This Christmas, there will be hundreds of people living on the streets having fallen on hard times. And the last two years in particular have really highlighted that some of us really are only a paycheck away from being homeless.
These uncertain and difficult circumstances will make winter even more challenging for the UK’s homeless population – and their constant companions: their dogs.
That’s why this year, Phoebe and Frank are supporting Dogs on the Streets (DOTS) by sending out their charity Christmas cards to all their friends.
Dogs on the Streets is a volunteer run, not for profit charity dedicated to the welfare of dogs belonging to the UK’s homeless.
The design of the card, created by Kathy Fearn-Webster at Dotty Dog Art, features a beautiful Staffordshire Bull Terrier with a beaming grin, wearing an oversized Christmas jumper. That’s the the best thing about dogs, isn’t it – they’re just happy to be with you. They don’t care if you’re rich or poor, a dog simply asks of your company and attention.
The Staffy illustrated on the card shares an uncanny resemblance to Phoebe, who found herself homeless in kennels for several months before we adopted her, which tugged at my heartstrings even more.
Kathy has been working with Dogs on the Street since 2017, and at the end of 2020, had raised a whopping £4,985. Dotty Dog Art are hoping to double that figure with the help of their 2021 Christmas card sales.
She said: “I chose to fundraise for Dogs on the Streets soon after they launched in 2017. Above all because I believe that every dog matters.
“It’s pretty factual to say that my own Dotty Dogs are totally spoiled, which I’m really ok with! Every dog deserves the best and DOTS provides the best care for the UK’s street dogs and their owners. Being warm and comfortable day-to-day are simple basic rights that belong to every person (and their dog).
“Through art we can change the world so I figured why not send some love in the shape of a Christmas card.”
The charity cards come in packs of five, and are priced at £12 per pack, with 100% of profits going directly to dogs on the Streets. Printed onto high quality card, they come with recycled kraft envelopes and wrapped in a paper belly band, as well as being 100% UK produced.
Inside, the card has been left for you to write your own special message for the festive season.
Poppy’s homeless dad was taken very ill and having heard about Michelle’s work made contact to see if she could help with Poppy’s welfare while he moved into accommodation to try and better his health. Michelle took Poppy on, welcoming her into her family like one of her own, which was the point she knew she wanted to do even more for the homeless dog-owning community, offering a more regular and permanent support service.
Now, DOTS operates weekly in London as well as running regular services in other major UK cities – with a view to expand even further, as they truly believe everybody – human or canine – deserve a roof over their heads. They have a fully equipped mobile veterinary surgery vehicle allowing ease of access to dogs in need, ensuring all the essential items and services are provided for free each and every week – from food provisions to new harnesses and leads, as well as training and grooming sessions.
Wayne is a homeless person who would steal dog food for his pet, earning himself a criminal record, but DOTS came to the rescue. He said: “Totally helpful since I found out about Dogs On The Streets, they help me out every week given me advice about dog training, provide my dog with healthy food. I use to beg and shoplift for my dog’s food and I have a criminal record for stealing dog food. I don’t do that anymore now I have Dogs On The Streets.
“When my dog needed immunisations and I don’t have the money to have this done Dogs on The Streets done them with no cost for my dog.”
Another dog owner who has found themselves sleeping rough, called Micky, added: “For me DOTS saved my dog Lucky’s life by giving medication I could not afford for her heart disease and continues to do so every month as she is on this forever. I have known Michelle who started this service for six years and throughout this time she has done tremendous job with the homeless people and there is a huge different in the health of the animals on the streets.”
During the pandemic, one of my favourite musicians, Primal Scream bassist Simone Butler, took to the streets of London to create a DOTS documentary called Year of the Dog. The movie shows the impact of the global pandemic on some of the country’s most vulnerable people, and highlights the bond between street dogs and their owners, uncovering small stories of survival during the UK’s most testing time.
In the trailer, Simone asked a former rough sleeper: “Would you have been able to survive in the way that you did on the street if you didn’t have a dog with you?”
To which they replied: “No. She means the world to me.”
Speaking to NME about the release of the eye-opening documentary, the Naked Lunch radio presenter said: “Having another life to be responsible for is an enormous comfort and help for someone sleeping rough because it gives them focus and responsibility. That in turn gives them a reason to carry on.
“It can be a very hopeless and devastating situation to be on the streets, so it really did give me an insight into just how much looking after a dog and that beautiful bond can be a lifeline to these people.”
You can help support Dogs on the Streets buy purchasing a pack of Dotty Dog Art’s Christmas cards here.