Change Lives

Change Lives

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Blyth Shop to Reopen 15th June, Plus Excitinh News.....

Before lockdown we were all very busy trying to improve our facilities and with some amazing generosity from people we were getting there.

The improvements to the kennels continue with the latest being a huge clear up and landscaping at the rear of the kennel making a decent car parking area at last.

The new lighting in the individual kennels has been a huge improvement so we are looking to try to extend that if we can to the kennels on the opposite wall.

All this costs money and of course fund raising is always hard work, and we would probably not have survived in our current form without the income from our shop at Blyth where Joan has worked wonders.

With that in mind we approached some charitable trusts and succeeded in raising a grant to enable us to employ a professional shop manager and to open two more shops.

Again before the present climate took over, we completed our recruitment process and we are delighted to say we have found an outstanding candidate Geoff who will be joining us next month.

We have also identified what we hope will become our second shop premises which if all goes well we will occupy in July. We can’t share the exact location because the lease is not finalised yet, but it is in Amble and we are very excited about it and have high hopes. All being well we would look to open a third shop about six months after that.

As the government have recently announced that non  essential retailers can reopen their doors from the 15th of June, we aim to do so with our Blyth shop.

It will be great to get things back up and running again, and to see so many familiar faces in our loyal customers, but with the guidelines on how to keep people safe,  there is a lot of work to be done before we can actually open the doors.

Leave all that to us, although there are a couple of tasks you might be able to help with.....

One of our first tasks will be to recruit some volunteers from the Amble area to help us staff the new shop. We will also be looking to expand the team at Blyth.

If you would be interested or if you know anyone who would help us please contact me by email to

In addition we will be looking for stock for the new shop. Please save anything suitable and we will let you know when the shop is open to accept donations.

Alll very exciting...... Thanks in advance for your support and we hope to see you all soon.

Stay Safe

The Trustees.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

We Lose An Inspiration.....

It's really sad news I'm afraid, as we had to say goodbye to a dog that really sums up the spirit of why I formed this charity on Sunday. I know I am not just speaking for myslef when I say that I cannot believe that Oscar is gone, he inspired so many people.....

(Taken from the forthcoming book Rescue In Lockdown by Stephen Wylie.)

Today started like every other day on my team’s shifts of three at the kennels, but by the end of it we were all very flat and dejected.

One of the sights that has kept me going over the months of lockdown, has been seeing Oscar make his way around the field in his wheelchair, sniffing the air and taking in the fabulous views of the Northumberland countryside. Not once did he look like he didn’t want to go out, nor did he ever look bored. In fact, I think he lived for his duty of his own closed down last thing at night. He knew that he was the final walk of the shift, checking the gate was shut for another day and that the field was secure, meant that his job was done.

He came to us about nine years ago. He had shown some serious aggression towards people, especially when being touched around the head, his owners who were old school colleagues of mine. They had two young twin babies; the risk was just too much for having an unpredictable dog in the house.

The first time they asked me to take him, we didn’t have room. So, they went and tried everything they could. Behavioural sessions, training classes, they even bought him a treadmill to try and work off some of the abundance of energy and tire him out.

The second time they asked me they were desperate. The babies had begun to crawl and pull themselves up on things, Oscar was getting grumpier and they were worried that if either child decided to pull themselves up on him, he would react.

As it happened, I had just rehomed a big Rottweiler called King, so I had a kennel free this time. Oscar arrived the very next day.

He was as strong as an Ox and very sure of himself. The story was that he had been split from his mother at five weeks old and then spent the first few months of his life being passed around various homes until my friend took him in. He was four when we got him, they had tried so hard for three and a half years.

I believe the reason behind his behaviour and self-confidence, was mainly down to the fact that he had been separated from his mother too early. He had been shown no boundaries, had no rules installed, nor been told that biting was inappropriate. Instead he found his own way through life by being confident in his own ability to protect himself, demanding in getting what he wanted and just an all round determination and strength that his breed is capable of.

Over the years he was with us, he mellowed slightly. I used to walk him with some of my own German Shepherds, I think he quite liked Star, whilst his tolerance of people and touch also improved.

He loved playing with his boomer ball and had a great trick of collecting up to four tennis balls in his mouth at one time. There was no way he was ever going to let you take any of those. I think he was happy with us and grew into kennel life. He didn’t feel under any pressure, so we began to see the real Oscar.

As he grew old his back end begun to let him down. The German Shepherd curse of Canine Degenerative Radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) struck, but it couldn’t keep him down. He still managed to get out and about, a little wobbly, but it didn’t stop him enjoying his walks.

As the condition grew worse, we integrated a rear harness to help support him. Calling them his “Super Hero Underpants” they took some getting on, as the procedure included lifting his rear legs through holes, just like putting on underpants, then handles so that the handler could hold up and offer support to his back legs.

At first the reaction from him was what we all expected. We used to a muzzle to keep us safe, but very quickly he realised that we were trying to help him. After a couple of weeks, the muzzled was discarded and getting him out that way just became a fact of life.

