We got Jaxson in October last year and he has completely changed our lives. We were not very active and had an unhealthy lifestyle, but since Jaxson has been in our lives we have two daily walks and really enjoy our time out in the fresh air.
He has completely changed our lives
He is a Cocker Spaniel and is full of energy and is very cheeky but also so loving. I have always been a cat person and never knew I could love a dog as much as I do ours. He brings us all so much joy and laughter.
Abbie is a beautiful dog with such a lovely temperament. She is the reason I exercise every day. With her by my side, I can walk for miles. My husband was chief walker until I started exercising for weight loss. Abbie keeps me focussed on my goal.
With her by my side, I can walk for miles
She is constantly fascinated with the veg I started growing last year. She’salso very friendly and enjoys regular cuddles with all the delivery drivers.
Pickle is a lockdown puppy, as we got him in July 2020. I am a nurse and have worked throughout the lockdowns. From the moment Pickle came into our house, he made us laugh and gave us all a reason to smile again. He truly was a ray of sunshine in a pretty grey and miserable year.
He always knows if we’re going out without him
He’s a clever dog, and always knows if we’re going out without him. When he can sense this is about to happen, he’ll refuse to come in from the garden, stopping us from leaving! His favourite thing to do is chase after balls, so every time we walk him, we take about three with us. One is for him to chase, one’s for him to carry while he runs and the other is a spare, because he’ll inevitably lose a ball along the way.
My dog has recently helped me to raise money for the charity Dementia UK. We did a 100km walk for them in just three days, and Pickle joined us every step of the way. We’re very proud of him.
Maisie is a loving, sociable dog. Even though she has doggy dementia, she still adores life and loves long walks, body boarding and rock pooling! I love going with her and watching her snorkel – once she even caught a crab!
She treats our guinea pigs like her puppies
She also loves little kids and treats our guinea pigs like her puppies, grooming them and sharing (or stealing) the veg from their plates as she loves sprouts! She will do a repertoire of tricks if you don’t give her a treat.
She is intelligent, stubborn and intuitive and can identify when my partner is in pain to the point when she will lie against her back and refuse to move when she has a flare up. Maisie has also helped me through tough times, allowing me to gradually get from agoraphobic to being able to go out with her by my side.
Our Poppy has become the life and soul of our home, even though she’s afraid of the cat. She encourages us to discover local beauty spots we never knew existed, and we’ve set ourselves the challenge of exploring more this year and getting to know our country better.
Poppy is best friends with our four-year-old, as well as our teenage sons, for whom she acts like a therapy dog. It’s crazy how she seems to be so completely in tune with the kids.
She seems to be so completely in tune with the kids
Our eldest son and his family adore her too, and marvel at how protective she is over our one-year-old grandson. She always pushes herself between him and the cooker or lays across the stairs in case he gets hurt.
True to Cockapoo character, she’s as daft as a brush, always bringing you toys to throw. She loves people and is still working out the kinks of dog training. We just couldn’t be without her, and no matter how tough your day, she makes sure you know you’re valued and important.
Set up four years ago by two vets with a backpack, StreetVet has since grown into a charity with hundreds of veterinary volunteers with boots on the ground outreaching in 17 different locations across the UK.
But despite this rapid growth, the ethos remains the same – to do everything we can to keep our clients and their pets together and preserve the human animal bond. In many cases this bond is the only thing that sustains a homeless person, and sometimes it is this same bond that can turn their lives around.
As the co-founder of the charity, I am reminded on a daily basis of why I wanted to set up StreetVet in the first place. As is often the case, it was a chance encounter, but an encounter that would change the course of my life.
At the time I was dealing with the prospect of losing one of the true loves of my life – my geriatric Labrador and soul mate through some tough times, Oakley. Oakley had just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and it was while I was dealing with this news that I encountered Dave and his dog Brick.
Brick was suffering from itchy sore skin. This was something I knew I could help with and as Dave and I talked dogs, the anxiety he felt about accessing veterinary care was notable. As I walked away I had one clear thought, what would I have done if I was in that position with Oakley?
I knew that if I’d what I needed in my bag, I could have helped Brick and for me that was where StreetVet was born – from my own bond with Oakley and Dave’s connection to Brick. Having now worked with countless homeless clients, I wouldn't hesitate to say that in my 18 years as a vet, the most symbiotic and profound relationships I have been privileged to witness, have been through StreetVet.
These are the special relationships which truly embody the human animal bond, a bond best expressed by a selection of clients StreetVet has been supporting throughout the coronavirus crisis.
