little dog we'd called Sadie.  Abandoned locally, she was found covered in lumps and bumps but most alarmingly she had a growth bigger than a tennis ball on her neck.

She is such a happy little soul, loves to meet people and has made friends wherever she has been.
Once she served her seven days as a stray, we took her straight to the vets to get biopsies taken.

Unfortunately though the results came back inconclusive and the lab advised the huge lump was removed but with wide margins around it and, also underneath to try and cut away any potentially cancerous cells.

The problem with that however, was it was so big that we couldn't say for certain how deep the growth went or whether it was attached to muscle or any other part of Sadie's anatomy.

Wanting to make sure she got the best treatment she could, there was only one thing we could do, get a CT scan.

So last Wednesday I took her down for what was probably the biggest day of her life so far.

I'm pleased to say that the growth wasn't attached to anything, so it could be fully removed. It has been sent away to try and find out exactly what it was. She also had a few other of her lumps taken off, so she has certainly been put through the mill and had a full makeover!

When I picked her up on Wednesday night she was still very drowsy and just collapsed in a heap and snored!

Obviously the cost of going to such lengths to help her as much as we can doesn't come cheap. Currently her vet bill stands at £1,321.94. Once again this is where I have to ask you to help us help Sadie.

You can donate in various ways.

Via PayPal:

please mark your donation SADIE.
Or via cheque (made payable to SHAK with SADIE on the back) to SHAK. Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB.

Or by popping into our SHAK Shop at 12 Bowes Street  Blyth NE24 1BD.

As I write this, I am delighted to say that we are working with a new home for Sadie to get her new life up and running. I have learnt so much about her in the few nights she has stayed with me, from her guest appearance at Warkworth show to her recovery, that I know she will make her new owner a fantastic companion.

It is amazing to think just how much more comfortable she must be and how much her life has turned around in the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Goodnight Best Friend.....

You may remember earlier this year I told you that one of the SHAK dogs I was very proud to foster had been diagnosed with cancer.

Bruce, an older German Shepherd, that had  been left abandoned on wasteland and tied to a tree before finding his way to us and then ultimately to my house, had been diagnosed with a splenic tumour that was malignant.

You may also remember how I told you he was being so brave and had made a miraculous recovery from the surgery to remove his spleen.

I'm finding it very hard to write this, but on Saturday evening even all the fight and courage he had shown wasnt enough, and we lost the sweetest of boys.

German Shepherds are prone to this type of cancer, I have lost a lot to it over the years.

It effects the spleen, which of course acts as a filter for blood as part of the immune system. This in turn means that the cancer invades the blood cells and is then transported all around the body. The spleen can be removed, but secondary tumours could be anywhere and the prognosis of extended life is very short.

Since his operation, Bruce was my shadow, companion and best friend. We had the memorable trip up Simonside that I told you about in a previous column, but he also went everywhere with me. He came to work, he went shopping, he even helped me with all the other dogs and putting the hens away on a night time. Such was our bond and trust he was never on lead and always stayed close enough to be able to keep an eye on me.

He slept on the floor at my side of the bed, always between me and the bedroom door. There was no way I was going to sneak past him, and I never ever wanted too.

Friday night I posted a video of Sadie on our Instagram page (shak_sanctuary_official) as she was staying over before her big day at Warkworth show.  Right at the end you can see Bruce making sure she is ok. That's just how he was.

He looks so well on that clip, running and playing, even hunting for fallen apples as he always did. It's hard to believe that when we woke up the next morning he was dying.

I knew he wasnt right at breakfast time. He was just lethargic and didnt want to eat. We took him with us to the show and kept a constant eye on him, as did the vets from Moorview. By the evening he was no better and both myself and Rachel knew it was time.

The vets confirmed there was fluid in his abdomen and that it was probably blood from another tumour that had ruptured on another organ. He was fading in front of our eyes.

Bruce passed away with his head pressed against mine. As close as we could possibly get.

The expected life span of a dog with his disease is three months after surgery to remove the spleen. It is testament to his courage and determination that Bruce did just short of five months.

I am lost without him, but so proud to have been able to share that much time with an amazing friend and one we miss so much.