Change Lives

Change Lives

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Rescue In Lockdown......


Coming soon.....

Monday, 14 September 2020

Exciting Project On The Way.....

 So, what seems like a long time ago during lockdown I was very proud to be asked to be one of 11 people to be asked to contribute to a very special project.....

Giving me an opportunity to combine my passion for dogs and writing, more details will be available on Friday! 

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Rescue In Lockdown.....

 Another complete edit done, another step closer.....

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Giving Us Inspiration Going Forward.....




Wednesday, 2 September 2020


It seems so long ago since we were all plunged into crisis at the start of lockdown and we wondered how we could get through.

We did, thanks to your support, in fact I'd say we've come back an even stronger and more efficient organisation.

One thing which helped massively was the generosity of our supporters buying things such as laundry liquid, dishwasher tablets, cod liver oil etc. All things which we use on a daily basis but cost money. Such was your support, we have only now started to see spaces in our supplies as your donations have all been used.

We know things are still uncertain,  it is still a very worrying time, but as we are often ask what we need it seemed right to let you know how things stand. 

Currently we are short of laundry detergent and dishwasher tablets. We have bought some to tide us over, but if anybody could donate some it would mean our money could go elsewhere. 

We have an Amazon Wishlist with everything on we use:

Or of course you could drop things off in either of our shops at 12 Bowes Street, Blyth or 46-48 Queens Street, Amble.

Thank you in advance for remembering us in these times. Your valuable support really does make a difference. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Quite A Big Practical Day.....

 It was another great practical day yesterday as I was joined by Rachel and Nima and we ventured off to a new beautiful place to explore.

I'd decided to give Axel a run out as and with their being two of us, Tye came too so he could have a break from kennel life. 

Nima is a wonderful 'stooge' dog, so I wasn't to worried that she wouldn't get on with them, I was more concerned about Tye accepting Axel.

I shouldn't have worried though, all three were impeccably behaved, and its incredible to think that they had never each other before! 

We enjoyed our walk so much that we decided to go back to the kennels and treat another two dogs. 

This time it was two who had met Nima before but hadn't met each other,  Sky and Rocco. As you can see, all three had an amazing time too.

We are so proud of all of them, its an amazing experience watching dogs that have been written off by so many others interact with each other and look to passers by that they are just 'normal' pets.

All four boys were in bed when I left the kennels, content and tired, even Nima was worn out! 

Next up was a sleep over for Tia as she's at the vets to be speyed today. She is still a little whirlwind, but she has come on so much in the time we have had her, I knew she would enjoy the company of my dogs.....

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Benji and Tia Enjoy The Seaside.....

 I was lucky enough to enjoy another great practical day yesterday and got Benji and Tia to the seaside.

It was a huge step for them both, but they behaved impeccably, ignoring the crowds of people, children and dogs.

Whilst he enjoyed himself, I think its fair to say the big wide world blew Benji's head a bit. Tia on the other  hand just dragged me to every rock pool she could find! 

Monday, 3 August 2020

New Shop To Open This Saturday.....

Today we are delighted to announce wr are opening a new charity shop this Saturday in Amble. The premises at 46-48 Queen Street are in the centre of the town and were newly refurbished before SHAK took the lease. Following a whirlwind of activity a team of volunteers has been recruited and a quantity of super quality stock has been donated. Call in between 9.30am and 5pm on Saturday and 11am and 4pm on Sunday to see for yourself.

 SHAK Founder Stephen Wylie said "This is an incredibly important step for us, owing to the disruptions of the virus we have lost all our regular fundraising events. We see this shop as being a vital new source of funds for SHAK. We have been so heartened by the support from our regular givers and this new opportunity in the most vibrant and attractive town centre will enable many more people to support SHAK and give Amble residents and visitors a fantastic source of great bargains."

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Lady's Trip Out.....

I think that of all our current dogs, the one that had the biggest reputation on arrival was Lady.  She spent the first year of her life living in a van to protect it. She had seen nothing of the outside world.