Oscar’s condition got worse by the end of last summer, which meant that fewer people could walk him because of the weight and strain it put on the handler’s shoulders. It was a horrible feeling because so many people loved him, mainly for his attitude, but were now unable to spend time with him.

I had a few sleepless nights trying to think of how we could help him, each time my mind kept returning to the same answer.

Years ago, we had the biggest German Shepherd I have ever seen in Doyle. He too suffered from CDRM and we managed to extend his life by about six months by using a set of wheels that had been donated. Over the years since we had taken in another set, but they just looked so complicated when trying to get a difficult dog in them.

One Saturday I watched somebody struggling to walk him and decided that enough was enough. We had to do something to help Oscar and we had to understand that he would react, and it wouldn’t be easy.

I, Rich and volunteers Paul and Mick volunteered for the job of trying to get him in the wheelchair that Doyle had loved so much. I got it out of storage and tried to adjust the straps so that it would comfortably fit Oscar, as Doyle was so big.

The muzzle came back out, which was just as well, as we quickly found out that there was no way that Oscar was going to allow us to restrain him in such a contraption.

The design of the chair meant that he almost sat on his rear hunkers and used his front legs to pull himself along. We eventually got him in it, but he was stressed. He walked around the farmyard for a little while but was very unhappy. He would have bitten if he wasn’t muzzled and we all knew that this wasn’t the answer.

Dejected and upset, the four of us stood and looked at each other. Nobody said anything. We all knew that if we couldn’t make this work, Oscar’s time with us wouldn’t be much longer. It wasn’t fair to him to leave him struggling, but nobody wanted to mention the idea of putting him to sleep.

“Let’s go and walk others and think.” I said, desperately trying to clear my head and come up with a moment of inspiration. It was Paul that had it.

I returned to the kennels to find Paul had got the other wheelchair out and was trying to figure out how it worked. This one was different as instead of sitting in it, the dogs back legs slip through two rings and hold up the back end. It was just like Oscar’s underpants, only on wheels.

I gathered the guys together again and suggested that we tried once more but using this different chair. Everybody agreed, so out came Oscar and the muzzle.

He adored it right from the off. He struggled at first to allow us to help him in, thank goodness for a five pound muzzle is all I’ll say, but once he realised that he could go where he wanted again and as fast or slow as he wanted, he was in his element. He even learnt that he could reverse and sniff a bit he had missed. The change in him was sensational and something that I will never forget.

That Saturday afternoon changed Oscar’s life, but also extended it until today. The muzzle became a thing of the past very quickly and now there was a queue of people wanting to get him out again. He had his independence back and was always in such a hurry to get out once he saw you approaching his kennel with his wheels.

There was a look in his eyes of pride and determination. This wasn’t a disabled dog that was feeling sorry for himself, this was a dog that knew he had a second chance at going all the places that he wanted to. He could give the boomer ball holy hell again; he could do treat searches on his own. He could do what he wanted once more.

Although he had begun to look a little tired of late, Oscar wasn’t one for giving up. This morning Rachel had him out for his survey of his grounds as usual. He ate his small treat that he always demanded as reward on his return then settled down, content at watching everything else that was going on around him.

He always watched, that was the benefit of him being in the kennel right at the front. If anything was happening Oscar let you know, but for me personally it was always the fact that he knew exactly where I was and what I was doing that will stay with me. The sight of him lying on his huge mattress, chin flat on the surface but those eyes taking everything in and following you around.

It was because he wasn’t in that position this morning as Rachel passed, that she thought something was wrong. She called for me and I went straight over to see him. I instantly shared her concern and knew that something wasn’t right.

He had turned away from the front, positioning his body so that he was facing the back wall. My heart sunk as there is no way Oscar would have normally done that. Then I noticed his abdomen.

Swollen and rock hard, there was only one thing that this could be, a GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) or stomach torsion. Within minutes he was in the back of Rachel’s car and we were on the way to Emily the vets once again. Due to his condition and other ailments we all knew that this was the one that was going to beat him. It would be unfair to put him through the massive surgery and to be honest I don’t think his body was strong enough to withstand the anaesthetic never mind the surgery itself.

There were tears as I pulled away, knowing that I wouldn’t be bringing him back. The noises echoing from the boot meant I knew I had to get him there as soon as possible.

Several times on the journey, Oscar sat up and looked at me directly in the rear view mirror. His eyes had a deep and knowing look about them. I kept telling him that we wouldn’t be long and to hang on so that Emily could check him over, then he would lie down again.

The tree in Emily’s back garden now has become a place that I will never forget. Just a few weeks earlier Rachel and I had said goodbye to Sheba in glorious sunshine as the birds sang, in the exact same spot as I was standing again.

Today the skies were grey, and the rain made it feel like the clocks had been turned back to February. Because of social distancing I couldn’t hold him, but Oscar knew that I was there. 

As he slipped away, he turned and looked at Emily, then back at me. He looked at her once more, then turned towards me and put his head down like he always did. His beautiful eyes absorbed everything that was going on for the last time, then he closed them.

