RESCUES TO THE RESCUE – The Amazing Stories How Pets Have Supported Their Humans During Lockdown
NAOMI HANNAH AND POTATO
Naomi, 41, lives with her partner and three children – Lorna, 11; Colvin, nine, and Findlay, two – in south west London. She adopted mongrel Potato in 2017.
Notes: Naomi says that Potato is incredibly close with everyone in the family. He even appeared to know that she was pregnant with Findlay before she did, suddenly becoming very protective of her and following her everywhere.
Naomi’s stepson Colvin has Autism and ADHD and he shares a special bond with Potato, who acts like his therapy dog. It’s been hard for Colvin to adjust to the drastic changes to everyone’s lives, but having Potato has provided some consistency and routine for him, such as still going on a daily walk together. Naomi says the family have had some major breakthroughs with Colvin through his interactions with Potato.
Quotes: “Now we’re in lockdown, Potato is loving having us all around. He’s a great distraction from the news cycle and it’s amazing for the kids. My stepson has special needs and Potato is like his therapy dog. It’s been hard for him to adjust to what’s been going on, but Potato has provided some consistency for him.”
“For anyone who is struggling with things in life, pets can provide such valuable support. The children are so proud to say Potato is a rescue dog. We were there for him and that’s an incredibly valuable lesson for children, to teach them about their responsibility to animals and their place in the world.”
DEBORAH TILLETT AND LACEY
Deborah, 40, lives with her Battersea dog Lacey in East Yorkshire. Deborah is living with brain cancer and adopted Lacey in 2010.
Notes: Deborah and Lacey have been through a lot together. First with Deborah’s brain tumour diagnosis, and then their home was flooded and they had to be evacuated. Now that they’re facing this new global crisis, Deborah says Lacey continues to be her best friend and constant companion
The highlight of most days for the pair is a daily walk which they enjoy more than ever before. Partly because it gives them a chance to interact with other people and dogs (at a safe distance). In an amusing turn, Lacey has taken to barking if she sees groups of people together outside.
Like many of us, Deborah has had days where she has felt down and missed her friends and family but says she has not once felt lonely because she has Lacey.
Quote: “Over the past eight weeks, I’ve had days when I felt down, have missed my (human) friends and family, been frustrated and just a little bit angry at the world. But I have not once felt lonely. Because I know that I am loved by this slightly stinky beast. Because I know that if I need a laugh, she will do something daft and make sure I giggle. Because I know that she will sit and give me her undivided attention while I tell her all the reasons why I am feeling the way I do.”
“You can’t dwell on negativity or bad news for too long when you have a four-legged companion demanding belly rubs. Lots of times, Lacey just looks at me as if to say ‘well, it could be worse. I could be on my own in a kennel and you could just be alone’. We’re a team and we’ll continue to face whatever the world throws at us, together.
GRACIE POPE AND ARIEL
Grace Pope, 13, met and later adopted Springer Spaniel Ariel in 2017 whilst undergoing treatment for stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Gracie and Ariel live with Gracie’s key worker parents Jane and Derek Pope, her two brothers Kieran, 15, and Ben, 10, and their other dog Chester.
Notes: During a special visit to Battersea in 2017, Ariel and Gracie had an instant connection, and it wasn’t long before the stray had been adopted by the Pope family. When Gracie had to continue her cancer treatment, she lost touch with her friends and felt exhausted. Thankfully, Ariel was her constant companion and made the hard days more bearable.
Gracie is now cancer-free and was enjoying the life of a regular teenage girl before coronavirus put the country into lockdown. Thankfully, Ariel remains Gracie’s constant companion and has been providing the entire Pope family with plenty of entertainment throughout quarantine.
Both of Gracie’s parents, Jane and Derek Pope, are key workers in finance and food production and have been busy putting in extra hours throughout lockdown. Ariel and the family’s other dog, Chester, have been ensuring that Gracie and her brothers Kieran and Ben have been getting a break from schoolwork to socialise with each other and walk down by their local river.
Gracie: “Ariel has so much energy and personality, it’s hard not to be happy when she’s around. Although I’m not allowed to see my friends at the moment, I don’t feel lonely thanks to Ariel.”
