A Dog’s Dinner
by Emma Lee
If you imagined a happy retirement home for dogs, what would it involve? Comfy sofas, log fires, a few good buddies to cuddle up to? However you could imagine it, Twilight retirement home for old dogs is everything you would think of and more. A large, enclosed garden for ambles with doggie pals, a sunny patio space with room for any animal who wants to enjoy a little sunshine on their old bones, a well-equipped bathroom to keep them tidy and soup for those who can’t handle anything more taxing.
Any old dog would love just one of these things. What makes Twilight such a special place is that the dogs here are not just any old pensioners. They had all been left in refuges across Europe, having lost everything they had ever known. For some, that might be a dear and loved master who had gone into a nursing home, or, worse, passed away. For others, that might have been a life of misery and starvation, a life on the streets, unloved and unwanted. It is often hard to know the stories of animals’ lives before a refuge. The only thing that gives you any clue at all is sometimes the sadness in their eyes, a flicker that disappears when they realise they are now in a place where they are treasured. I never realised though that I’d be in need of Twilight’s help for a dog I had come to love.
Having volunteered for dog walks at the refuge de l’Angoumois in Angoulême, I met a dog named Sirius. This black and white setter cross was always happy to see me and always happy to take a walk. He never grumbled or complained, even though he was sometimes in a great deal of pain. His right ear had been lopped off, probably to remove evidence of an identification tattoo. Sirius had probably been somebody’s loved pet – someone who cared enough to identify him, to want him returned. But when circumstances changed, for whatever reason, he found himself lost and abandoned, earless, in his old age. The refuge is a safe and happy place for many dogs. It is warm, dry and they are fed and cared for. It is not a home. Sirius needed a home, especially after his recent stroke which made it very hard for him to control his legs. Even though he came with 600€ towards any eventual vet’s bills, nobody wanted him. He ran the risk of languishing in the refuge for the remainder of his days. His health was deteriorating. A friend insisted I get in touch with Leeanne and Mike, the couple behind Twilight, to see if they could help. So I did.
It was perfect timing. Luckily for Sirius, there was a place for him at Twilight. Leeanne asked if I could bring him over as soon as I could.
On the morning my friends and I picked up Sirius from the refuge, he knew something was changing. He sat at my feet for the two-hour trip, his head on my lap, looking up at me with a mixture of trepidation and trust. When we got to Twilight, Leanne and Mike took Sirius in like a long-lost friend, and within minutes, he had formed friendships, wagged his tail and went for a sniff around the garden.
I didn’t see him much the rest of the morning; he found a friend in an arthritic labrador called Harold and the pair spent the morning getting to know each other. Later on, I went to take some photos for the refuge and called to Sirius. He looked across the room at me with sheer delight. It was a look that said he couldn’t believe his luck. I’m not sure if he saw in my eyes the look that said “you deserve this, old fella!” but I hope he did. Leeanne tells me he sleeps back to back with Harold now and although he has other friends, he is best doggie friends with the labrador. He deserves nothing less.
It’s not just a story about Sirius. There are around thirty other dogs at Twilight at any one time. Of course, they come here for their final days. For some, this could be a year. For others, less. However long it is, it is a home for them that makes up in more ways than one for any of the heart-break the dogs have suffered in their sometimes, sadly, too-short lives.
Providing such a home is an enormous task. When I was here, I got to thinking about the huge food and cleaning bill that Mike and Leeanne face each month. I thought about how much it might cost to feed the dogs for a day. I figured around 20€. Then I thought about how much we could support Twilight if we could find people who would help to pay for a day’s food and cleaning by direct debit each month. It would only take 30 other people to help cover their food and cleaning costs each month. That didn’t seem like an insurmountable task to me. Thirty people would surely want to help? If not 20€, then 10€ a month would buy breakfast or dinner for all the lovely puddings like Sirius. It would mean that Leeanne and Mike can continue their amazing work knowing that their basic doggie bills are covered.
I know that certain days and certain numbers are very special to many people. For me, I will always choose the number 29 in memory of my Gramps. He would be very happy to see all the old dogs in such contented retirement. That’s my number. To know that on the 29th of each month, I’m feeding the Twilight “puddings” and doing a little something to honour his memory will make the day even more special. For this reason, I want to ask if you would like to contribute a dog’s dinner, and if you would like to pick a calendar date for your donation. To this end, if you could let me know that you have committed to a monthly direct debit or virement and if you have a special day of the month that you would like the dogs to know is your day. I’d like to add these to a calendar so that I can share it with Leeanne and Mike because I am sure they will let the dogs know whose day it is.
In order to set up your direct debit or virement monthly, you can either do this via the Twilight website http://www.twilightchiens.com/apps/donations/ by contacting Twilight directly to ask for bank details, or in contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to get in touch to let me know whether you intend to buy breakfast, dinner or a day’s food, as well as letting me know any days of the month that you would like to be your personal dogs’ dinner day. This is my way of saying thank you on Sirius’s behalf to Leeanne and Mike, who do what so many of us would find so hard. Sometimes, donations make little difference to the efforts of a charity or campaign; in this case, donations will make a real and immediate impact.
Thank you for reading, and please, if you can, share!
Emma (and Sirius) x