Oscar was a dog that gave us all inspiration. His determination and bravery meant he never gave in. The fact that he adapted to being helped and understood that his life depended on it, showed that learnt to trust. The number of friends that he acquired through displaying that trust means that we all have been left with a huge hole in our hearts.

He had become such a big part in the daily routine of some many people, that it really will be difficult to accept that he is gone. I know however, that he wouldn’t want us to be upset and moping around, that just wasn’t his style. He would want us to show the same fighting spirit that he had throughout his life, he would want us to show that determination and make sure that we get through this very difficult time, just like he did. It is that thought that I will carry around with me forever.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Competition Winners Review.....

A little while ago I ran a competition to win a signed copy of my book Its A Dogs Life. The only condition was that once read, a review was to be sent. I was open to both good and bad.

A lady called Charlotte won, and as promised here is her review.....

It's a Dog's Life

Being an animal lover & having two rescue dogs of my own I knew this was going to be an emotional read, with which I might struggle.  When on the second or third page I already had tears in my eyes (I'm a big softie), I did contemplate not putting myself through it. However, I felt I owed it to dogs everywhere, toughened myself up and finished the book in one sitting.

The book is beautifully written, the story told through the eyes of a dog in the pound. Although a work of fiction, with a lot of truths encompassed, the author brilliantly portrays how life may feel & pan out for a dog that finds itself in such a situation. A situation which is all too common & an unfortunate harsh reality in this sometimes cruel world. The author educates the reader, cleverly incorporating many truths into the story by introducing characters with back stories that detail why many dogs find themselves abandoned & unloved by those they trusted unconditionally.

This book is a must read for any animal lover and in an ideal world would be an essential read for anybody thinking of owning a dog.

It was, in one word, unputdownable, despite the occasional escaped tear and a good sob at the end. A highly recommended read... but definitely have the tissues to hand!

Very kind words indeed and greatly appreciated. If the boredom of lockdown has begun to set in, then maybe you want to give the book a read yourself and in turn help our dogs.

As we all continue to fight against this pandemic, I am still tying to help us raise much needed funds, 50% of all copies bought from my own online store will be donated back to the dogs. That's £3.50 per book going to SHAK. Unfortunately, my writing isn't good enough that I am able to write off the production costs.

You can buy a copy here:

You can buy a copy and help our dogs from the link below:

Saturday, 18 April 2020

COVID-19 From Our Dogs Point Of View.....

From Our Dogs Point Of View - by Stephen Wylie.

“Nobody comes to see us anymore. I don’t know why, there used to be so many people and we used to have such good fun.

Everyday there was some one different who would come in and take us out. We never knew who it would be, but that just added to the excitement. All of us in here used to love it when they came.

Some brought cooked meat and other goodies, some took us away in their car to the seaside, others would just play with the ball with us until we were exhausted.

People still come in to see us, but it's the same ones. They work so hard for a few days, but they have all the boring stuff to do as well, like the cleaning. It takes until dinnertime because there is so few of them. Every day is the same, then they disappear too. Replaced by another three that work just as hard.

I heard one of them talking about a virus yesterday and how people aren't allowed out of their houses anymore.  But I can't believe that. All that time ago when I had a house to live in, my person would be out all of the time. Sometimes they'd leave me there alone all day or night.

It must be like being stuck in this kennel forever, I couldn’t imagine that. No seaside, no fields, no ball! Poor people how are they expected to live their lives like that? I love going out.

This virus kills people if they get too close apparently, something to do with touching each other. What if they don’t want to touch us anymore? Will that mean we won't get any cuddles? Or a pat on the head when we bring the ball back? I love it when they do that to me. It makes me feel happy that I have made them happy.

What happens if all the people die? Every single one that comes here to see us. Who will feed and walk us then? We will end up trapped inside forever like they are now.

We still get out twice a day at the moment. Once to sunbathe in the back run with a tasty treat and once for our walk around the field, it's a bit shorter but we still get to smell all the smells and look at the lambs who are even more curious and playful than us.

We get our tummies filled twice too, which is one of the best parts of the day, but it just isn't the same as it has to be done so quickly. The people seem to be under so much pressure.

One of them was talking about what they would do if things run out this morning. Laundry liquid, whatever that is, and fleece blankets. Apparently, we go through so many of them. I love curling up in those blankets, but the dog in the next kennel sometimes rips them when he gets bored.

Apparently with nobody being allowed to go out to the shops, people aren't able to donate and keep our supplies topped up. The person said he was worried that one day we might run out completely. That made me worry too, I really don’t want to sleep on just a cold concrete floor.

Life here has never been perfect, how could it be without a sofa to sleep on, a fire to lie in front of, or a family to call my very own, but it was as close as it could be. We had company and nice things, we got attention and love. Some of us in here had never had any of that before.

The man said they would do all they could to make sure we still have them, and that things would go to back to normal soon, but I could see the worry in his eyes.

I am worried and anxious too. I want things to be how they used to be and still don’t understand why everything has changed.”