Derek: “Ariel has been a great companion to Gracie throughout the years, and now she’s really helping the rest of the family throughout lockdown. Being so energetic, Ariel really encourages all of the kids to get outside and enjoy some fresh air, rather than locking themselves in their room like typical teenagers! Ariel is such an important part of our household and makes us smile every day.”
THE DEAN FAMILY AND PERCY
Nicola Dean and her adult children Chelsea and James live in London with their Boxer cross Percy. The family adopted Percy in 2014.
Notes: The whole family say that Percy has made life more bearable during lockdown.As a midwife and a support worker working with vulnerable people, Chelsea and James in particular have been incredibly busy during lockdown. They have credited Percy with giving them something to look forward to at the end of their long, often stressful working days.
Nicola: “Percy’s caring nature has kept us all going through lockdown. Our daughter is a midwife and our son is a support worker for vulnerable adults and Percy is always there to welcome them home after a long shift with a tail wag and attention.”
Chelsea: “I look forward to coming home after a long tiring shift where you have been supporting both patients and colleagues. Percy just takes all that stress away as soon as you walk through the door. He knows exactly what you need, whether it’s someone to play with, cuddle up to, or to offer you a sloppy kiss. And when you know you cannot hug the rest of your family until you have showered and changed your clothes, he gives you a sloppy grin and a nuzzle that says it’s okay, I’m here for you.
“Percy is our knight in shining armour and supports all our wellbeing. Walking with Percy gives us our daily exercise and routine, he makes us laugh every day such as developing his own routine while we are trying to exercise with Joe Wicks. The tummy rub, the back massage and the ear tickle are firm favourites. He still brings love to the community even if it’s chatting through the window to people who need to self-isolate and giving them a tail wag to let them know things may have changed but he still loves us all and it’s going to be okay.”
DANIEL FRYER + LARA
Psychotherapist Daniel, lives with his Battersea dog Lara, who he adopted in 2014. The pair have lived in Bristol since 2016.
Notes: Daniel is a psychotherapist and adopted Lara in 2014 shortly after a serious breakup. After researching the benefits of animals in therapy, both he and Lara underwent special training so that the intelligent Staffie could sit in on his therapy sessions. In 2016 the pair moved to Bristol and Lara not only sits in on Daniel’s one to one sessions with patients, but also attends group therapy sessions and accompanies Daniel on ward rounds.
Daniel says that studies have shown that people trust a therapist more when an animal is present. In one-to-one therapy sessions, Lara acts as an icebreaker and rapport builder, and in group sessions and during visits to hospital wards, she is great at providing comfort to people who may be in distress and is also well known around the hospital for being ‘a lovely cuddle monster’ for anyone that needs it.
Quote: “A rescue dog is a great companion. Helping them become the dog they are meant to be is a privilege and the benefits of owning Lara for me are legion. We’ve been inseparable ever since we met and we’re always off exploring. Bringing Lara home is, hands down, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
DEBORAH COCHRANE AND RUBY BUTTONS
Deborah and her partner Alex live in Birmingham with their one-eyed Battersea cat, Ruby Buttons. The couple are both Deaf and were drawn to Ruby Buttons because of her story and unique look.
Notes: Deborah and Alex fell in love with Ruby Buttons when they read about her search for a home in the news. The then kitten had had a rough start in life, born with a cleft lip and at only a few weeks old she lost an eye. Deborah says that her differences are what made her want to bring Ruby Buttons home.
Quotes: “I had planned to adopt or foster an older cat but reading that people were overlooking Ruby Buttons because of her face made me want her more. My partner and I are both Deaf and have to overcome barriers all the time, just because Ruby’s face was a little different didn’t mean she was any less perfect. She might not have the ‘perfect’ face but to us she is the best looking cat out there, with a huge personality and lots of affection. She fits with us so well and makes us so happy.”
“Ruby has made lockdown a breeze. I was concerned she would get too used to us being around but she still spends time alone in her Button House each day. Just having a cat in the house raises spirits. She makes us laugh so much. We hadn’t planned on pets until the end of the year but we couldn’t resist that face!”
GAYNOR JONES AND OBI
Gaynor lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her Battersea mongrel Obi, who she rehomed at the start of 2020. Obi had spent 282 days at Battersea before Gaynor decided to adopt him.
