Happy dogs go to heaven

Hairy hospice!

Real People - - CONTENTS -

As I walk into the pub where we’re hold­ing our Real

Peo­ple Christ­mas party for the Grey Muz­zle dogs, Sassy the Staffie bounds over to greet me, jump­ing up as if I’m a long lost friend. She must be able to smell the treats in my Santa sack!

Buddy the Jack Rus­sell isn’t far be­hind on his wob­bly legs – he’s 18 years old, par­tially blind and deaf but when it comes to pulling the wrap­ping pa­per off presents, even with­out any teeth, he’s as en­thu­si­as­tic as a pup.

And they both don their Christ­mas hats cheer­fully, lap­ping up the at­ten­tion as our cam­eras click. It’s hard to be­lieve that just a month ago these dogs were sleep­ing on the cold con­crete floors of coun­cil pounds…

The Grey Muz­zle Ca­nine Hospice Project was set up by Ni­cola Coyle, 46, and she’s Buddy and Sassy’s Christ­mas an­gel. A trained nurse and for­mer ken­nel man­ager at a res­cue cen­tre in Rother­ham, Ni­cola had to re­tire five years ago for med­i­cal rea­sons. With free time on her hands, she adopted Thor, an el­derly Rot­tweiler who’d been re­moved from his pre­vi­ous owner, a drug ad­dict. With Ni­cola, Thor spent the last 18 months of his life in a safe and happy for­ever home.

Soon Ni­cola was known in the dog res­cue com­mu­nity as some­one who’d take in older endof-life dogs and re­quests poured in so, just over a year ago, she made her work of­fi­cial and launched the Grey Muz­zle Ca­nine Hospice Project.

‘Old dogs give such a lot of love,’ she says. ‘Some­how they know they’re com­ing to take their last steps with me and, when I cud­dle them, they gaze up, their eyes full of grat­i­tude for this sim­ple dis­play of af­fec­tion.

‘How­ever creaky their bones, their tails still wag and they never lose the abil­ity to raise their paws for a treat.’

Now Ni­cola has built up a net­work of adopters for older dogs and is con­tacted daily by res­cue shel­ters, coun­cil pounds and mem­bers of the pub­lic wor­ried about el­derly dog­gos in need.

It’s not all pipe, slip­pers and putting their paws up for Grey Muz­zle’s re­tired res­i­dents though. As well as com­pil­ing a care plan for ev­ery dog she takes in,

Ni­cola writes a bucket list full of ad­ven­tures, in­clud­ing trips to the sea­side, steak din­ners and take-aways from Mcdon­ald’s drive-thru.

For­mer res­i­dent Dora spent her last six weeks with Grey Muz­zle after be­ing picked up as a stray with tu­mours all over her body. Ni­cola’s friend Linda bought her a big teddy and she car­ried him ev­ery­where.

Then there was Bum­ble, a Ger­man Shep­herd who was due to be put to sleep the day Ni­cola picked him up from the pound. She drove him straight to the groomers and he spent his last five weeks happy and loved with a trip to the beach – prob­a­bly his first ever – at Fi­ley.

Dougie, the Amer­i­can Bull Dog, was tied up out­side a vet’s surgery in Sh­effield and taken, by the dog war­den, to the pound. He had ad­vanced lym­phoma and died a month after ar­riv­ing at Grey Muz­zle.

But his le­gacy lives on as the pho­to­graph of him en­joy­ing a Mcflurry sums up Grey Muz­zle’s work and has been shared on Face­book many times all around the world.

So what items on their bucket lists have Buddy and Sassy ticked off, apart from a sack full of presents from

of course? Buddy’s wolfed down Chicken Mc­nuggets, Ni­cola tells me, and, since mov­ing in with her in Novem­ber, has got a new lease of life. Ni­cola hopes this will mean there’ll be time for many more treats in the fu­ture.

‘He was so timid at first that if you put your hand down to stroke him he’d cower,’ Ni­cola says. ‘God knows what sort of home he’d had be­fore he was aban­doned and found wan­der­ing as a stray – he didn’t even know what a dog bed was.

‘For his first night I put him in a comfy bed, but he climbed out, stared at it, con­fused, then laid down on the floor next to it!’

Only a month on, Buddy’s re­alised his true worth – and then some. He likes to be treated like a lit­tle prince, car­ried around in Ni­cola’s arms, or to lie on the sofa and be fed sausages Ro­man em­peror style. Quite right too, Buddy!

As for Sassy, she was off to the beach at Whit­ley Bay within a week of ar­riv­ing with Robyn Brown­less, 28, who adopted her through Grey Muz­zle in Oc­to­ber.

‘She’s com­ing out of her shell now all right,’ Robyn laughs.

‘When I first brought her home she’d lie on her back with her paws in the air and freeze. Her pre­vi­ous owner had dumped her in a gar­den with some rel­a­tives, but they couldn’t look after her so she ended up in the pound.

‘She’s 12 – how aw­ful for her to reach that age and then be aban­doned.’

She con­tin­ued, ‘At first, she never did dog things – she was just blank some­how – but over the past few weeks she’s blos­somed. She loves a game of tug with a rope and is such a friendly, happy girl.’

Right on cue, Sassy jumps up at me for a cud­dle to prove Robyn’s point.

Since launch­ing Grey Muz­zle, Ni­cola has saved the lives of 10 old dogs and, with aware­ness of her work grow­ing, hopes to res­cue many more in 2019.

Christ­mas is the tough­est time for old dogs, she tells me, as of­ten peo­ple de­cide they want a puppy and dump the faith­ful friend they’ve had for years to make room for it.

An­other is­sue is that, with presents to buy, peo­ple can’t af­ford vet’s bills if their dog gets sick so hand them over to the pound.

It’s tragic – older dogs are the most dif­fi­cult to re-home and many coun­cil pounds have a pol­icy of eu­thanis­ing dogs after seven days if they can’t place them. The work Ni­cola and her team do is heart warm­ing and in­spir­ing but, of course, all the sto­ries have the same end­ing – after a few days, weeks or months with Grey Muz­zle the old dogs die. It must be so hard to lose a won­der­ful an­i­mal ev­ery few months?

‘It is dis­tress­ing,’ Ni­cola ad­mits.

‘But it’s amaz­ing that the dogs, who come to us on their last legs, live for much longer than pre­dicted. I’m proud of that – it shows the hap­pi­ness we bring. ‘Then, when their time comes, they can pass over the rain­bow bridge from a safe place in­stead of feel­ing scared and alone. ‘I’m al­ways with them at the end and we give them dig­nity in death, pay­ing for pri­vate cremations and then bring­ing their ashes home. I have an urn for ev­ery Grey Muz­zle dog. ‘Of course it’s sad but, be­cause we do it prop­erly, it can be beau­ti­ful too and we’re able to hon­our these dogs who’ve of­ten suf­fered so much.

‘No dog should be alone and unloved in a coun­cil pound, es­pe­cially at Christ­mas.’ And, thanks to Ni­cola and Robyn, Buddy and Sassy won’t be. In­stead they’ll be ex­actly where they de­serve to be

– paws up in front of the fire and tum­mies full of left-over tur­key.

Dogs are our best friends and Ni­cola truly is theirs in re­turn.

Fundraiser Jess (left) with Buddy and Ni­cola Bum­ble, lov­ing life on the beach Jane, cen­tre, with Ni­cola (right) and Sassy’s adopter, Robyn Brown­less

Dougie en­joys a trip to Mcdon­ald’s Adorable Dora with her teddy bear

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