The appeal we have been running so far has been an incredible success. We have seen such fantastic support for something that was launched out of desperation in a time when everyone is struggling. Thank you to everybody that has contributed, it really does mean the difference between life and death.

The worry is though that this pandemic could go on for months yet. The longer it runs, the more people may lose their jobs, the less disposable income they will have. Despite being a vast amount of money to us, what we have now will not last forever.

We have started to have to buy the things that you usually so very kindly donate, because you can no longer get out to the shops. Things like laundry liquid, bin bags, dog waste bags. They all now need bought, which in turn eats into the funds that we have.

Bedding supplies too are going down, as people can’t get out and about to donate them in the shop or the donation bins. Soon we may even have to start buying the fleece blankets that all the dogs like, spending more money.

I have to stress that we are NOT at a crisis point yet, careful planning and trying to stay one step ahead has gotten us this far through the COVID-19 pandemic. I am simply trying to stay that step ahead. The dog’s future really does depend on it.

I know things are especially tight for everybody right now, but if you can spare a little, you can make a donation via PayPal:

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

You can order the products we use in the safety of your home from our Amazon Wishlist:

Or when you do venture out for your shopping maybe you can also drop bedding donations (no pillows or duvets please for storage and disposal) and other things in our donation bins at Sainsburys Alnwick (food only please), Pets At Home Alnwick (they've kindly agreed to take anything), or outside our HQ in Greenwell Road Alnwick.

Unfortunately, we are also governed by the rules of lockdown and are unable to collect any donations apart from our designated drop off points.

The support from all of you has been magnificent. It has given us the courage and faith to go on, even in the most difficult of times. We wouldn’t still be here without it, without you. But as this awful time goes on and on, we will need you even more.

Thank you so much and stay safe.

Stephen Wylie

Founder of SHAK & Author of It's A Dogs Life.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

We Are Still Here.....

I just thought I would give you all a little update to say that we are still here and doing our best to survive in these worrying days. I hope everyone out there is safe and well too.

The response to the appeal I launched (which seems like a life time ago) has been nothing short of sensational.  The generosity of people from all over the world means we now have the resources to go on for several months, by which hopefully this terrible time will have improved and we can start looking at going back to normal. We have also been successful with an application to Support Adoption For Pets through being partnered to the Alnwick Pets At Home store. An emergency grant should be arriving in the next few days.

Knowing all of that gives us inspiration to continue to do our work the best that we can.

We are already setting things in place for the recovery period, with big news on our retail side, a new book called 'Rescue In Lockdown' and an amazing opportunity to win a Porsche 911 Cabriolet that has been donated to us….. See I told you the support has been amazing!

On a daily basis, the lockdown has hit us quite hard, as we  work along side the government's guidelines for social distancing.

All of our volunteers have been very understanding, although it is very frustrating for them to have to stay away. The staff have also made some great sacrifices by either reducing their paid hours or volunteering more depending on what they are contracted to. Including myself, this has then provided us with two teams of 3 that work 3 days on and then  3 days off. Very hard work, but essential to try and reduce the risk of spreading any virus.

It is a great testament to everyones dedication that, despite having 50 dogs to look after, their routine of being fed twice and outside twice has continued. Whilst there isn't as much contact as normal, the dogs seem extremely happy still. It's as if they know that something in the wider world is going on and we are doing all we can.

We have stocked up on all supplies and have an abundance of food, so again we should be ok for a while, although I think the Amazon drivers are sick of  driving to my house!

So all in all, things are ok for now. The uncertainty of when this will be over or when lockdown conditions will ease, means that nobody can really stop worrying. Pulling together as a team of supporters and as the teams at the kennels means we are doing all we can whilst we wait. The charity and the dogs will always be grateful for that.

If you would like to donate to help us in this time of crisis, you can by sending a cheque made payable to SHAK to SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road,  Alnwick NE66 1HB or via Paypal:

Stay safe, stay indoors and thank you.

I took this photo at the kennels a couple of weeks ago. I didn't realise the poignant message it would display back then.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Shebas Wheels.....

After the post earlier in the week, I thought I'd share with you how amazing our brave girl was in her first attempt in her new wheels.....

And then there was afterwards......

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Hard Times For Sheba.....

So on top of everything else it has been a really difficult few days as Sheba, the 14 and 1\2 year old German Shepherd I foster for SHAK, suffered her back end deteriorating.

She came to us two years ago with a very weak back end, I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her.

I've borrowed Oscar's spare Superhero Underpants for now, she has her own Supergirl version arriving tomorrow along with her own measures set of wheels.

I don't know if either will be a success, but having seen them work with Doyle and then Oscar I have to give them a try.

It feels like the whole world is against us right now, as I'm sure it does for a lot of people, but we will continue to do all we can.

"I will do all I can for Sheba, until she tells me to stop."

Tour De Rescue And A Happier Time.....

It seems so long ago that I did this piece with Dominic Hodgson on his Tour De Rescue. If only we all knew then the fight we have on our hands now.

