ASCUK is the foundation Australian Shepherd Club in the UK and was formed in 1986 by a few dedicated breed enthusiasts.
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The main reasons for most of the Australian Shepherds coming into rescue or needing new homes are:-
A lot of people seem to love the ‘fluffy’ puppy at 8 weeks old but then when the Aussie matures and starts to think for itself, the interest wanes as effort is needed to make sure the dog maintains good behaviour and understands the boundaries set out to live as part of a pack.
The most common age for re-homing appears to be 4 years +. A lot of Aussies needing new homes are also not spayed or neutered, which is putting more and more of a financial drain on the rescue fund. Occasionally breeders of the particular Aussie will offer funds towards the cost of the procedure being done, but not very often. If rescue continues to pick up pace like it has done over the last couple of years, then this matter may need to be addressed as it is becoming a huge drain on rescue fund resources.
We have had lots of ‘characters’ in rescue and as of 2013, we have only had one dog that was unable to be re-homed, and this was due to severe aggression to the point where no-one could get near to him.
The most memorable re-home is of course the unforgettable Ob.Ch Cagasa Dark n Delicious OW CDex UDex WDex ‘Dee’ owned by Susanne Jaffa. Described by Susanne as ‘frighteningly clever’ this bitch became the breeds first Obedience Champion trained and worked by Susanne. In the wrong hands ‘Dee’ would have been a disaster waiting to happen but luckily Susanne gave her a chance and she lived a happy life until she passed away in 2010.
We have had an Aussie bitch that ended up on Diazepam with her first owners due to being cat phobic!! She tried to climb out of the windows of the house every time she saw a cat and living with three, made life very difficult. A lovely retired couple who already had a male rescue Aussie answered my plea for help and she is now living the life of luxury, 12 years old and medication free.
We have had a huge male Aussie (25 inches at the shoulder), who is now herding sheep on a farm and working as a PAT dog.
A more recent case was a dog that went to a home that didn’t work out and came back for us to find him a new home. As I was away on holiday, he had five weeks with the ASCUK secretary where he made himself right at home. His ‘pending’ new home had a pet rabbit and as we had already had one issue with a live animal, it was left to Sarah to trot off to Pets at Home with him and her children in tow, to see how he reacted. The photo of him taken with 2 year old Rebecca Green watching rabbits in the store, shows just how good this breed can be with children and other animals and he is now settled in his new home with a rabbit, another male Aussie and three children.
A sad case was in 2005 with a bitch who had been allowed to run free on her owners land for months, finding and catching her own food. When she was eventually handed over to rescue, her feet were cut to ribbons, infected and she was covered all over her body with large sores. One very large vet’s bill and lots of TLC later, she has a wonderful home with a family who adore her and she lives the life of a much loved and spoilt princess.
Every time an Aussie goes to its’ new home, it really tugs on my heart strings. No matter how long they are with me for, I always begin to bond with them and the hard part for me is letting go and handing them over to their new families. This usually amounts in a lot of tears and multiple phone calls before I ‘let go of the reins and begin to relax’.
Sadly, I can confirm from my rescue records that over the last 11 years, the need for rescue has intensified as the breed has increased in popularity. In 2000 we re-homed 2 Aussies, compared to 2011 where we have already re-homed 8 Aussies this year, and as of October we have another 3 pending for new homes. It is sad that we need to have a rescue service, but is heartening to see that the good breeders within the breed will work with rescue, and will take an interest in where their stock is going to be re-homed and if at all possible take it back. There are a few ‘breeders’ who have no interest in where their stock goes which is sad, but rather than get angry I now think to myself that it is their loss that they don’t see what wonderful homes these dogs eventually go to.
Do I enjoy rescue? Most of the time yes… It has become easier for me since I changed my job and no longer do shifts as a nurse. Most people can be very good about keeping hold of the rescue dog until I can arrange to pick it up, but we have had occasions where it has been ‘you need to come and get it NOW’. I have to say a big thank you to all the people who have gone and picked these dogs up, if I have not been able to drop everything and go straight away. The support and help I get from some breed people is amazing, and for all the negatives that there are within the breed, there are some wonderful people who give their time and energy to help and support rescue.
To all the people who have re-homed these Aussies, THANK YOU…. Without you the breed would be lost…..
Julie Blackburn - ASCUK Rescue Co-Ordinator