Today we took her for a little trip out.....

Thursday, 16 July 2020

More Progress For Little Sky.....

I make no apologies for another update on little Sky. He continues to do well, although the shadow i mentioned has got closer. I am so proud of the way he has adapted.....

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Another Big Day For Sky.....

Its been another busy day for Sky as he came and helped me and Rachel take a van load of donations down to the SHAK Shop in Blyth. It was a win win situation too as we picked up another amazing amount of bedding and food donations. Thank you to everyone who has dropped that off.

Having worked so hard, it seemed only fair to give Sky a little treat. Especially saying yesterday's trip ended in such worrying circumstances.  Cambois beach seemed perfect.....

Then of course,  when he got home it was time to play with some of his new friends.....

A BIG Day for Little Sky.....

The practical days that we have been able to enjoy since the lockdown restrictions were reduced have provided so much fun and knowledge for both the dogs and me. I still have so many great videos and images to share with you when time prevails, but yesterday's adventure was a little bit special, and not all in a good way.

Sky is  a little male Staffordshire Bull Terrier that came to us a few years ago after getting himself into trouble in every foster home he had had. Quite a little character, he quickly bonded with the team here and I am pleased to say his history has been kept firmly in the past.

Yesterday I thought it would be nice for him to get a run out to somewhere different, but also so I could assess him a little more closely and work towards giving him the second chance he has worked so hard for.

We set off in my van and parked up at a place only a couple of miles from the kennels, but far enough for him to feel as if he had travelled to the other side of the world. Miles of green grass, trees, a river, waterfalls and a fantastic view of Alnwick Castle.

We did a loop and walked for maybe forty minutes, he sniffed everywhere, passed people without showing any interest, passed dogs with no issues, he really only seemed interested in them when they were off in the distance. He was having a great time, although as we were nearly back at the gate onto the road to the van, I noticed he was panting. He'd done so well and was maybe just tired I thought.

On the road he walked a couple of hundred yards then sat down. The panting had increased, I was beginning to get concerned. He walked another couple of steps then sat again. Picking him up I hurried him back to the van to offer him some water, which he refused. I rushed him back to the kennels.

Lying stretched out on the floor of his kennel the panting was getting heavier. It was as if he was labouring to breath. I opened his mouth and his tongue had turned blue.

I quickly called Coquet Vets who went out of their way to make sure they could see him as soon as I could get him there.

The journey is a bit of a blur. Sky was on the passenger seat and I could see the tongue continue to change colour. I really did worry if I was going to get him there in time. Talking to him all the way, I gave him a step by step update of exactly where we were on his route and how far away we were from his destination.

The doors to the surgery were opening as they saw my van screech into the car park. I carried him through into the operating theatre, where Rosie and Becca were already prepared with drugs to help him. On examination his larynx was massively swollen, hence the difficulty in breathing. Steroids and an antihistamine were immediately given to reduce the swelling so they could get an oxygen tube down his throat. I could see the worry on their faces, even more so when Emily rushed into help.

I left him under anaesthetic and getting X Rays on his chest in case there was something extremely sinister going on. I was still shaking with shock all the way home. How could such a nice morning of gone so wrong.

A couple of hours later Emily called me to say he was recovering well and his colour had returned to normal. The X Rays hadn't shown any abnormalities, neither had an abdominal scan. She didn't think he had been poisoned in any way, the strongest reason for his condition seemed to be that he had developed anaphylaxis in reaction to some kind of sting.

I have to say in all the years I have been doing this I have never seen anything like this. Its frightening to think that something so simple nearly took Sky's life. Very frightening.

I collected him on my way home and let him stay the night so I could keep a close eye on him. The dog I picked up was like the one who was thoroughly enjoying his day out in the morning. I cannot thank the girls at Coquet Vets enough for saving his life. Yes getting him there as quickly as I did was important, but the way they dealt with it and were so prepared made such a huge difference and probably saved him.