I've only just got this, so for the first time here is the full video of when he came to visit SHAK. It fills me with pride for what we have achieved, but also with sadness that it may never be the same or even all come to an end.

Remember, you can help make sure we are still around to continue our work once this crisis is over.

If youd like to make a small donation, you can by the following:


Or by posting a cheque made payable to SHAK to SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB


Thursday, 26 March 2020

SHAK On BBC Radio Newcastle 26.03.2020

In case anybody didn't catch the interview on Radio Newcastle this morning, here it is.....

Stay safe people and remember the animals......

Thank you!....

I just wanted to thank everyone who has supported us in this time of crisis, even though I know that you are all in the same boat.

Thank you to Alfie Joey inviting me to speak on his breakfast show at BBC Radio Newcastle this morning, and to the Northumberland Gazette for running our story today.

The appeal is going better than we ever dreamt,  your support means so much. Please keep spreading the word and keep the donations coming. Every £1 is vital and greatly appreciated.

You can via PayPal:

Or by posting a cheque made payable to SHAK to SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB


Thursday, 19 March 2020

Crisis Point. Come Together Or Say Goodbye For Good....

It's with a very heavy heart that I have to type this message, but developments of the last 48 hours or so has plunged the whole charity into crisis leaving everything we have ever worked for in serious jeopardy.

Since the outbreak of the Corona virus the takings in the shop have plummeted.  The town is empty and it's a trend that's getting worse. On top of that, the government's Self Isolating for the Over 70's scheme has severely affected the retail workforce, including the management that runs it.

We are left with no option to announce that the shop will close at the end of business this Saturday.

We are in negotiations to try and get a crew of staff to cover maybe a Friday and Saturday, but obviously even if we can do this it will be just until if or when the  government close the retail sector down.

Its not just financially we will lose out, although there will be more on that later, obviously the majority of our bedding and food donations come through the shop door. Without either we then have another serious issue.

A sudden change in circumstances means our on line sales is currently limited, although we are trying to get as much sold via Ebay as we can.

All in all it means that we somehow need to raise between £1,000 and £1,300 per WEEK just to operate as we are now, until normality resumes. That is how much this is all effecting us.

The alternative is that all staff are made redundant and I run the place on my own with voluntary help when it's available. Whilst I am trying to make myself believe that would be possible, 7 days and 356 days a year it is most certainly not. Plus the loss of a greatly experienced workforce would have such a detrimental effect on what we could give to the dogs.

There is of course also the worry of the virus itself. Everybody has to stay safe.  And we have the concern of if anybody comes down with symptoms our entire workforce could be wiped out.

That would basically leave us with no option but to close. I don't need to spell out the position that would leave a lot of our dogs in.

I don't know where we go from here, other than to launch one last desperate appeal to save the whole organisation. I know so many other small charities are in the same position, but I have to give it my all. I couldn't live knowing our dogs had died because of this.

If you can spare anything at such a desperate time, you can by PayPal:

Or by posting a cheque made payable to SHAK to SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB

Its heartbreaking to think moments like this may soon be a thing of the past.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Remember It's A Dog's Life.....

So all the way back in 2013 I accidentally wrote a book called It's A Dogs Life. A project that started off with a phone conversation with a lady who was looking to get rid of a dog she had just rescued.

I tried to explain what the dog may have been through before he ended up with her. I was able to draw on my experience of working in a pound, to explain just what a shock to the system being discarded and losing your home is.

After convincing her to stick with him, I came home and thought I would write a piece for our website. Nothing too much, just straight to the point…..

That piece developed into my first book, but it also gave a voice to some of the wonderful dogs I met whilst working in that environment.

I had never thought of writing before, but the satisfaction and the feeling of creativity it gave me manifested the confidence to carry on with my new found hobby, to produce two other darker and more sinister books on mental health called Only Human and The Castle.

The development of self publishing, meant I was able to put my money where my mouth was and turn my manuscript into a paperback. Having worked so hard on it, the urge to see the finished article in print meant I covered the publishing and printing costs myself.

Seen through the eyes of a Rottweiler who finds himself abandoned but not knowing why, It's A Dog's Life, chronicles his time in the pound. It tells the story of how he deals with his new life and the friends he meets along the way.

Fast forward now to the present day and my accidental first book seems to have been well received judging by the reviews on Amazon. With the big vet's bill we have just recieved for Taz and it being a difficult time of year, I thought it might be time to let our new supporters know that the book exists and try and get even more people to realise how bleak life can be for a stray.

I recently saw copies of it advertised on line for an incredible £74! I think the seller clearly just didn't have a clue what they had haha. It is available on Amazon and Ebay, but both take commissions and sell from book dealers.

So…. Trying to help us raise much needed funds, 50% of all copies bought from my own online store will be donated back to the dogs. That's £3.50 per book going to SHAK. Unfortunately, my writing isn't good enough that I am able to write off the production costs.

You can buy a copy and help our dogs from the link below:

Thanks for taking the time to read this, hopefully it hasn't put you off the book!

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Great News On Taz.....

