Macy is a very special Labrador. She was once an unwanted delinquent puppy, but as soon as I met her, I knew we shared a special connection. She still has issues from her past and can scare easily, but together we’vedeveloped her confidence and now she has a unique way of communicating with me.
I suffer from a debilitating hearing condition called Hyperacusis and it makes everyday life difficult. Macy has learnt to alert me to sounds that she knows will affect me. She stays by my side no matter what.
She’s helped so many people and their pets
Throughout lockdown, Macy has worked with me to provide free training tips and exercises that people can do at home with their dogs. She’s helped so many people and their pets to stay motivated during this time.
At 11 years old, Macy is showing no signs of slowing down. She’s always agreat foster sibling to the rescue dogs we look after and cares deeply not just for her family, but for all those around her.
Last year I retired from my job for medical reasons and was feeling pretty down. Thankfully, Archie the four-year-old Labrador came to the rescue by becoming my companion dog.
Archie brightens up every day
Since we’ve all been spending much more time at home recently, he’s been a godsend to me and brings a smile to my face every day. When I'm lying in bed he’ll come up and lay beside me, and if he can sense I’m feeling down he’ll give me lots of cuddles. He even throws in a few licks as well, just to show how much he loves me. He gets plenty of belly tickles and affection in return, of course!
Archie brightens up every day and has improved my quality of life, especially this past year when things have been so different.
Three years ago, I decided to adopt a rescue dog. Fate led me to a forlorn little puppy who had been saved from a life of cruelty – her name was Tara.
It was a bumpy start. She was totally terrified and barely moved, having been mute the whole 12-hour car journey home. But with time, a lot of patience and unconditional love from me and my two gentle cats, she started to come out of her shell. She took two weeks to bark and it was months before she could sleep on her own, but slowly, her confidence grew and her beautiful fun, cuddly character emerged. She still prefers other animals to humans, but if you give her the time to get to know you, gaining her love and affection is a feeling like no other.
Together, we’ll walk through life
Adopting Tara has changed my life. I have Type 1 diabetes, which brings with it a realm of challenges. By focusing on protecting this vulnerable little pup and working to make her happy, I was distracted from my own dark thoughts. Through her I met fantastic new people in my area and got out and about, spending my days walking in nature instead of hiding at home.
Now we are a team and together, we’ll walk through life, looking out for each other and helping each other to grow. We are both the perfect example of how much good comes from accepting imperfection, and celebrating differences.
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.
I had wanted a Collie for a long time, and when Vienna came into my life everything fell into place. We started attending puppy classes, which she loved, so we moved onto bigger things such as ring craft, which trained her up to become a show dog.
We’ve had an amazing time travelling around the country, meeting so many wonderful people and dogs along the way. I’d never experienced anything like it before, and neither had Vienna, so I’m really glad we got to do it together.
We had an amazing time travelling around the country
Our favourite pastime is to go on walks. Vienna has taken me to some incredible places, and our hikes just get longer and better the more we branch out. No matter what the weather is, she’ll be there with a smile. I don’t know where I’d be without her.
Wolfgang came to us as he was born blind with no eyes. When we first got him, he was very timid – wouldn’t walk, eat or play. But by the second day he was running and playing like a normal puppy.
He doesn’t let his disability stop him in any way
He doesn’t let his disability stop him in any way and likes to play with his toys and our other two dogs. He’s come on great in the five weeks we’ve had him, going from 0.9kg to nearly 2kg! He is looking forward to experiencing his first Christmas and getting to play with all the wrapping paper.