By Matt Male
CHRISTMAS is a popular time for German Shepherds to be disowned.
Sweet Shepherd Rescue Australia, a home for abandoned German Shepherds based in Wattle Bank, is launching an urgent appeal to raise funds to help look after the dogs.
Taking care of seven German Shepherds is a quiet day for Wattle Bank’s Sam Nicholls and her partner Greg Green.
Usually, they’re taking care of 14. And that’s in between shift work for both of them as paramedics.
At this time of year, people often go away and after finding out there’s no room in boarding kennels, some owners drop them off at the rescue or surrender them to a pound.
In other cases, the dogs are bred from a backyard breeder without the proper health checks and it ends up costing the owners thousands of dollars to bring their pet up to full health.
For many, it’s just too much money. Sam says it’s devastating to the family when they have to say goodbye because they want to be able to look after their dog.
That’s where Sweet Shepherd Rescue Australia comes in; they’ve taken care of hundreds of dogs since launching in March 2013.
Now they’ve launched an appeal for $5000 in donations to keep going through the busy period. In the first two weeks in December, six German Shepherds were brought in.
This year, the charity’s spent more than $200,000 at the veterinary for surgeries and other health checks.
Sam recalls rescuing two puppies from the same litter from a backyard breeder, who both required hip surgery before they turned one.
That’s rare. Usually, they don’t need surgery until they’re five or six.
“We have lots of healthy cases come through and lots of orthopaedic cases come through, so they’ll come through, they’ll have their hips, knees, elbows re-done and then they’ll be re-homed,” Sam said.
“We’ve done three sets of hips in this last 12 months and they’ve all been under 12 months old,” she said, adding that the puppies then undergo rehab.
“We don’t need 12 month olds to stay in the rescue for the rest of their lives – that’s another 13 years – they can find real homes with families that will love them.”
Wonthaggi’s ‘Save the Pets’ op shop regularly helps out with donations and the charity often receives discounted food and toys from other local animal supply shops.
Sam and Greg spend a lot of their time taking care of the dogs, often tag-teaming in between shift work when one dog’s sick. But the German Shepherds are very self-sufficient.
The dogs keep each other busy during the day, chasing each other’s tails and fighting over who gets the ball.
And they train each other.
“When Chilli – a puppy – came in, I thought ‘Oh God, he’s not toilet trained’,” she said.
“But the whole pack went ‘Well, we don’t pee inside, that’s the bedroom’, and they’d guide him out and show him where to wee.”
She says it’s like the dogs talk to each other.
Sam remembers the names of each dog, and can easily tell the difference between each one, despite having hundreds of dogs in her backyard since first rescuing a German Shepherd in 2010.
“We had a really sick male come in and he was a middle-aged male and I thought I’d have contesting issues; my male’s not happy that I brought another male in.
“He was very sick and he was lying down not really moving much.
“My dogs were sneaking mouthfuls of their food over to him and dropping it off in front of him sort of going, ‘C’mon buddy, you got to eat’.”
“And we love our seniors. We also do our Sweet Shepherd Senior program, which means they come in, stay until they pass, we cover all their medical care.
“Whether it’s a year, six months or six weeks, so be it, they stay for as long as they need either here or at another foster care home.”
The dogs have about half an acre to run around, plus inside at night-time, when you can find them scattered on the floor or on beds getting some shut eye.
Sam says they’ve gone through their fair share of vacuum cleaners too.
Known as outgoing and energetic dogs, Sam says their German Shepherds are more likely to lick you to death if anything.
To donate, go to www.sweetshepherdrescue.com.au. The charity also appreciates food and toy donations.