A bit of good news today as the vets have just called to say the results from Taz's spleen biopsy have come back benign! Such fantastic results that mean now having recovered from his stomach torsion we can concentrate on giving him as full a life as possible.

The response to his appeal has been amazing, with the total of £1862 of the target of £2800 been very generously donated so far.

Obviously we still have a way to go so please keep donating and sharing, but the news today means it has all been worthwhile.

Just a reminder that you can donate via the following ways:

A cheque made payable to SHAK and posted to SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road, Alnwick,  NE66 1HB

Dropping a donation into our shop at 12 Bowes

Street, Blyth, NE24 1BD

Or of  course by the PayPal link below (Please mark your donation Taz)

Thank you in advance. We really need your help on this 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Life Or Death For Taz.....

I think its fair to say that the start of 2020 has been difficult for us on every level, but just recently we had another turn of bad luck that nearly cost one dog his life.

Despite a very checkered past and a stubborn streak that matches no other in the kennels, Taz has always been a firm favourite. There is always a race to get him and his girlfriend, Solo, out for a walk.

It was on a walk that one of our volunteers,  Paul, noticed that Taz didn't seem himself. He looked lethargic and refused a piece of cooked chicken, so clearly something serious was going on. It was blizzarding down with snow, so maybe it was just the weather, but to be sure Paul told Rachel after returning him to his kennel.

I didnt like the sound of it and rushed to see him immediately.  Taz was lying in his bed, all around him was frothy vomit, nothing more than saliva and something I have seen before. I knew instantly he was suffering a stomach torsion (twisted stomach) the froth rather than sick was because the stomach had flipped and the entrance was twisted so any food couldn't make an exit.

I rushed him straight into my van and made the journey to the vets. Rachel rang ahead to make them aware, whilst the rest of the team stepped up to make sure all the other dogs got out for their second walk. All anxiously keeping an eye on their phones.

Taz looking so flat as we get ready to leave for the vets.

The vets rushed him straight in and my worst suspicions were proved correct. Taz's stomach had indeed twisted. He needed emergency surgery.

Nobody knows why it happens, but German Shepherds are prone to the twist. That along with CDRM and splenic tumours have taken so many of our the wonderful Shepherds over the years. The fact we caught it so early was a huge advantage.

I'm happy to say that the emergency surgery went well, but there was also another horror waiting to be discovered. Taz had a 5cm mass on his spleen. I agreed with the vets that it would be best to take the spleen out during the same operation. I couldn't believe that he was suffering two out of the three killers we all dread.

The hope is that the mass is benign, in which case Taz will just adapt and live a normal life. If it is malignant then we have to make the best of the very short time we have him for. As the spleen filters the blood, it will mean that secondary tumours could be anywhere in his body. It is also a very aggressive form of cancer.

The first three days are critical after a stomach twist, as if the stomach has been damaged in anyway, it will die off and all the digestive acids leak into the abdomen, poisoning the dog from the inside. I felt that before we took things any further with the spleen we had to get him through the next 72 hours first.

Step forward another volunteer, Gillian, who collected Taz with me on day 2 and offered him a foster home to go to for a week or so, so she could keep a very close eye on him. A huge thing to take on, but also a huge change for Taz.

Taz helping Gillian with the washing up

I'm delighted to say that Taz has been signed off from the vets today regarding his stomach. The operation only has a 50-50 chance of survival, so it is such a relief. We now need to make a decision on whether we do further tests on the spleen, but that will all cost even more money and wont change any prognosis.

The bill for Taz's surgery is below. February is the worst month of the year for donations as everyone is still recovering from Christmas and the pre Christmas donations have been spent. It really couldn't have come at a worse time and I have to be honest and say that finding the £2,800 is going to be a real struggle. We had to try all we could to save Taz, that is what we do and seeing him living and breathing today is proof that we did the right thing.

The whole team has pulled together on this, it has been quite incredible to be part of, but having helped Taz, we now need you to help us and be part of that team.

If you can donate anything towards Taz's vets bill, then you can do by the following ways:

A cheque made payable to SHAK and posted to SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road, Alnwick,  NE66 1HB

Dropping a donation into our shop at 12 Bowes
Street, Blyth, NE24 1BD

Or of  course by the PayPal link below (Please mark your donation Taz)

Thank you in advance. We really need your help on this one.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Farewell To Sally.....

You may remember at the end of november I told you Sally's story and how we were desperately looking to try and find her a retirement home to call her own. You may also remember that I followed it up by saying that I was delighted to say that the appeal had worked, Sally had found a new home by the seaside.

I'm afraid that this update is a lot sadder. Just a couple of weeks ago, Sally became ill.  She was very lethargic and off her food, which was a huge alarm bell when it came to Sally. A trip to the vets resulted in medication, but none really made much of a difference. After four days she was just the same.

Sally's devoted mam, Dot, cannot drive so one of our volunteers Mick picked Sally up and I met them at the vets so they could have a deeper look.

