Tag Archives: Twilight Dogs Home

A Dogs’ Dinner

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 emma_janelee@hotmail.com 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

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Doglets’ happy endings

Those of you who are regular readers will know that I have the most massive space in my heart for children and animals. You know that if I could find someone who would finance it, I would happily take on as many dogs as I could manage and do nothing but walk them and pet them and play with them all day long. I know you know too how hard it is for me to walk away from the refuge and not take a couple of dogs with me in my pocket. The only thing that stops me is the thought of “why stop at two? Why not twenty? And which twenty? If you’re going to take twenty, how do you leave the other hundred and eighty behind? Take them all!!”

Simply being unable to choose one makes it a little easier. Plus, they are clean, dry, fed, watered and cared for, which is a lot more than many dogs, shamefully, can say.

And you also know I have the most massive space in my heart for Twilight, the home for dogs in the Dordogne, which takes on dogs in the refuges and gives them a nice place to live in freedom for whatever is the remainder of their life.

So imagine my joy when my favouritest of doglets finds a place at Twilight?

You cannot.

It looks a bit like this:

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Anyway, this is what I was doing.

And if Sirius knew, this is what he’d be doing as well.

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You can read more about Sirius here 

And you can read more about Twilight here 

I just have my fingers crossed that everything goes okay and that he has a happy, happy retirement. To end up at a refuge as a pensioner is a sad, sad thing.

And more good news, because it’s not just about the fact that Twilight themselves take old woofers, but I am meeting a lady today who has been inspired by Twilight and wants an old woofer of her own. Keep your fingers crossed for that one! Having spent a part of my day yesterday in the company of the delightfully joyous Calîne, a spritely 14 year old something-or-other who chases a ball and races around like a 4 year-old, it’s safe to say there’s life in the old dogs yet.

Twilight Old Dogs’ Home

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.

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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.

IMG_0630But 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…

IMG_0574And 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. 

IMG_0632There are, of course, plenty of spaniels to break my heart. Like William, who is ten. 

IMG_0585He 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. 

IMG_0646She has Heston though, to keep her young.

There are blind dogs and deaf dogs, and dogs with three legs, like poor Emmy the hound. 

IMG_0589Emmy 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. 

IMG_0572She 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. 

IMG_0602Happy dogs, and Happy Emma.