It was fitting that the Tour de Rescue should begin at Brysons Animal Shelter. Based in Gateshead, Brysons is, geographically at  least, the nearest rescue to my own home in Sunderland, but there was another, more meaningful reason.

See, way back in 2011 I was inspired to become a dog trainer because I met a man called David Davies. I was attending a 7 day dog behaviour course at the Darlington Dogs Trust, and Dave was there doing a scentwork demonstration with his little terrier Hamish.

The demo was pretty impressive, Hamish effortlessly indicated on all of the items that had gun-oil on them, but it was what happened before that which really made a life-changing impact on me.

As we wandered into the hall Dave was standing with Hamish. At first glance you might have thought Hamish was on lead, or even a stuffed dog, as he was standing stock-still staring at Dave. Then as we took our seats Dave waved a tennis ball around and proceeded to make Hamish do all kinds of amazing tricks. Sit, downs, roll-over and then jumps, barks and spins, all the while Hamish was intently watching Dave an clearly having the time of his life.

I’d never seen anything like it before and it had an immediate impression on me.

I thought to myself. ‘That is how I want my dogs to look at me’, ‘I want to make my dogs that happy, and have that much control’. ‘I want them to be with me because they enjoy my company, not because they are on lead or because I’m shouting at them to stay here’.

Dave and I became life-long friends and he mentored me through my dog training journey, to the point where I can proudly state that I now do have a similar relationship with my own dogs.

And that story is particularly poignant because I later found out that little Hamish, god rest his soul, actually came from Brysons Animal Shelter in Gateshead.  You can see Hamish’s story told by Dave in this video below.

That was shot in 2017, but turned out to be quite prophetic for the message I wanted to spread with the Tour de Rescue.

So, the journey begins at Brysons, only it really started the previous week when I met Jayne Middlemiss from Radio Newcastle and she interviewed me and centre manager Tracy.

Listen to the interview below;

Tracy was away on the day the Tour commenced, so I was shown around Brysons by the lovely Angela.

Angela told me a little of the history of the shelter, which was founded by a man called…Mr Bryson!

It was actually the late Bill & Marion Bryson  who founded the society in 1947. They wanted to provide sanctuary and a home of rest for retired and ill-treated horses and ponies. Over the years the society has expanded and now also provides a shelter for dogs, cats, goats and other animals.

I’ll talk about some of the dogs I met in a moment, but I was super impressed by the way this rescue was run. Bryson’s had rehomed 104 dogs already this year.

While I was there dog walking volunteers were coming and going, and kind-hearted locals were dropping off blankets and food. Brysons hold a monthly car boot sale on the premises, and some locals also do a cake sale which all helps raise funds to keep the rescue going.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a common theme throughout the tour was that rescues are always desperate for cash.

Every dog that comes in is vet checked, chipped and wormed which can run to hundreds of pound, but this can increase substantially if there are more serious problems. Like the little Shi-tzu I met called Millie who has a rare condition called ectopic cilia, where she has hair growing out of her eyeball. She was scheduled to have it fixed in early October, but the vet fees will likely be a couple of thousand pounds.

The average vet bill for the year is over £30,000 and the electricity bill alone is £20,000.

Local businesses also help out where they can, Sainsburys had also been very generous and sponsored a van. 

It was interesting to see some of the dogs who to my eyes would make great family pets, but who were struggling to find homes.

Like six year old Snowbelle, who is deaf and didn’t hear us come into the kennel. As we left the centre we saw her being walked by a guy who was spending the day at Brysons as part of a volunteer scheme organised by the company he worked for.  Snowbelle had been made ‘Dog of the month’ and had her picture proudly displayed on the notice board. Hopefully, this will generate interest in her. It seems when prospective owners find out she is deaf  and so can’t easily be allowed off lead, they are put off because they think they want a dog who can be let off lead.

Diesel the greyhound at Brysons Animal Shelter

We also met Diesel a handsome black Greyhound, he said hello to use through the kennel and then flopped back into his bed. Being a big, black dog might be one of the things putting people off adopting Diesel. If only they knew what I now know, which is that greyhounds can make the perfect family pet. They are great with kids, they only need two twenty minute walks a day (and a 10 minute blast off lead once a week) and they will spend the rest of their time curled up on your couch.

Need a low maintenance mutt, because you have to work and ferry kids to their Karate lessons several times a week, get a greyhound!

Bryson had capacity for 20 dogs but, unusually they weren’t full when I was there, with only 14 kennels taken.

However, this isn’t always a good thing as Angela told me when people think they can’t cope with a dog anymore, more and more of them are trying to recoup their ‘investment’ by selling the dog on gumtree and other free advertising sites, rather than giving him up to the rescue.

It was an amazing place to start the tour, but we had other rescues to visit, so I thanked Angela for her time, left some books for them to raffle or give-away to new owners, and assembled the bike so I could start the first 50 mile ride to Alnwick , where I would be meeting Steve Wylie from SHAK sanctuary who works closely with Brysons.

It was then we hit the first snag when I realised I had forgotten to pack the quick release bolt for my front wheel.

Bugger.

So, we stowed the bike back in the car and had a detour to Team Cycles in Gateshead who sorted me out with a bolt. Then, only 30 minutes behind schedule, I hit the road.

Here’s a taster of what is coming up in future blogs on the site

This is the first blog covering the Tour de Rescue event. Please share the blog with any dog loving friends of yours, and don’t forget to sign up for the Tour de Rescue email updates and I’ll send you the link for the next blog as soon as it’s live.

In 2011 Dom Hodgson revolutionised the pet service industry with his first business Pack Leader Dog Adventures, the UK’s first, award winning ‘dog adventure’ company. Now a respected dog trainer, author, speaker and mentor to pet business owners, Doms calling is to help dog walkers, trainers and groomers to excel with their marketing, so they can help change the lives of more dog owners with their amazing skills. You can find out more about how you can join the elite, ambitious pet business owners inside the Pet Business Inner Circle by signing up for Doms 33 Ideas to grow your pet business here, or apply to work with Dom personally by clicking here now.

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