Ultrasounds showed a large balloon of fluid around her lungs which could have been an infection or something more sinister. As always I wanted to give her the best possible chance and treatment, so authorised a CT scan to delve further. It was then we discovered that her lungs were riddled with tumours, the vets were surprised she could even breath. We were left with no choice but to say goodbye.
I think her contentment at being home, made her fight so hard to stay alive, but eventually it was a battle she couldn't win. Sally slipped away being cuddled by Dot, myself and volunteers Mick and Lesley. Not bad for a dog that nobody wanted.

We all miss her, but no one more than Dot. Sally adored her and followed her everywhere, which for me is where this can be looked on as equally a happy ending as it a huge loss.

Sally was able to find love and a home thanks to a wonderful lady who gave her probably the best months of her life.  Dot will say she got as much love back from Sally as she gave, that in itself is a magical thing. They have memories of fun and laughter, of snuggling together on the sofa, and of cuddling each other in bed during the cold winter nights. As a rescue we couldn't ask for anymore.

I'd like to thank Dot, Mick and Lesley for doing so much to make an old girl very happy.

Sally leaves behind a legacy, proof that there are amazing people out there willing to offer homes to even more amazing older dogs. Of course, Sally isn't the only one we have, there is still a few more with us that would benefit from just being given the chance of such love and devotion. 

If you would like to learn a little more about becoming a fosterer for an oldie, then please get in touch

Monday, 10 February 2020

People Asking What We Need.....

I've been asked quite a lot recently if there is anything that we need donated for the kennels. Such is the generosity of our supporters that we still have things left from Christmas.

However, it is the daily consumables that we always need top ups of. Things such as Laundry Liquid/Powder, Dishwasher Tablets, and Thick Bin Liners are used so regularly every day that we soon go through our stocks.

Likewise the supplements for the dogs also get used daily, so things like Coconut Oil, Cod Liver Oil, Evening Primrose Oil are always useful.  As are fleece blankets.

If anyone does want to donate they can by taking stuff to our shop in Bowes Street, Blyth, NE24 1BD.

Another thing I often get asked is if we have an Amazon Wishlist, which we do. Below is a link to it, and it contains all the items I've mentioned above.

Thank you all again for the wonderful support you give us, it all helps improve the lives of dogs that were used to having nothing.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

SHAK On Sky One?.....

Not sure if our bit will make the final edit, but really looking forward to watching the start of The Heist series 2 on Sky One tonight with @alecia_louise

Big thanks to the Angel's of North for their donation and for getting us involved in such an exciting project!

#shak #SHAK #angelsofthenorth #theheist #skyone 

Friday, 24 January 2020

February Is The Cruelest Month.....

The appeal in this weeks Northumberland Gazette.

They say a new year means a new start, but for our dogs and the team it is still very much the same routine. Every day in animal rescue is just like the next. Dogs need fed, cleaned and walked, whilst for some their lives need saved.

Everybody thinks of the post Christmas kick out period as being in January,  but from my experience it usually takes till February for the no longer wanted Christmas presents or the old timers that have been replaced, to hit the streets.

It is with this in mind, that we are working very hard to try and make sure we have time and space to save the lives of those that will be discarded. As always though, it is a difficult task.

At a time of year when resolutions and new starts are planned, maybe you could help us be ready?

There are so many voluntary roles within the charity that could provide you with a great deal of satisfaction, as well as helping the dogs that deserve all the love that they can get. Extra kennel cleaners, house keepers and dog walkers would all make a huge difference to the day to day lives of our dogs.

Obviously the charity has grown so much over the last eighteen months that the opportunities aren't just kennel based. We are still looking for a voluntary Fundraising Coordinator,  whilst our shop in Blyth is always on the look out for new volunteers to help with every aspect of running a successful store.

We are working very hard on some more exciting projects away from the kennels that will hopefully make a massive difference to the organisation and allow us to provide even better care for the dogs we have, whilst also allowing us to save the lives of others.

This year is a big one for SHAK. The plans and vision that we have already started on will make such a difference, but we cant do it all on our own.

Maybe some of the above matches your new years resolutions, maybe dog walking could fit in with your new fitness regime,  maybe you just want to give something back to man's best friend. All we ask is that you can give a minimum of one four hour shift per week and that you are committed and dedicated to helping our dogs.

If so, why not send your name, a telephone number and a brief outline of what you'd like to do to

This could be the year that you become part of a team that really does save lives.

Monday, 13 January 2020

We Lost A True Legend At Christmas.....

Christmas is always a difficult time in rescue, despite the festivities we all enjoy, the dogs don't know any different and still require the same attention.  With the team we have,  we always get through it,  making sure that the dogs get what they are used to, if not more. This year though it has been even tougher.

On the Saturday in between Christmas and New Year we had to say goodbye to a dog that can be described as nothing else but a SHAK Legend.

Arriving as a stray in appalling condition, Ged had a huge metal chain attached to a leather collar that was engrained into his body. The strange thing was that the collar wasn't around his neck, it was somehow across his shoulder and behind his front leg like a sash. You can imagine the stress and discomfort he was in, and he let me know by showing severe fear aggression.  I knew it wasn't his fault, so after a few days it was clear I had to help him. Armed with extended wire cutters I fought against his resistance and cut the collar off. From that day on we never looked back.