Obi spent 282 days waiting for a special new owner to help manage his unusual eye condition before being adopted in January 2020. The eight-year-old mongrel can’t produce tears and needs regular eye drops to stop his eyes getting red and sore; something that put off many perspective owners from rehoming the gentle giant. Finally, after spending time in four different foster homes, Obi found a forever home in Stoke-on-Trent with bakery owner, Gaynor.
Obi had been enjoying life in central England for less than a week before a tragic death in Gaynor’s family. Obi made sure to comfort each and every member of his new family during their time of grief, but took extra special care with Gaynor’s granddaughters, nudging them and offering lots of cuddles until they stopped crying. Although Obi can’t produce his own tears, it seems that he knows a lot about helping others to dry their eyes.
Just a few months later as lockdown began, Gaynor’s daughter and her family sadly lost their own dog, Max. To fill the four-legged void in the family’s life, Gaynor began taking Obi to the back gate and giving him a thorough cleaning, before family members collect him to spend some quality time together. Obi relishes in his task of giving out cuddles to those who need them most before having another wash and returning home to Gaynor.
Quote: “Whilst it could be said that we rescued Obi, he certainly rescued us right back! Pets have an incredible way of knowing when you need comfort or even just a distraction. Obi is such an incredible dog, and always seems to go that extra mile to make sure that he’s there when people need him most. He certainly lives up to his name, it seems safe to say ‘the force is strong with this one’!”
PAULA SCURFIELD AND TIGGER
Paula Scurfield lives with her husband Richard in south-east London. The couple are both in their 70s. They adopted Battersea Lurcher Tigger as a puppy four years ago.
Notes: Paula used to be a volunteer at Battersea’s Brands Hatch centre but made the decision to step down from her role when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She says Tigger has been an enormous support to her throughout her treatments for the disease.
Paula’s mother lives in a care home and Tigger will usually accompany the family for visits. The 92-year-old is blind but Paula says she loves her visits from the loveable Lurcher and has been ‘a much happier lady since Tigger came in to our lives’. Under lockdown restrictions, the family cannot go into the care home to visit so Paula now visits outside with Tigger, and her mum is brought out to sit on a bench at a safe distance.
Quote: “It’s so difficult for everyone at the moment. There are certainly days at when life doesn’t seem very funny but Tigger always makes us laugh. He’s enjoying having us around all the time – I think everyone’s pets must be really enjoying it. He’s an incredibly sensitive and gentle dog and he just loves people. Our grandchildren adore him and he is the light of my mother’s life. The feeling is mutual – Tigger’s eyes light up when we mention ‘Granny’.”
LAW BALLARD AND SULLY
Law is currently living in her camper van in Devon with her Lurcher, Sully. The pair normally reside in London.
Notes: Law had been made redundant from her teaching job in London a week before lockdown. Knowing lockdown was likely to come in, she decided to take Sully and live in her camper van in Devon. Sully is thoroughly enjoying Devon life and his daily walks in the woods to stretch his legs. Law says owning a dog has meant that she has had to go on walks, even when she didn’t feel like it, which have made her feel better.
Quote: “Sully has been such a rock. I’ve felt his presence as my companion when there have been no humans around. He is just so loving and calm, making all the ups and downs of these last few months bearable. I have not experienced the same sense of loneliness I know some have experienced during this time, and I put this down to having Sully. The company has been so uplifting and I feel I’m not alone in it all.”
REGINE KANDAN, JACQUES GAUDIN AND HERMIONE
Regine and Jacques live together in London with Hermione their cat, who they adopted from Battersea in 2019.
Notes: Ever since she arrived at their home last September, Hermione has been showing many sides to her unique personality including adorable quirks such as an obsession with slippers that lead to her getting her own multiple pairs and a fascination with board games. The latter coming in handy now her owners are spending so much time at home.
Quote: “Although very shy at the beginning, we soon discovered Hermione’s cheeky and warm personality! She enjoys waking us up before our alarm goes off and comes to greet us at the door when we return home. When she’s not playing, she participates in our activities which can be anything from DIY and assembling furniture, to taking part in our board game nights. She is truly part of our family. We can’t wait for new adventures later this year. Thank you Battersea, for all the hard work you do, not only for the dogs and cats, but also for the people whose lives have been enriched through the adoption of these wonderful beings.”