‘Virtual’ dog rescue gives Second Chances

Dawn Spark at home near Ashkirk with Jo Jo the German Shepherd. Dawn runs the company 'Second Chances' which rehouses German Shepherds.
Dawn Spark at home near Ashkirk with Jo Jo the German Shepherd. Dawn runs the company 'Second Chances' which rehouses German Shepherds.

A Borders-based secretary helps save German Shepherd dogs (GSDs) across Scotland and the north of England.

The charity Second Chances was set up by breed lovers in 1995 and helps dogs across Scotland and northern England.

Secretary Dawn Spark, who started by walking Second Chances dogs, said: “It’s great when we rehome a dog, that’s why we all do it.”

She said rehoming is necessary for many reasons: relationship breakdowns, employment changes, allergic reactions, family bereavement and some are strays or come through other charities.

Volunteers help with fundraising, carry out dog and home assessments and transport dogs to their new homes – and recently two Borderers had asked to join and help too.

Asked what makes Second Chances different, she said:“We evaluate homes on a case by case basis and we are a small charity; we go out and do assessments on every dog that comes up for rehoming, so we know the dogs.

“We do a lot of research to ensure a dog is placed in a suitable home. If this means we think a dog from Aberdeen will be suitable for a family in Galashiels, we will ask volunteers to help transport the dog to meet the new family.

“Our volunteers are all dog lovers, but are particularly lovers of German Shepherds – we think they are an intelligent and loyal breed.

“Personally, I think my GSD is a truly versatile companion, always alert and ready for whatever is happening.

“GSDs will go hill-walking all day; they are excellent at agility – being very precise; they excel at obedience; and they love having fun and playing games. GSDs are also a very loving family dog. But they’re not for everyone, they need a lot of mental and physical stimulation.”

Dawn continued: “I’ve always liked dogs. We had dogs when I was a child, I had a Shepherd cross. My father had a Shepherd – that was before me, but he used to tell us stories.

“I always just loved Shepherds, I love the look of them and their intelligence, they are just a bit special.”

She has volunteered before with the Dogs Trust in West Lothian and has been assessed by the Guide Dogs for the Blind to provide a temporary home for a blind person’s dog if, for example, they had a hospital stay. She also volunteered with the Canadian SPCA when living there.

Wanting to volunteer locally, she found Second Chances online and offered to help in 2005.

The charity used to use a commercial boarding kennel in East Lothian (where Dawn used to drive to from Ashkirk to walk the dogs) but it proved to be too far away for most of the charity’s volunteers. So Second Chance now uses kennels closest to volunteers and it also has a few foster homes too.

“We don’t have a base as such now, we are like a virtual dog rescue,” said Dawn.

And, of course, Dawn has a rescued GSD, from Second Chances.

“Jojo needed a foster home and needed to be neutered.

“I said I’d do that and then she would be rehomed ... she was with me a day and I just knew she wasn’t going anywhere!”