Who's this lovely lady?
This is Claudia, a seven-year-old Collie who is currently enjoying a temporary sojourn at the Dogs Trust's centre in Kenilworth, but where she'd really like to be is in a safe and loving home.
Claudia has been at Kenilworth for five years – she is Dogs Trust's longest-serving resident. You would have thought by now that dog owners would get the message that dogs – indeed all pets – are "for life, not just for Christmas", a slogan coined 31 years ago by Dog's trust. But it seems that some people who own dogs are totally unfit to look after them, and simply abandon them. This is where the canine charity comes in.
So, what can we do about this situation?
Well, as it's The Independent's Christmas Gift Guide once more, we have decided to feature Claudia as an ambassador for all the dogs and cats at Dogs Trust. For more than 100 years, the organisation has been giving canines and felines a second chance at life, and they tend to get rather busy at this time of year, and even more so in the new year, as unwanted pets are abandoned. Giving pets as gifts at Christmas is never a good idea unless you have done your research and absolutely know that it is the right thing for you and your family. Then and only then should you consider getting in touch with Dogs Trust, as they have plenty of animals desperate to be placed in a loving home. Clarissa Baldwin, the charity's CEO who penned the famous "A dog is for life ... " slogan, says: "The message is just as relevant today. Some of the reasons we hear for dogs being abandoned are truly outrageous and saddening. Having a dog is a long-term commitment and the Christmas period gives us the opportunity to remind people that dogs are not fashion accessories or disposable items that can be upgraded or discarded after just a few months."
Will a rescue dog turn my house upside down?
Not at all. All Dogs Trust dogs undergo assessment before they are made available for rehousing. Most of the time, with dogs, it is simply that previous owners have not been responsible: not giving the animals any routine, keeping them in noisy rooms and not giving them space to relax, neglecting their health and diet, and so on. There are a lot of things to consider when owning a pooch, but the staff and volunteers at Dogs Trust are on hand to give advice, and are passionate about finding homes for their charges.
Where do we start?
You can start by contacting the charity on 020-7837 0006, or by visiting dogstrust.org.uk. The organisation has 18 re-homing centres in the UK that look after around 1,400 dogs of all shapes and sizes. If owning a dog proves impractical then you might want to consider becoming a sponsor, and donating a gift to make sure another dog is looked after. And since Dogs Trust never destroy a healthy dog, sponsorship is vital to give these animals a lifeline – what better gift could you give the animal lover in your family?