This may all sound familiar to you, as such was the state he was in, the BBC show Inside Out featured him in a documentary about Staffys and dangerous dogs. Ged did a brilliant job standing for the dogs corner.

Of course, later on in his stay with us Ged moved into a kennel with our special little girl Eden, Lady later joined them. The 'aggressive' staffy suddenly had friends and one became three.

Earlier this year he fought against and survived a stomach torsion.  Nobody thought he'd make it because of his age. Then over the last few weeks he became a bit wobbly on his backend. We put it down to arthritis and he was given medication that seemed to help.

On Saturday morning he wasn't well at all. The back leg was beginning to swell and he couldn't put pressure on it. My heart sunk,  I have seem bone tumours display like this before and instantly rushed him to the vets.

Xrays confirmed my worst fears,  the tumour had ate into the bone causing it to fracture in two places. We discussed amputation but the chances of the cancer not already having spread due to the size of the tumour was less than 4% according to the vet. Ged had become so old and frail with his health I honestly didnt think it was fair to put him through anymore.  Plus it was doubtful whether he'd survive such major surgery after the last one.

I lost him whilst I held him in my arms. Something I never thought I'd be able to do when he arrived.  He has given us all so much pleasure but also so much inspiration. He showed me that despite being so badly treated, he could trust again. I'd like to think that being here showed what love and a home is all about.

For anyone who hasn't seen the Inside Out piece, here it is.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Could You Help Barney.....

Continuing with the theme of some of our older and longer term residents that we are trying to find that specialist home for, this week I'd like to introduce you to the magnificent Barney.

Barney came to us a strong boy a good few years ago. He'd clearly had no input into his manners or shown any affection and being an Akita cross German Shepherd didnt help with the stubbornness. Deep down though you could see there was a loving boy in there, behind all the brashness.

We found him a home with a lovely family who fell in love with him the minute they saw him. It was quickly decided he was the one for them.

They idolised Barney and worked so hard at his issues with strangers and other dogs. Sticking by him during the thick and the thin.
Then one day an accident happened that wasn't Barneys fault and unfortunately he lost his home and his family, meaning he had to come back to us.

I think its important to point out here that the family still keep in touch and make donations towards his upkeep, such is there love for  him. The return has been as hard for them as it was for Barney.

Time has ticked by and like us all, Barney is showing his age now. We think hes probably about 11 or 12, and whilst the stubbornness of the Akita is still there, he is a lot more gentle on the lead.

He still loves his playtimes,  his favourite game being 'try and get me back on the lead' as he runs around our outdoor exercise area, whilst being around dogs on a daily basis means that he has learnt that they aren't too bad after all.

I think it's now time that Barney ventured back into the world, knowing that it is not such a scary place. He deserves to feel the happiness he once felt again and to have somewhere to spend his retirement.

I think it would be best for him to be an only dog, just to make the transition easier and our normal policy of not rehoming to a home with children would apply.

Knowledge of Akitas would also be advantageous, just to help work out his funny ways.

If you'd like to know a little bit more about Barney then please contact

In the meantime, we are still looking for that special person for Tia but I am delighted to say that Sally is loving life in her new foster home by the seaside.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Christmas Donations.....

It's the time of year where people are very generous and start collecting things to donate to our dogs. Every year the support amazes us, as we get an abundance of goodies, bedding and toys. So much so that we still have toys left over from last year.

This year though, we are asking for things that are slightly different. Whilst we will always be extremely grateful for everything we receive, there are other ways you can improve the lives of our dogs.

We are big believers in Coconut Oil and the way it improves the condition of our dogs. We use it on dogs with skin conditions, such as Sharpei's, or just to improve the overall appearance of a dogs coat. However, it costs money and with 54 dogs currently here we cannot afford to give it it to every dog, which is our ultimate aim.

It is easily available at most supermarkets and very reasonably priced.

We also give our older dogs You Move tablets or Cod Liver Oil capsules to help with the old bones and joints. They especially help the ones that suffer from arthritis.

Bedding donations are vital to our operation, but as the weather isn't great this time of year, washing and drying is an on going task. Fleecy blankets are quick to wash and dry, so if you are looking to buy bedding these would be ideal. Please note though that we do not accept quilts and pillows for storage space.

Speaking of doing the washing,  our machine is used every day. You can imagine the amount of laundry liquid we go through. It's the same with the dishwasher tablets, which we use to make sure bowls are cleaned thoroughly.

So all of the above are things that you could donate this Christmas that would make things easier for the daily routine and care of the dogs. It would also free up funds for us to concentrate on things like vets bills as and when they arrive.

Our drop off points are as usual the SHAK Shop at 12 Bowes Street, Blyth NE24 1BD or the donation bin outside of our offices SHAK HQ, Greenwell Road, Alnwick NE66 1HB.

Your support at Christmas has always been amazing,  thank you and thank you in advance for this year.