Sky has always been good with other dogs, so I wasn't surprised to see that he was perfect with my oldies, but next up was the big boys.....

Once again he was perfect, the boys loved him and he loved them. It was quite emotional watching them play after thinking he was going to die in my van just a few hours ago.

I am working from home today, so Sky has another day to recover and get over his ordeal. He has been clean in the house, waking me up three times during the night to go out for a wee which was expected because of the large amounts of steroids and fluids he had yesterday, and he adores being with the other dogs.

I have a new little shadow, but I don't care. I am just grateful he is here.

Of course all of this has cost us money that we weren't expecting to spend, especially in such uncertain times. Coquet Vets give us a very generous discount which is greatly appreciated, but still we have paid £333.93.

I know it is a very difficult time still, but if anyone can donate towards his bill they can do by the following:


Or via cheque (made payable to SHAK) to SHAK. Greenwell Road, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1HB.

Thank you in advance.

So, yesterday was meant to be a nice day out to learn a little bit more about Sky. I certainly have done, but I have also seen first hand how something as simple as an allergic reaction to a sting or bite can very nearly cause a fatal reaction. Please, especially in the summer, keep an eye out for any of the symptoms I have mentioned and if you see them get your dog to your vet as soon as possible. I wouldn't want anybody to go through what I saw yesterday.

I have learnt so much about Sky, he is an amazing little dog that does deserve that second chance. It would need to be an experienced home, but I am sure he could make that transition with the right support. For further information please email

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Daisy Goes To The Seaside Whilst Dande Goes Shopping.....

Carrying on in the series of ‘Practical Days,’ yesterday it was Daisy’s turn for a trip to the seaside. Another stray with no history, we stopped her being destroyed in a local pound for allegedly being aggressive.

In all the time we have had her she has been superb, apart from her tendency to want to grab the lead as you enter her kennel. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to see if that behaviour was caused by being stressed in the kennel environment or something deeper rooted.

Jumping into the back of the Defender herself, she never looked at the lead the whole time, in fact I’d go as far as saying she was perfect.

She loved all the smells and sights and was far more affectionate than I thought she would be, always offering cuddles and giving kisses, whether you wanted them or not.

It was fantastic watching her play with a random balloon that had found its way to the waters edge. She was so gentle and tried hard not to burst it, there was such a look of disappointment on her face when the inevitable happened.
She happily passed people and even a group of children who were doing some kind of activity digging the sand and running up and down the dunes. Not once did she react.
If she saw another dog, she was interested but by no means aggressive and even when a group of three Collies went by barking at her, she still was just curious. That incident took her focus away slightly, so we had our own jaunt through the sand dunes, which I think she enjoyed even more ploughing up and down the hills and through the grasses.

From what we saw, there was nothing to say that Daisy could not adapt to life in a home, as long as the people were experienced in American Bulldogs. I think she longs for that ‘closeness’ of someone and would be a great fun dog to have around.
You can see how much fun she had in this video, and if you would like to express an interest in Daisy email
Having been such a superstar with Nima a couple of weeks ago on a trip to the beach, I wanted to see how Dande would cope in a slightly busier more formal atmosphere.
He was still a little scared of getting into the Land Rover and continued his 100% record of travel sickness, but once we arrived at the small retail park he was in his element. By chance we bumped into SHAK volunteers Jax and Darron, and the little man was delighted to see familiar faces.
A trip to Pets at Home followed, where he made a new four legged friend and loved exploring all the isles, even if they weren’t specified for dogs! Eventually he settled on a squeaky cup cake as being the best item in store, which Rachel bought him as a souvenir.
He really did us proud, reacting once to a dog in a situation between isles where he perhaps felt a little bit trapped in, but that was complimented by being great with every person he met.
I think he was exhausted going home, even after just half an hour being out and about, but he had taken in so much and encountered so many new things. It is great seeing him progress.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Two Amazing Boys Go To The Seaside And Show Us So Much......

