For the love of …..
Birkenhead on the Wirral has a famous son who we all know has a warm nature, an infectious chuckle and a great love of dogs. The same area also produced a (not quite so famous) daughter who also has a warm nature an infectious chuckle and a great love of dogs. Carol Hughes is VIPPIES first five star foster carer who describes working as part of the VIPPIES team as being “a passion with benefits”.
Having reached her sixties and facing redundancy Carol wanted to keep on working, but on her terms. She was also toying with the idea of getting a dog; last time she owned one was back in the eighties – a Shih Tzu called Bosley, and more recently she had also looked after her Aunt’s Jack Russell for several months. But she wasn’t sure what breed or type of dog would suit her and her partner Graham best. It was then she saw the recruitment advert for VIPPIES and had a lightbulb moment.
Sheena and Jade visited Carol at home in the summer of 2016 and realised that they needed to persuade her to do more than just dog walking for the team and to give fostering a try. The rest, as they say, is history.
Carol is licensed to foster up to four dogs but she prefers to stick to two at a time, three if pressed. As she says, these dogs are often used to being the sole focus of their owner and not used to having to share their space in a home. She recognises they mean the world to their owners and Carol likes to replicate that love and attention when they stay with her, and have some fun! Every dog is different, although Carol has noticed common breed traits and gender behaviours which help her gauge when play is about to get out of hand and it is time for everyone to calm down. Carol adapts her care strategy to each dog’s individual needs and abilities to make their stay as stress free as possible for the dog, the owners and herself. She keeps some great notes in the form of a daily diary for the owners so they know what has been going on. In addition, whilst in her care Carol frequently sends photos and videos to the owners of the dogs in an effort to relieve any separation anxieties they may have!
The facilities at Carol’s house are immaculate, a fabulous centrally heated garden room leads into the main house and, obviously, out on to the garden. There is a sofa for cuddles and easy clean flooring for puppy playtime. Each dog (or family unit) staying gets their own room for sleeping – in the garden room, dining room, kitchen or – if they must, upstairs on the landing. Carol and Graham have fixed up a ‘doggy cam’ so they can keep an eye on their charges if they have to pop out for an hour and also at night when they are upstairs, very helpful for when the 2am summons for a comfort break is requested. Oh yes, the work is by no means 9-5, when the dogs stay it is a 24/7 commitment. The household generally rises around 7 (after the 2am callout) and the cycle of food, walking, cuddles, playtime begins, plus doggy bath time if it is needed. The morning walk is about an hour and the later ones a lot shorter just to allow the pee-mails to be left or read around the village.
You take the rough with the smooth when you foster dogs – like those wet days when you get back from a walk and everyone is soggy, but Carol takes it in her stride with her usual good humour. Last year Carol and Graham had a bonus when they found themselves at a client’s wedding ensuring the ring bearer and ring bearer’s assistant – a Lakeland Terrier and a Cairn Terrier, carried out their duties immaculately. “We were made to feel part of the family and even had our photos taken” she recalled.
There is no doubt that Carol loves the VIPPIES team – they are always there to help out; such as when one Bank Holiday Carol and Graham came across three escaped Husky puppies in need of rescue. She is a regular on the team socials providing plenty of bowling advice! Carol also realises she could not do the fostering without the help and support of her partner Graham who is a quiet and calm gent.
VIPPIES choose their team members carefully and it pays off. When someone tells you that “when I look into a dog’s eyes it melts my heart” you know they are in the right job and your ‘fur baby’ will be very well cared for.