This month, two new enclosures have opened at Country Retreat Animal Sanctuary near Warkworth. Already, they’re saving lives – perhaps human as well as canine.
Sanctuary founders Helen and Gavin Cook have been rescuing some of society’s most vulnerable members for most of their lives, fostering dogs in their own home before opening the rescue facility with boarding kennels in 2014. However, with the cost of living crisis, even more dogs than usual are in need of a paw up.
“We mainly take pregnant mums, puppies, and dogs with special needs from animal shelters. It’s no fault of the shelter, but they don’t have the facilities to look after them or feed puppies every two hours during the night, and they end up getting destroyed,” Helen says.
“With the cost of living, people aren’t adopting right now. Cosmo arrived at just over a week old, and he’s now nearly eight months. And in one day, we’ve had people wanting to bring in more than 40 dogs.”
Spending $3,500 per month on flea and worm treatments and $1,200 a month on electricity for the 20-odd loads of blankets that need washed each day, the Cooks (who also have four dogs and a few cats of their own) were struggling to raise enough to meet the need.
So Mitre 10 MEGA Warkworth pitched in to help, supporting with funding and the materials for two extensions at the Sanctuary through the Helping Hands programme, along with bedding, accessories, dog food and building volunteers to assist James Johnson from JSPEC Construction on the fence build.
Puppies previously had to be carried two by two across a carpark to the exercise yard, but a new extension enables Helen to exercise as many as 50 dogs all by herself, attached directly to the puppy quarters. Grass provides sensory stimulation for the dogs, so they get used to different surfaces.
The Cooks were especially keen to create an extension for elderly dogs, who find it tough to be adopted to a forever home. With a special place of their own, they can now happily live out their retirement years at the shelter if they need to.
“Having that fencing has already saved two dogs we couldn’t have saved two weeks ago, and that’s before it’s even finished,” Gavin says.
Russ Vernon, Store Manager at Mitre 10 MEGA Warkworth, says it’s not just four-legged community members who are benefiting from the project.
“It’s great that the dogs will be able to live out the rest of their lives with love. And what’s nice to see is the reward for volunteers too, including some of our Mitre 10 team members. The simple therapy spent with the dogs and puppies is all some people need to help them through a tough day.”
For Helen, it’s a common theme. People who have suffered life-changing accidents that have knocked their confidence, who have dementia, mental health challenges or PTSD, regularly find their spirits lifted by a visit to the Sanctuary.
“It’s not just about rescuing dogs sometimes – it’s rescuing people,” she says.