Today was ‘Practical Day 2’ and unlike the last fantastic day we shared with Casper and Dande, the sun decided not to join to us. Instead of the beautiful blue skies and red hot sunshine, we were accompanied by miserable grey skies and a drizzle that just showed no letting up. It didn’t stop us having an equally amazing experience with two incredible boys.

Both of the boys Rachel and I took out to assess today, have been let down by people. They have been written off and whilst they aren’t overlooked at the kennels, they get at least two walks like all the other dogs, but their quaint little ways mean that not everyone can walk them. Cheech especially lives in a very small world, that in turn made me determined to broaden that horizon today.

Rocco’s bubble is bigger, but only because of the training dummy he carries like Casper. He was booked into be destroyed at six months old and has been in rescue ever since.

Today we started with Cheech. The plan was just to get him to the beach and let him soak it all in, literally. My original plan (more on that later) was to take some different dogs out, so in my van was Nima, Sky and Sam. All really sociable and all great dogs to introduce others to company.

Putting Cheech in the crate in the van, Nima was immediately across to see him. His reaction was perfect, a little kiss through the bars. He travelled the whole fifteen minute journey in the crate with the other three loose around him. Not once did he complain. It gave me confidence that he was going to cope with the world he was about to discover.

On arriving at the beach, we decided that maybe bringing another dog may just be a little too much for him as we wanted the trip out to be completely about him. So, we set off and he pulled straight to the sea. You can see the result right at the start of todays video. On the beach less than a minute and the sea was over the top of our wellies, but we couldn’t stop laughing.

Cheech was amazing after that, sniffing and exploring everywhere. He was fascinated by the seaweed, I think he sniffed nearly every piece on the beach, which we had pretty much to ourselves.

One lady approached us; this is the first big test I thought. I shouldn’t have worried; he saw her and then quietly took himself off to as far away from her as his lead would allow. No drama, no chaos, just adjusted his course and carried on looking for things to explore.

At one point I got a call of our vet Emily and I had to stay in an area where I got reception. Cheech ploughed on, digging around the rock pools, he didn’t realise I wasn’t there. I set out to catch up, then he noticed me approach. Well, see for yourself in the video.

When we eventually turned around to head back, another lady approached with two Retriever’s off lead. Cheech clearly saw them approaching so I deliberately stood behind him and followed his steps one by one. As the contour of the beach changed, he couldn’t see them because of a rise in the sand. I nudged Rachel to watch his movement, discreetly and so quietly that you wouldn’t have noticed, Cheech made his way to the other side of Rachel, again stretching the lead to the limit. Afterwards, I explained what I had done. The fact that I had deliberately marked out where his path was going and compared it to where he was now striding ahead. Even though he couldn’t see the woman or the dogs, he had made sure he was safe.

Just as we were about to turn off the beach and trek through the sand dunes another lady appeared with a black Labrador that was off lead and a little boisterous. He ran straight up to Cheech, stopping about five feet away. I cringed thinking “here we go” but our little Staffy just froze before taking sanctuary behind Rachel. Incredible to see and a really heart-warming moment.

Back at the van the others were pleased to see him and I think that he was pleased to see them too.

That’s when the day took a worrying turn. Whilst doing a fifty three point turn to turn around down a narrow country road, it turns out that the connection from the gearstick to the gearbox had broken. A trek back up to a point where I was able to get signal to call the AA was well worth it, as the yellow van was there within the hour and he was able to make  a temporary fix which allowed me to complete my intricate manoeuvre and then make the twenty one mile drive back to my local garage.

Determined not to lose such valuable time or begrudge a dog some valuable time at the kennels, we quickly went to my house first and picked up the Defender. Dropping Sky and Sam, then the van off, we put Cheech in the back, Nima in the front and headed back to the kennels, after a brief but beautiful meeting after each other didn’t realise the other was so close.

The dogs I’d originally planned to take out would maybe not take to being lifted into a higher vehicle too well, so instead I suggested Rocco. I will take this opportunity to remind him how he was when I went to collect him.