"If I was separated from my dog it would kill me. I've had no mental support since 2014 but my dog is my main mental health support. I'd rather risk my life in a pandemic than be separated from my dog." – Mick talking about his dog Benson.
"When you are stood there hungry and people are walking by like you don't exist, my dog gives me a role. It's like having another heartbeat that is on your side. It's company, he's all the family I have got. He's my moral support. He is everything." – Andy about his dog Bailey.
The words are different but the sentiment is the same; companion animals make a difficult life worth living. In a lonely and often brutal world, the pets of homeless people provide companionship, security, warmth and unconditional love.
StreetVet clients often refer to their pet as their family and I am in no doubt pet ownership enhances our clients social, physical and emotional health. They provide a sense of routine, responsibility, an identity – even a reason to live. But owning a pet on the streets comes at a cost.
As well as the restrictions put on our clients when it comes to mobility, owning a dog can often prevent access to soup kitchens, healthcare and hostel rooms. Imagine being told to choose between a roof over your head or your pet. It’s a choice none of us would want to make, but with only 10 percent of homeless hostels in the UK accepting pets, it's one facing StreetVet's clients every day.
The fact our clients almost always choose to stay on the street and refuse to relinquish their pet is one of the most powerful examples of the human animal connection at work. This is why we are launching the StreetVet Accredited Hostel Scheme, a project that aims to increase the number of UK hostels that are willing to accept pets. This is the next step in the StreetVet story...
Bruno is Nicki’s everything. She calls him ‘her world’ and they’ve been through a lot, sharing experiences of bereavement and homelessness amongst others and being the reason that Nicki has pushed on through to the next day. Bruno is a StreetVet patient and is a firm favourite with the team.
Having slept at the bottom of Nicki’s sleeping bag when they were on the street, he now takes delight in sharing her bed in their hostel room, buried firmly under the duvet, snoring away! He loves sunshine and soaks it up whenever the opportunity arises, as well as going for his walks along the waterfront watching the boats and ships go by. This much-loved happy chap is Nicki’s protector, companion, counsellor and best friend. He gives her so much and it is a real treat to witness the bond between these two souls.
"Sasha has been my world for the last seven years. I have never known a dog to show so much love and affection like she has. She spent time living in a tent with me and her brother Max, who passed away a few weeks ago. She was gutted, you could just tell by her demeanour. Sasha is a very happy dog always got a wag on her tail and lives to meet new people. She is one of the best dogs I have ever had and if it wasn't for Max and Sasha I don’t know where I would be today."
The companionship and interaction that my dog offers me is very different from my human interaction. Although humans communicate with speech, it has its limitations. Humans struggle to say the right words and the right thing when what we really need is the support to simply be there for each other. Dogs cannot talk, yet are superior in detecting the feelings of humans and are simply there when it is required. My dog offers me a level of speech that words do not; a level of communication, companionship that is deeper and more satisfying that at times human interaction just simply cannot.
I rescued Diamond from central London about three or four years ago. Then we came back to Windsor. Diamond is a bit of a character like myself. Diamond was really shy and scared. She used to sleep at the bottom of my sleeping bag. Eventually as, time went by on the streets, Diamond got to know everyone – and everyone knows Diamond. Now all the kids love to say ‘ello!’
We moved into our first home together about six months ago. She’s ok with it, but prefers to be on the streets, meeting people. Whenever Diamond needs to see the vets, StreetVet have always been there. The girls are brilliant with her. Sometimes Diamond gets worried when she sees them, but when the treats come out, Diamond’s attitude changes and she goes all soppy with them. We don’t know what we would do without them.
This is the first picture of Rocksta* I took and thought ‘looking good boy!’ This was the first spring after the summer that we became Rocksta* and the fatman. He had so many friends at this time, from road sweeper Roysiff, one-eyed Will, and Father David. Rocksta* has many good friends, from the gutters of the street, to the penthouses of Persia. Every second is a good time with Rocksta*. I do believe not only did he save my mind and my freedom; he also saved me from myself.
Listen close for I need to say
My girls mean the world to me in every single way,
They hold a place within my heart
That only the special can fill,
They show much love and definitely don’t judge,
The wrong things I may do,
But choose instead to stand by my side
And helped to see me through,
Their praise for a small success
They never fail to show
And even when I don’t achieve their encouragement helps me so,
They say two is company and three a crowd
But three formed our family
With love so pure I’d never found,
There’s no words or numbers out there that can compare
Just what they mean to me and more when no one’s there,
We can now stop looking for love from far and beyond
For now we are a family with an unbreakable bond.