Steph Connor - Fetcher Dog's Inception
I’ve had rescue dogs and cats since I was a small child and always loved animals. Our animals came on holiday with us and we spent many happy hours cuddling and playing with our dogs and cats. As a child I really didn’t understand the implications of rescue, or why my parents always went to the shelters to get our dogs and cats. My parents had done their little bit by giving numerous rescue dogs, cats and rabbits homes.
In my head every dog and cats had love and a home and I couldn’t have even imagined the horror that some of these poor animals endured or a person that didn’t love animals. I cried every time I saw a film involving animals, if they got hurt I couldn’t even watch, Ring of Bright Water or Watership Down, as I had nightmares for weeks and woke up crying. I even sobbed through cartoons like Bambi, no matter how many times my mum told me it wasn’t real.
The sad reality of course is that it was true, and people are that cruel, that realisation came in later life with access to social media and just being a grownup.
In 2007, I became very ill and had to give up work long term, sadly my beloved German Shepherd passed away in 2009 and left a gaping void, but it was like losing a part of me and I swore I would never have another dog as I felt I couldn’t go through that again. After a few years I had further surgery that enabled me to get out more and I was told about a local rescue that needed volunteers. I started volunteering in 2013, I worked predominantly with the dogs. So many sad, abandoned dogs, not knowing if the human that was approaching them would give them love or hurt them. It broke my heart.
It was on my first day that I met Nero, my beautiful Carpathian Shepherd. He was the gentlest dog you would ever meet. He had been terribly mistreated. He was a cattle dog that guarded his flock as if they were his family. But he had become sick with demodectic mange, and instead of treating him and helping him to overcome his ill health, his owners had thrown him out. Far easier for them to get a new dog than to help the one that had served them well and loyally over the years. Despite being shot at, poisoned and having an ear cut off and a tail, his leg had been broken and healed incorrectly as he was alone for a long time. He was in such poor health, a dog that should weigh about 56 kilos, weighed around 20 and was a bag of bones. He was so sick, a rescuer in Romania found him and tried her best to nurse him back to some sort of health. He arrived in the UK and was at the rescue the day I started, it was love at first sight. I adopted Nero and took him home. A week later I took home my little Serbian dog, so afraid and sitting at the back of his kennel terrified of everything and everyone. I fostered him, but turns out I’m rubbish at foster and he soon joined the family officially.
I continued volunteering with the animals for three years. I decided I needed a break as although it was joyful, seeing the dogs get better and learn to trust again, it was also heart-breaking seeing new dogs that had been mistreated every day. My break didn’t last very long. My daughter had fallen in love with a little Bosnian dog we had seen online. After a period of waiting we adopted him and named him Koda. He joined his Romanian brother, Nero and his Serbian brother, Hotch. This really highlighted the plight of the dogs in the Balkans as well as those in the UK. I started to help them, but soon realised that in order to really help, we had to have a bigger platform and more people involved. I had been talking to Jude for some time as she had really supported us with the dogs in need. Jordan and I had investigated forming a charity and we were looking for like-minded people to join us along with Helen to become Trustees. Jude and Andy were happy to join forces, we went to Bosnia in February 2018 to see for ourselves the situation that the dogs were in. It was horrendous seeing the despair in the eyes of the dogs in the kill shelters with little to no hope. The sheer indifference among the people towards these poor suffering sentient beings, it was and is appalling.
We knew we wanted the charity before we went, but to see it for ourselves made it so much more important to make a difference. Fetcher Dog was born.