Rocco has always been great with other dogs, but he instantly loved Nima. Getting them straight out together, it was reminiscent of Dande last time out and beautiful to see.

For maybes the first twenty minutes of his walk, Rocco checked she was ok, then Rachel, then me, at which point he would loop around behind me before striding out ahead. The only breed of dog I have ever witnessed ‘count’ so well is a German Shepherd, but Rocco was amazing. He had a job to do and great scenery to take in NOT ONCE did he look for or ask for his dummy which was hidden in the safety of Rachel’s waterproof coat.

Anyone who has walked Rocco will tell you that if you stand still for too long on a walk he will react. That usually means he will drop his dummy and try and grab the lead. Such is his power and determination that it then becomes very difficult to try and get him to let go. You can see me deliberately standing still in the video, you can also see his reaction.

Throughout his walk Rocco was looking after us. I tried walking him in several positions in our group. He always wanted to be on the outside, whether it be on my left side or my right depending which direction we were heading. He was such a different dog and so intelligent. I feel today that I have seen a side of him that would make him an amazing companion for somebody.

See for yourself how amazing they both did.

These ‘Practical Days’ are a bold step but already I have learnt so much with the help of Rachel and Nima. I am so proud of all four boys that we had out, and of my two girls for assisting. It has made me think about all four of them differently and I will do everything I can to try and help them find happiness.

This is not a direct appeal for homes, the state the country is in right now means that we wouldn’t move a dog on at the moment anyway but thinking about these two very special, but amazing boys has opened my eyes. If you have experience of Staffordshire Bull Terriers and are up for a challenge, I’d be interested in hearing from you. These boys have suffered so much, that maybe today was the best days of their lives. I will never know for sure, but I’d like to think that they could have many more to come.

(If you do know the breed and would like to introduce yourself then please email

Monday, 8 June 2020

Blast From The Past.....

Was just talking about this yesterday and about how great Alan Robson was, time to share it again....

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

A Big Day Out For Two Special Boys.....

Yesterday it was a real pleasure to be able to do what I love doing the most, a little one on one with a couple of our dogs, that are at the opposite ends of the scale of our work.

I made a conscious decision during lockdown, that once we were beginning to come out of this, I was going to have one designated day per week, that I called my "Practical Day." These days would focus around enriching the life of the dogs, whether it be working on introducing them to new members of staff or volunteers, or like yesterday just giving them a break and doing some close up assessments at the same time.

I think it is fair to say that the majority of our dogs can be split into one of two categories.  The ones that need just a little input to try and get their lives back on track and into homes, and ones that have been so damaged by people that such an opportunity will probably never arrive.

For my first "Practical Day" I deliberately chose one from each category and set off in the van to give Casper and Dande a great day out, but also to be able to learn so much more from them.

I have a real special place in my heart for Casper. We took him from another rescue when it looked as if he was going to be destroyed. He was finding it difficult to adjust to a new beginning after a previous life of allegedly being used in dog fights.

He has a constant need to have something in his mouth, in the past it was a lead, meaning that he was unable to be taken for walks. Anyone who has had a Staffordshire Bull Terrier tugging on a lead will tell you just how strong their jaws are, and of course such an obsession had escalated into getting himself into trouble.

As soon as we got him, I gave him a training dummy to carry around with him, and he loved it. Giving him a job and a purpose seemed to take his mind off the other issues, and kept both him and the handler safe. There has obviously been a lot of psychological damage done to him too, as sometimes he just doesn't want to walk. Instead he slams the anchors on and refuses to move. I think it upsets volunteers, as they all want to take him further, it seems such a shame that he misses out on  the long walks the other dogs get.

During lockdown, I have spent a lot of time with him and we have gotten to the level where he will walk as far as I want him to. It has taken patience and resilience, but we seem to have made a connection. That's why I chose him for a day out away from the kennels. I wanted to see how he would react to not knowing where he was, all the new smells and sights. He was absolutely brilliant.

