Maggie Crumpton

Let them eat cake, Liver Cake!

Dogs that get to stay with VIPPIES foster carer Maggie Crumpton are in for a real treat as she knows the way to their hearts is through her homemade liver cake. Although, in fairness to Maggie, it is also her experience and genuine delight in her doggy companions that wins them over.

Maggie has been working with VIPPIES since 2010. Soon after she had lost her own dog The Works dropped through her letterbox and fell open at the ad for people to help look after pets when their owners were away. “It was meant to be”, she said. Dogs have been an important part of Maggie’s life and she has been used to being nipped and loved by them from an early age.

What makes Maggie so special is her understanding of dogs who find it hard to relax and who can be reactive with people and other animals. The liver cake plays a big part in this as does her focus on teaching them to relax and find their manners. She builds a bond with her charges, talking to them, cuddling them, letting them sleep on her bed if they wish;  whatever will help them settle while their owners are away. Her home is full of pictures of dogs she has loved and she has a fine collection of cards and notes from happy owners.

She has many stories to tell about dogs she has cared for over the last nine years but it is clear that Rigsby the Great Dane has a special place in her memories. He became part of the family and Maggie became part of his – she is still in touch with his owners and their new dog, even visiting them in their home in Spain. Rigsby was almost as tall as Maggie, big dogs are not a problem when you know what you are doing!

The worst thing for Maggie – like all the VIPPIES team – is the death of a dog you have cared for. This is only topped by a dog dying while you are caring for them, a rare situation but one that demonstrates the VIPPIES team work. Maggie remembers one terrible night, “It was awful, late at night he developed bloat and I had to get him to the emergency vet. Sheena met me there and we stayed with him the whole time until he died. His owners were grateful for how we helped him and comforted him even though the vets could not save him”.

Another example of team work Maggie talked about was when she was on crutches and couldn’t walk the dogs in her care. It was still possible to meet the commitments to the dogs, they could come to stay and their owners were able to get off on their holidays because other VIPPIES team members would drop by and take the dogs out for their walks. “I couldn’t do that on my own, it’s another thig VIPPIES does so well”.

Looking after other people’s dogs is not an easy job, it can be hard work getting to know each individual and learning to read their moods and triggers to ensure a happy stay, especially when you specialise in the worried ones. Maggie loves taking the dogs to Glebe Park near her home where they can safely play with other dogs if they want to and learn to socialise. There are regular parties at the park including a Secret Santa for the dogs. What she finds interesting is the way the dog’s dynamics change when they stay with her, owners often comment on how happy their dogs are, not stressed at being separated from their regular family.

One of Maggie’s regulars is Bess the Chocolate Labrador who has had some long stays when owners Peter and Sue go off on their long exotic holidays. She has a great time to the extent that holidays are organised around Maggie’s availability. She has been staying with Maggie since puppy days and is her longest standing visitor. Bess also has a day most weeks with Maggie to allow Peter to go off and do his photography.

Maggie loves having dogs to stay but that hasn’t stopped her wanting her own permanent resident. So, finally, she has just adopted a seven month old puppy from Romania. Sherlock is a gentle soul who welcomes the paying guests with patience. He is currently helping Maggie’s latest quite grumpy visitor settle. Time to get the liver cake!