Fostering is a rewarding challenge for Falkirk families

George is curretnly being foster by Keri McGregor from Staffie Smiles Rescue
George is curretnly being foster by Keri McGregor from Staffie Smiles Rescue

Dogs are known for their loyalty and affectionate natures, but for many of our four-legged friends their lives contain unimaginable cruelty.

Some are abused by their owners, used like a commodity that can be disposed of when no longer earning their keep and others dumped in their time of need when they are ill or elderly.

For abandoned dogs, the work of foster carers is vital.

The temporary owners take in pooches for charities and help to assess their needs and find their forever home.

Suzanne Simpson from Scottish Greyhound Sanctuary said without foster carers, the charity could not function.

The organisation mainly deals with former race hounds who are no abandoned when they are longer making money for their owners or are injured. The trainers often phone SGS and ask them to take a dog and it can be a last-minute scramble to find a home.

Suzanne said: “Rescuing greyhounds is quite different to other breeds as many have spent their entire lives in kennels. Some have never seen a child before or any other breed of dog. Others have never been walked or socialised.”

Race hounds are trained from a very young age and, as a result, many miss out on their puppyhood.

Suzanne continued: “Despite foster homes being so different to their usual surroundings, most settle in so quickly and get used to living in a home with humans.

“It’s lovely when we hear of older greyhounds that relive their puppy years, and start playing with toys.

“They are a wonderful breed and aren’t as many people imagine – they are naturally very clean and quite laid back. They don’t take more walking than most dogs and are extremely affectionate.”

Jacqueline Brown from Falkirk has owned greyhounds for ten years and been fostering for SGS for the past year.

The social worker has taken in two dogs and helped to assess them and find them a forever home.

Jacqueline (42) said: “In my biased opinion they are the best dogs in the world.

“My last foster dog had never even been in a house before, so I was shocked that he picked up toilet training and house rules so quickly. They are a really clever breed and adapt well.”

Jacqueline admits that it can be hard to say goodbye when they find new owners but that the feeling of having helped is worth it.

“I’ve only fostered two dogs so far and it is really hard to say bye to them.

“Of course you grow attached, even though you know they aren’t going to be yours forever.

“I like to think that I’m doing a good thing though. Without foster carers the dog would be in a kennel – which is not a suitable place for a greyhound, or any dog for that matter – or worse. Lots of dogs would be put down if SGS couldn’t help them.”

Last year SGS rehomed 120 dogs with only 12 volunteer foster homes. They could help even more dogs with more carers.

Keri McGregor has fostered Staffordshire Bull Terriers for the past four years and has worked with Staffie Smiles Rescue for two years.

Keri (31) from Slamannan lives with children Niamh (9) and Ethan (6), both pupils at Slamannan Primary.

The hairdresser says explaining to her kids why they are looking after the dogs makes it easier to say goodbye when they find their forever home.

“I’m honest with the kids and say if it wasn’t for foster homes they would be in kennels, or worse.

“Obviously they still get attached but they understand it won’t be long until we get another dog to help.”

Keri does home checks for potential owners and the whole time the dog is with her, she is assessing their suitability to live with children, other dogs and if they can be left for a period of time.

Without foster carers, they would be in kennels which makes it difficult to assess a dog properly and paying for a space eats into the charity’s funds.

She added: “Lots of people have a negative opinion of Staffies and think they are dangerous but most dogs are fantastic with children and are very docile.

“The breed is over-bred and as a result there are lots of Staffies needing homes and the charity is always looking for volunteers to foster.”

Staffies have the unfortunate title of Scotland’s least wanted breed and at any one time they make up 40 per cent of all SSPCA homeless dogs.

Keri added: “They really are great dogs and not worthy of their reputation.

“Fostering is ideal for people that can’t commit to looking after a dog forever but want to help.

“It is hard to give them up, in fact we ended up keeping an older dog who came to us as a foster until he died earlier this year, but the rewards of helping a dog and making sure they don’t face being put down is well worth it.”