I’m just going to issue a warning. This is an unashamedly doggie post. I promise not to do one for a while. Feel free to grab a hankie if you are of a sensitive disposition as far as animals are concerned. I’m sure it can’t just be me sitting at the computer having a few tears every time a video pops up of some rottie being rescued in Detroit, or a pack of dogs who have been rescued in Mexico City. This one, at least, is a little closer to home.
A couple of years ago, I read about an old dogs’ home here in France, and I’ve been following their website and Facebook page ever since. The premise of this old dogs’ home – Twilight – is that they would take in abandoned, orphaned, handicapped or otherwise needy dogs from the refuges around the region, and they would give them homes. And boy, is there a need. Last Monday, for example, Nadine, the refuge directrice brought over a shitszu that had been given up. Her owner had gone into an old people’s home herself and there was nowhere for the little poppet to go. She was 14 years old, has a tumour on her stomach, has claws like Fu Manchu, teeth like a row of broken gravestones. Imagine spending your 14 years sitting on the lap of an old lady, and then in your own twilight years, you are torn apart under the cruellest of circumstances. And this is just one example. There are far too many old dogs who come in to the refuge and who just can’t cope.
Angoulême also has a no-euthanasia policy. Other refuges are not so keen on keeping old dogs alive. You might think that is kinder, and I guess, if there were nothing ahead but months and months of waiting and months and months of distress, it might be. Luckily, there are plenty of people who love old dogs. However, that doesn’t stop some refuges having what can only be described as a trigger-happy euthanasia policy.
Nanny Mac is one recent example of a dog snatched from imminent euthanasia and then, following a short foster placement, finding a very loving home.
This is Nanny Mac after her long trip to her new home.
So Twilight was devised by Mike and Leeanne as a way to take the dogs from those refuges having trouble rehoming old dogs, or with a trigger-happy euthanasia policy. And I have been wanting to visit for as long as I can remember. So when I finally got the chance on Thursday, well, neither hell nor high water could have kept me from it.
My friend Jane has the tears of joy record. She cried before she got in through the door. I lasted until I saw Stevie, an Australian collie. Then I was in the kitchen with blind old Stevie, weeping into his coat and giving him the most massive of petting sessions. Stevie is like a celebrity to me – have followed his story and to actually meet him was like meeting a celebrity.
But you don’t get far before you find another dog who melts your heart. They have twenty six at the moment, all living in the downstairs bit of their home, complete with dog beds, dog settees, dog cushions, dog spaces and bags and bags of love.
Some dogs are filled with energy. In fact, there are two younger dogs here, Fleur and Jacob, who had been abused and then adopted by Mike and Leeanne. There are old dogs with plenty of life left in them like lovely Rex…
And there are dogs like Nana, who is deaf and blind. She gets up once in a while, has a pee, gets into another bed and goes back to sleep again.
There are, of course, plenty of spaniels to break my heart. Like William, who is ten.
He is only one year older than Tilly, but he spent five years in a refuge and he is definitely lots less energetic than Tilly. He is so similar though. He just sat in his spot when we came in, ignoring all the other dogs. He moves just like she does and when you give him a rub, his back legs go just like Tilly’s do. Sad to think of what those five years in the refuge have done to him. My little menace is full of energy and she is herself a bit of a pensioner.
She has Heston though, to keep her young.
There are blind dogs and deaf dogs, and dogs with three legs, like poor Emmy the hound.
Emmy is lots younger than most of the other old dogs, but she was being badly bullied by the other dogs in the refuge after the operation to remove her leg. She is still a little lost and forlorn, not wanting to go outside except to do her business. There is a plan in place to see if we can release the inner Emmy, though, fear not.
And there are dogs who have come from a long way away, like Hope.
She has come all the way from Bulgaria. A month ago, it seemed like Hope had taken a turn for the worse – she has all sorts of tumours and arthritis – but this time, she sought out company in ways that almost couldn’t have been believed a month ago. She has the saddest eyes, so full of two thousand stories of hardship, which is what really makes Twilight such a place of joy – it is a warm, comfortable, happy, safe, loving place for dogs to spend their final days or months.
And that is the last thing to say about Twilight. It is a place where dogs go to spend their days in peace – otherwise healthy dogs who are not in pain, who are not sick. They are old, they are creaky. They are sometimes suffering from diseases of old age, but they are not ready to cross the rainbow bridge just yet. But eventually, they do. And with thirty dogs of an age, that is a fairly regular event. Last year, a friend gave me a fridge magnet with Loulou the pug on it. But by the time I opened it at Christmas, she had gone. However, she spent her final days surrounded by humans and warmth and love and companionship. And that is all any of us creatures could ask for.
I just realised as well, as I was reading this through, that I had said nothing of the two people who are responsible for all of this – Leeanne and Mike. You know those people who make you feel instantly welcome, instantly cared about, who are gentle and kind and unassuming and modest, who remind you of the best of people, not the worst? That would be them. When you know the stories of dogs who’ve been used as a football on a gypsy camp, who have been thrown from moving cars, who have been abandoned by unscrupulous puppy farm owners, who have been left in their hour of need, it is easy to become cynical about humanity. Leeanne and Mike need only to say hello and you remember there is much more good out there than bad. I’m sure it’s been said a gazillion times before, but it is very humbling to be with people like this. All your tiny grievances and petty grumbles seem so pathetic when you realise what some people do on a daily basis. They have a way of making you want to do more, of making you realise that you probably have just a little bit more you could do to help make the world a nicer place. Everyone should know people like that.
Anyway, if you would like to support Twilight Old Dogs Home, you can donate via their website. If you live close, you can always donate cleaning fluid or things for the frequent jumble sales the association hold to raise money.
Happy dogs, and Happy Emma.