When we parked up, I got him out of the crate and he launched himself out of the van, so excited that he nearly pulled me off my feet. He had travelled exceptionally well, not crying or chewing the blankets, it was great to watch him steaming forward nose to the ground. He was so fixated on the smells that he hadn't even thought about his dummy, he just walked and sniffed until a toilet break for him broke his concentration and he looked at me for his dummy.

He walked a couple of miles to the beach, carrying his dummy and sniffing, then once he could smell the sea air and salt water, he dropped it again. It was great seeing him so relaxed, and trying to investigate the seaweed in the sea as he paddled.

We then ventured around the harbour where there was the distractions of people, fishermen, other dogs (more on that later) all the time he was close to me. I made sure that he knew he was safe. I would say that approximately 65% of the walk was 'dummy free.'

The whole time I was conscious of safety. I kept him away from others, both human and canine, nothing seemed to bother him. Even when he passed a huge fishing boat that was in a dry dock and being jet washed, he just kept walking.

Then we got to a little area where a couple were walking a pair of Collies. We both allowed each other plenty of room, but they retreated a little more. At first, I thought it was because they were wary of Casper, but then I saw why. One of their dogs was reactive and had a bark at us as we went past. That was just a little bit too much for Casper and he jumped up and grabbed his lead, even the offer of his dummy wasn't enough to distract him. Luckily, there was seat that was shaded by a wall, close by. I went and sat with him there, within seconds once he realised that he couldn't see anything and there was nothing to be afraid of, he settled right down and lay by my feet.

He got a drink from a bowl at a van selling ice creams, then we started our return journey. Once again he was calm, he walked up the high street, along a busy road, not once did he flacker at anything. The only thing we had to watch was the fact he kept dropping his dummy, he was that tired.

In total he was out walking for an hour and ten minutes, and apart from that one reaction when he was the victim rather than the instigator, he was impeccable. It was such a great thing to see and be part of, I think that he possibly had just had the best time of his life. Lying exhausted in the van as we got Dande out, he had the proudest and widest Staffy smile.

Rachel met me in the car park with her fantastic stooge dog Nima, because I really wanted to put the next dog through his paces. Dande came to us just a little while before lockdown came into force, after he was booked in to be destroyed at the vets. He was described as horrendous with other dogs and most people. At only two years old, he appeared to me as just a mixed up boy who was frightened of the world he was living in.

Having never met Nima before, I wondered how he would react, I shouldn't have worried. He was the perfect gentleman from the minute they were introduced outside the van. So good in fact, that instantly me and Rachel took turns in walking the two of them together.

We did the exact same walk, only this time it was us that stopped for a drink rather than the dogs. The two of them just sat outside the shop waiting for Rachel, it was amazing to see how quickly Dande had adapted.

Dande on the left, Nima on the right.
We continued onto the beach, passing children and dogs along the way, not a reaction. In fact the only time I saw anything from him was when a huge lorry passed and he got a fright.

Dande seemed to like the beach and was quite relaxed, sharing the attention, there was no jealousy even when Nima found her favourite thing, a stick!

Dande on the right this time.

Walking back up the high street, again his behaviour was impeccable. A young couple made a comment as we walked by, they obviously thought the dogs looked cute, but also as if we were just normal people walking our own two dogs. Quite a compliment for little Dande, but he really had settled so well.

There was a couple of more times that a noise spooked him, the most bizarre one being when I opened my bottle of Pepsi Max, but once again it was just a little slouch that he quickly recovered from.

Yesterday was a brilliant day, obviously for the dogs, but also for me to be able to see how they both adapted to the various environments and surroundings. I am so proud of them both (and Nima) for taking it all in their stride, so much so I am still glowing now even as I write this 24 hours later.

(SHAK is a small independent sanctuary for abused, mistreated and neglected dogs. We get no government funding and rely heavily on our supporters and donations. If you would like to help towards our work you can make a donation via PayPal: )